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Writing Wrongs

Here are a few of the common errors that many writers make.

Apostrophe abuse

First and foremost of our pet gripes, apostrophe abuse. Apostrophes are used to indicate that a word has a missing letter, e.g., hadn’t, isn’t, aren’t, wasn’t, or when it indicates a possessive, e.g., the doctor’s stethoscope, the plumber’s pipe, the moon’s light, the writer’s pen. It is not used in a plural, e.g., CD’s, DVD’s, FAQ’s. This is most resoundingly incorrect, even though it’s common, even in the media – who should know better - and worst of all, television writers, who definitely should know better.

Capital abuse

Capitals are only used at the beginning of a sentence, or in given names, whether human, animal or places. Flora and fauna do not rate capital letters. No, they are not known as Zebra, Lions, or Giraffes, although your spelling checker will not object to this, but then, it’s only a programme and quite inefficient. They are zebra, lions and giraffes, always.

Nor do tree names begin with a capital letter. They are not Baobab, Marula or Mopane trees, they are simply baobabs, marula and mopane trees. This error is commonly found on websites, and yes, it is incorrect. In addition, job titles, such as vice president, chairman, director, etc, do not begin with capital letters either. If this was correct, then all job titles must start with a capital letter, including butcher, baker, doctor, nurse, editor, etc, which is not the case.

Let’s look at it logically. If 'lion' is capitalised, then so must 'dog', 'horse', 'sheep' and 'cow'. If baobabs have a capital letter, then so should oaks, beeches, willows, and everyone – we hope – knows that they do not. You can say it’s an African baobab tree, because Africa is a place. If we continue with this trend, and take it to its logical conclusion, then at some stage in the future, a simple sentence will look something like this:

John, a kind Man and a Managing Director, took his Dog, Max, for a walk through the Mopane Trees, where they met Sarah, who is a Doctor, riding her Horse, Jeffrey, and they discussed her Cat, Penny, who was at the Vet.

Capital abuse has become so common, however, that many people might not even flinch at that sentence, but we do.

Another common mistake is using American spelling. Here in South Africa, we use South African spelling, which, apart from a few slang words, is the same as British spelling. This is a subject too vast to cover on this page.

Learn the differences between American and British spelling.

At Write Way Freelancers, you won’t find any capital or apostrophe abuse, or American spelling, because we write it right.

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