Let’s face it; writing is hard! Creating stylistically and grammatically correct content without continuity errors is challenging. The good news is that with practice (and a little guidance), you can create succinct and engaging manuscripts your reader will enjoy cover to cover.
The Most Common Errors Authors Make
The rules of grammar and mechanics help standardize composition to improve readability and comprehension, while style guides attempt to standardize language and structure even further. To ensure an enjoyable experience for the reader, the author of a manuscript must remain consistent with these rules; however, these guidelines may not address all the variables that arise. The most common areas of inconsistency writers encounter are passive voice, tense agreement, formatting, and spelling. We will address each error, provide examples, and show how to correct or avoid them.
Passive voice flips the construction of a sentence. Using this sentence structure can impair clarity and cause prose to seem flat or uninteresting. For example, the following sentence is in the passive voice: “The car was towed by the truck.” The agent (the truck) is doing the verb (tow). Although not grammatically incorrect, the sentence is clunky and hard to follow. Now, let’s remove the passive voice, making the agent of the sentence the subject. “The truck towed the car.” Not only does this bring greater clarity, but it keeps the reader engaged without using unnecessary wording. If you’re struggling to identify passive voice, look for a form of “to be,” then confirm that the agent of that sentence is the subject. While using the passive voice can make a sentence less concise, it can be acceptable if the agent of a sentence is unknown or unimportant.
Tense disagreement is another common consistency error, with many academic authors starting a sentence in one tense and ending in another. Describing the same time period in two different tenses will disorient readers and obscure meaning. For example, “The river rises when the weather got bad.” The first verb (rises) is in the present tense, but the second verb (got) is in the past tense. Although the author attempts to communicate cause and effect between the two, the meaning is broken by using inconsistent tense. The error can be repaired by making the tenses agree. For example, “The river rose when the weather got bad.”
Formatting errors can make a document appear unprofessional and uninformed. Simple formatting details like spacing, page margins, and fonts are easy to standardize; however, more complex formatting details may prove challenging. Page structure, in-text citations, and references should meet the requirements of their specific industry, including any publisher specifications or style guide regulations. To ensure consistency, reference the necessary resources and verify that your manuscript adheres to the outlined rules.
Spelling inconsistencies are problematic; there’s no faster way to lose the reader than by misspelling words! Manuscripts should adhere to the spelling expectations of a single language, whether it be US, UK, or Canadian English. A typical example of spelling inconsistency involves -ic and -ical variations (e.g., biologic and biological). Style guides or publishers often specify which version to use; however, if there are no specifications, you must ensure consistent usage.
Recommendations For Creating A Consistent Manuscript
When striving to create a high-quality manuscript, there are additional recommendations you can follow to help ensure your writing is consistent and engaging.
- Use variations in font style and size sparingly
- Set tabs, margins, bullets, and paragraph style
- Use similar lettering, numbering, and grammar for bullet points and lists
- Maintain consistent pronouns
- Choose one style guide as a reference
While these recommendations can help ensure the readability of your manuscript, there are times when exceptions are acceptable. For example, if you’re referencing another writing within the text, using a different font style may help separate the two in the reader’s mind. Differing font sizes can also effectively express emotion, but you should always use these stylistic choices sparingly.
Remember that inconsistency is distracting. Your manuscript will appear disorganized, and the reader will struggle to comprehend the points you seek to convey when there are multiple grammatical or stylistic errors. For a concise manuscript, avoid overusing the passive voice, tense disagreements, and formatting and spelling errors. By following these recommendations, you can create an engaging and consistent manuscript that your readers will enjoy. For additional help, reach out to our experts.