5 Pet Peeves from a Professional Proofreader


5 Pet Peeves from a Professional Proofreader, by Shelby Swing

Merriam Webster defines pet peeve as “a frequent subject of complaint.” But we all know what a pet peeve is because we all have them! It’s that small, insignificant thing that annoys us for no good reason. Yet, it annoys us all the same. As a professional proofreader, former English major and avid book lover, many of my pet peeves involve grammar, punctuation and sentence structure (#NerdAlert). Here are five pet peeves I run into regularly, and hopefully, this list will be a gentle reminder of a few writing snares to avoid in your journey of making your words the best they can be.

1. Inconsistent capitalization.

When you decide to capitalize a word in your social media post, blog post, article or book, remember that it should then be capitalized throughout. Random, inconsistent capitalization can cause confusion and even obscure meaning in some instances.

2. Overused ellipses.

The effect of an ellipsis can be addicting … but don’t fall for the trap of overusing them. A written piece littered with ellipses can read slow, and seem too meandering or stream-of-consciousness. A well-placed ellipsis where you want your audience to thoughtfully pause has a bigger impact than a dozen ellipses where a different piece of punctuation would better fit.

3. Overuse of all-caps, italics or bolded text.

Similar to overusing ellipses, misusing all-caps, italics, bolded text or other functions can hurt rather than help your writing. ALL-CAPS READ LIKE SCREAMING THROUGH THE PAGE, italics can be distracting, and bolded text can lessen the emphasis you’re trying to give. As with ellipses, less is more.

4. Unnecessary wordiness.

You’ve probably heard the statement by Thomas Jefferson, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” Writers should walk around with that sentiment in their pocket at all times, especially if you’re like me and lean on the wordy side when writing! Loose, flabby writing with potential for being tightened will not only trip up editors and readers but also will reveal a degree of laziness. Take time to do the hard (but fun!) work of finding one word to replace the two.

5. Non-intelligent filler words.

While these words (just, like, so, actually, basically, seriously, totally, etc.) may make your writing seem conversational, use them sparingly, even if you’re writing a conversational piece. More times than not, they can be replaced or deleted altogether, and doing so will not only make your writing sound more intelligent but make you sound intelligent, credible and trustworthy.

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