A few years ago my 12-year-old granddaughter and I were behind a van with this slogan painted on the back window: “Customer Service at It’s Best.” Being the good grandmother that I am, I pointed out the mistake and proceeded to explain why the slogan was incorrect. She didn’t want to hear my wise counsel…until I said that little apostrophe could be the difference between getting a job and not getting one, whether she wanted to be a writer, a teacher, or a CEO.
She didn’t believe me, but it’s true…especially in writing.
If you’ve been reading this blog any length of time, you’ve heard me say that editors are becoming more and more discriminating. When I first started writing, instructors told us we had a chapter to get the editors’ attention. Then it became five pages. Then one page. Then one paragraph.
Now, many editors say we have one sentence. Ugh.
Of course, it’s different with every editor, but the bottom line is, we have a very short amount of time to hook an editor. (For great info on hooking an editor, check out a previous blogpost, Hook ‘Em!). I was teaching at a writing conference a few years ago where an editor said, “When I read your manuscript, I’m not looking for a reason to publish it. I’m looking for a reason to reject it.”
Another editor said, “I’ll read the first sentence. If there aren’t any errors and if it’s interesting, I’ll go to the second sentence. If I don’t see a problem, I’ll go to the third. And on and on. The key is, don’t make any mistakes.”
No mistakes? None? Now THAT’S a big order!
No mistakes might be a big order, but that must be the goal. Correct word choice and spelling is a good place to start. Here are some of the frequent word choice/spelling mistakes that can doom your submission to the rejection pile.
a. I love your shirt. (Possessive pronoun)
b. You’re going to wear that shirt? (Contraction-must be able to substitute “you are”)
a. The cat jumped out of its skin. (Possessive pronoun)
b. It’s too bad the cat used his last life. (Contraction-must be able to substitute “it is”)
a. I wish their list had my name on it. (Possessive pronoun)
b. Did you see that skunk over there? (Adverb)
c. They’re too young to be my children. (Contraction-must be able to substitute “they are”)
d. There’re too many confusing words here. (I know you don’t see this one often, but it’s a contraction-must be able to substitute “there are”)
a. Do you know whose house this is? (Possessive pronoun)
b. Who’s going to take this box of books to the post office? (Contraction-must be able to substitute “who is”)
I admit I’ve made–and continue to make–my share of mistakes. But we all must recognize that each time we let one slip through, we’re decreasing our chances of seeing our efforts in print. So let’s do everything we can to make our work as good as it can be. It doesn’t mean we’ll be perfect. After all, that won’t happen until we see Glory, but it does mean we must not be slack. We must do everything we can to present the best work we can.
It could be the difference in getting an acceptance…or a rejection.
About Vonda Skelton
Vonda Skelton is an entertaining teacher and speaker with a heart for women and their families. Whether you need a night of humor or a weekend of study, Vonda’s final message is always the same: You are not alone, and Jesus loves you.
WRITER’S TIPS is a weekly column for Christian communicators with tips and information about various aspects of writing. Our panel of experts are published authors and publishing industry professionals.