Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The First Deadly Sin of Writing

by Sandy Tritt

The Devil of Rejection tempts every writer with the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing. They seem innocent enough—a misplaced comma here, an adverb there—but soon the writer finds himself sinking into the dreaded darkness of the Rejection Pile. Often, he doesn't even realize he's been deceived. So let's reveal the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing for what they are—Death to your manuscript.

And punctuation and word choice. Nothing shouts “AMATEUR!” as loudly as poor punctuation, ghastly grammar, and sporadic spelling. No matter how wonderful a story is, if the writer doesn’t make an effort to proof for these problems, no agent or publisher (or reader) will take you seriously. If you do not have these skills yourself, hire an editor. If you plan to make writing your vocation, take classes at a local college, pick up a good reference manual (we recommend the Little, Brown Essential Handbook for Writers by Jane E. Aaron—$26.75 at, and keep up to date by subscribing to email services (we recommend Daily Writing Tips at  and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips at, of course, our own blog, newsletter, and bevy of tips on our website. Proof your manuscript, have five friends proof your manuscript, and then proof, proof, proof again.

BONUS TIP: Be consistent, especially if you wander from conventional usages. For example, if you choose to capitalize a word that is typically not capped, do so throughout your manuscript.

BONUS TIP: Limit use of exclamation marks, ellipses, colons and semi-colons.

BONUS TIP: Periods and commas go INSIDE the quotation marks.

Next week, we'll post the Second Deadly Sin of Writing. See you then!

(c) 2003 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved.

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