|Long wanting to be in “the business,” Don Bledsoe started young, producing a short film for NBC while still in high school, worked in the Story Department at Paramount Studios at age 19, and later as an actor and makeup artist. A self-confessed computer geek, he took up screenwriting in the early 90′s and founded Script Nurse in 1999.
Today, he is a principal in Go With The Flo Productions with his writing partner, Sëan Moran. Together, they have written six screenplays, published two plays and are currently developing two web series.
Everyone has a word processor, so there’s no excuse for misspelled words. Period. If you’re one of the few who doesn’t, get a good dictionary like Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary at your local used book store. While you’re at it, look for a theasaurus and synonym finder. Use them!
You’re learning the art of “wordsmithing.” See how colorfully and visually you can describe things, even if it’s a stretch at describing reality.
Ah, my favorite. The used and abused words of the English language. I see this sort of thing in a lot of new screenwriters. See that word just before the period? It’s screenwriter. The second half of that word is writer. That’s you, IF you use the English language as it’s meant to be used — properly. Believe me, the third year English literature major at some college who is moonlighting as a production company reader can find errors like those below at a mere glance. Do you know where your script goes when two such errors are found? Yup, in the trash can and you get one of those nice “It’s not what we’re looking for right now.” letters. The only way to get past this minion is to write English properly. My advice: learn this stuff and do it right.
Don’t say “The reason was because …”; say “The reason was that …”
Wrong: The reason I’m doing this is because you need to learn grammar.
Right: The reason I’m doing this is that you need to learn grammar.
Say waiting for; not waiting on.
Right: I’m waiting for Susie.
Wrong: I’m waiting on Susie.
Don’t use this word when you mean getting ready, intending, etc.
Wrong: I’m fixing to have dinner soon.
Right: I’m going to have dinner soon; I plan to have dinner soon; I intend to have dinner soon; etc.
Would have when you mean had.
Wrong: If he would have helped me, I would have been here a lot sooner.
Right: If he had helped me, I would have been here a lot sooner.
Like/love you to.
Don’t add an unnecessary for.
Wrong: I’d love for you to see my new baby.
Right: I’d love you to see my new baby. I’d love it if you saw my new baby.
Double end marks after quotations.
If a quotation already contains an end mark, you generally don’t put another one outside it to end your sentence.
Wrong: He said, “Why do we have to learn grammar?”.
Right: He said, “Why do we have to learn grammar?”
Names of restaurants, stores, etc.
Unless the name itself ends in “s,” names of restaurants, stores, etc. generally end in an apostrophe s;.
Wrong: I ate at McDonalds. I shop at Macys.
Right: I ate at McDonald’s. I shop at Macy’s.
End marks in parenthetical material.
When a complete sentence is in parentheses, its end mark is within the parentheses, too (but not when the parenthetical material is not a complete sentence).
Wrong: You should know this (most good high school English teachers cover it).
Right: You should know this. (Most good high school English teachers cover it.)
Use the singular possessive form.
Right: I got my master’s degree in 1971.
Wrong: I got my masters degree in 1971.
I, me, and myself.
Don’t use myself when you really mean I. (Usually, myself is used in the objective case.)
Wrong: Jim, Tina, and myself went to the show.
Right: Jim, Tina, and I went to the show.
Do use myself instead of me when you are referring to yourself in connection with your own action.
Wrong: I gave me a reward for sticking to my vow.
Right: I gave myself a reward for sticking to my vow.
Generally, don’t begin sentences with so.
Wrong: So now we’ve all got friends at Chase Manhattan.
Right: So the summer is over already.
One sentence paragraphs.
Generally, avoid one sentence paragraphs. (Dialogue in which there is only one sentence before another person’s words would be an exception.)
Avoid very long paragraphs. (It’s rare for a good paragraph to go more than ten or fifteen lines.) Long paragraphs often contain different thoughts that would be better talked about in separate paragraphs.
Don’t use objective case for a pronoun that is the subject of an implied verb.
Wrong: My wife is taller than me.
Right: My wife is taller than I.
(If you had the verb included, it would be: “My wife is taller than I am.” You wouldn’t say “My wife is taller than me am.”)
Objective case for pronouns.
Do use the objective case for pronouns when appropriate.
Wrong: I need you to hand Tim and I the tools.
Right: I need you to hand Tim and me the tools.
(When in doubt, remove all nouns and just consider the pronoun. You wouldn’t say “Hand I the tools.”)
Who and whom:
Use whom for the objective case, even if you don’t use it in everyday speech.
Wrong: I don’t know who to give this to.
Right: I don’t know whom to give this to.
Do use who when it is not objective case, however.
Right: People who learn this will be glad they did. I’ll let whoever raises his or her hand answer the question.
Prejudice is a noun form; prejudiced is the verb form used to modify a noun.
Wrong: He is prejudice against practically every minority group there is.
Right: I hope I can eliminate prejudice from my thinking.
Right: He is prejudiced against practically every minority group there is.
Use possessive pronouns rather than objective ones with gerunds.
(A gerund is a noun formed from a verb, such as the ‘-ing’ form of an English verb when used as a noun.)
Wrong: I like you caring about others.
Right: I like your caring about others.
That or as/like: Don’t use like as a conjunction.
Wrong: I feel like you need to learn grammar. Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.
Right: I feel that you need to learn grammar. Winston tastes good as a cigarette should.
Don’t use sureas an adverb, even lf you use it that way in everyday speech.
Wrong: I sure love to eat.
Right: I surely love to eat.
Don’t use of when it is unnecessary.
Wrong: He made too big of a deal about grammar.
Right: He made too big a deal about grammar.
Don’t run one sentence into another without appropriate separating punctuation.
Wrong: I hate grammar I’m not going to learn it.
Right: I hate grammar. I’m not going to learn it. I hate grammar; I’m not going to learn it.
Since preceded by a comma means because; without a comma it refers to passage of time.
Wrong: I went there since I felt I had to help.
Right: I went there, since I felt I had to help.
Wrong: I’ve been sick, since I began my vacation.
Right: I’ve been sick since I began my vacation.
So preceded: by a comma means and therefore; so without a comma means in order that.
Wrong: I was there so I guess I know what I’m talking about. I’m teaching you this, so you’ll know how to write more effectively.
Right: I was there, so I guess I know what Im talking about. I’m teaching you this so you’ll know how to write more effectively.
Commonly Misused Words and Phrases
The transition from spoken to written language can often be a bumpy one because the way we talk tends to be a lot
less formal than the way we write. When we try to translate spoken ideas into writing, it is often hard to remember correct grammar. Also, we hear incorrect grammar used so often that correct grammar might sound odd or even wrong to us.
Homonyms can present an especially difficult problem because they sound alike, but the different spellings mean
different things. Changing one letter in a word could alter the whole meaning of a sentence. Common phrases are
also likely to be written incorrectly because in speech words are often shortened or slurred together so that not
all of the letters are pronounced, making it easy to inadvertently leave these letters out when writing.
Knowing which word to use or how to write a phrase correctly can make a big difference in your writing. It is easier for readers to take a piece of writing more seriously when the grammar is correct. The list below of commonly confused homonyms and problem phrases, as well as a few hints to help you remember the grammar rules.
Words that sound alike (homonyms):
Accept is a verb meaning to receive. Except is usually a preposition meaning excluding.
I will accept all the packages except that one.
Except is also a verb meaning to exclude.
Please except that item from the list.
Affect is usually a verb meaning to influence. Effect is usually a noun meaning result.
The drug did not affect the disease, and it had several adverse side effects.
Effect can also be a verb meaning to bring about.
Only the president can effect such a dramatic change.
An Allusion is an indirect reference. An illusion is a misconception or false impression.
Did you catch my allusion to Shakespeare? Mirrors give the room an illusion of depth.
Capital refers to a city, capitol to a building where lawmakers meet. Capital also refers to wealth or resources.
The capitol has undergone extensive renovations. The residents of the state capital protested the development plans.
Climactic is derived from climax, the point of greatest intensity in a series or progression of events.
Climatic is derived from climate; it refers to meteorological conditions.
The climactic period in the dinosaurs’ reign was reached just before severe climatic conditions brought on the ice age.
Elicit is a verb meaning to bring out or to evoke. Illicit is an adjective meaning unlawful.
The reporter was unable to elicit information from the police about illicit drug traffic.
Emigrate from, Immigrate to:
Emigrate means to leave one country or region to settle in another.
In 1900, my grandfather emigrated from Russia.
Immigrate means to enter another country and reside there.
Many Mexicans immigrate to the U.S. to find work.
Emigrate begins with the letter E, as does Exit. When you emigrate, you exit a country.
Immigrate begins with the letter I, as does In. When you immigrate, you go into a country
Principal is a noun meaning the head of a school or an organization or a sum of money.
Principle is a noun meaning a basic truth or law.
The principal taught us many important life principles.
To recognize the spelling of Principal first think of yourself as a greedy opportunist. You definitely would want to be a pal of anyone who is in a position of power or anything to do with money. This principal has pal in it.
Than is a conjunction used in comparisons; then is an adverb denoting time.
That pizza is more than I can eat. Tom laughed, and then we recognized him.
Than is used to compare; both words have the letter a in them.
Then tells when; both are spelled the same, except for the first letter.
There, Their, They’re:
There is an adverb specifying place; it is also an expletive.
Adverb: Sylvia is lying there unconscious.
Expletive: There are two plums left. Their is a possessive pronoun.
They’re is a contraction of they are.
Fred and Jane finally washed their car. They’re later than usual today.
If you are using there to tell the reader where, both words have h-e-r-e. Here is also a place.
If you are using their as a possessive pronoun, you are telling the reader what “they” own. Their has h-e-i-r, which also means heir, as in someone who inherits something. Both words have to do with ownership.
They’re is a contraction of they are. Sound out “they are” in the sentence and see if it works. If it does not, it must be one of the previous versions.
To, Too, Two:
To is a preposition; too is an adverb; two is a number.
Too many of your shots slice to the left, but the last two were right on the mark.
If you are trying to spell out the number, it is always t-w-o. Two has a w which is the first letter in “word.” The opposite of word is number.
Too is usually used as “also” when adding or including some additional information. Whenever you want to include something else, think of it as adding; therefore you also need to add an extra “o.”
Your is a possessive pronoun; you’re is a contraction of you are.
You’re going to catch a cold if you don’t wear your coat.
Sound out “you are” in the sentence. If it works in the sentence it can be written as you’re.
If it sounds awkward, it is probably supposed to be your.
EXAMPLE: You’re shoes are muddy. "You are shoes are muddy" does not work, so it should be written as: Your shoes are muddy.
Words that don’t sound alike but confuse us anyway:
Lie is an intransitive verb meaning to recline or rest on a surface. Its principal parts are lie, lay, lain.
Lay is a transitive verb meaning to put or place. Its principal parts are lay, laid.
Chickens lay eggs. I lie down when I am tired.
Set is a transitive verb meaning to put or to place. Its principal parts are set, set, set.
Sit is an intransitive verb meaning to be seated. Its principal parts are sit, sat, sat.
She set the dough in a warm corner of the kitchen. The cat sat in the warmest part of the room.
Who, Which, That:
Do not use which to refer to persons. Use who instead. That, though generally used to refer to things, may be used to refer to a group or class of people.
I just saw a boy who was wearing a yellow banana costume. I have to go to math next, which is my hardest class. Where is the book that I was reading?
Do not omit the “d.” Suppose to is incorrect.
Same as above. Do not write use to.
Toward: There is no “s” at the end of the word.
Also has no ending “s.” Anyways is nonstandard (i.e. poor English).
Couldn’t care less:
Be sure to make it negative. (Not I could care less.)
All walks of life:
Not woks of life. This phrase does not apply to oriental cooking.
Chest of drawers:
Not chester drawers.
For all intents and purposes:
Not intensive purposes.
Source for Some Portions: A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker