Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Lesson 20

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Each day I go through fiction and try to find interesting stories to read and review. Of course, sometimes I’m not in the mood, or there isn’t anything near 1000 words (my minimum) and sometimes I just forget. I try do 2-3 reviews and I try to be as constructive as possible–it’s good practice for critiquing. A skill that I definitely need to hone more, but that’s off topic. As I go through, I’ve noticed that there are quite a few people that forget apostrophes, spaces, hyphens and more. I think it’s common to do that at times (Jessie’ll be the first to tell you that I’m horrible with let’s vs. lets and it’s vs its.)

So, just to get it out of the way (and to show I really do know!) let’s vs lets. Let’s is a contraction of ‘let us’. Lets is the present tense of the verb let, which has quite a few meanings! The best way to make sure you’ve got the right word is to undo the contraction and see if it works. Ex:Let’s go to the store.” –> “Let us go to the store.” Or, you can check and see that it’s wrong. Ex: “She let’s go of him.” –> “She let us go of him.” Let’s doesn’t work there, so it has to be lets.


The Monster

Alot by Allie Brosh


It’s is the contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. Its is possessive. Just like with let’s/lets, you can use the same trick here! Ex: “It’s a tree.” –> “It is a tree.” Wrong would be: “It’s face.” –> “It is face.” That isn’t English, so you know it has to be its.

Sometimes we all forget, or don’t press the apostrophe key down and we end up with a word completely different than what we were going for. I often see “wont” and “cant” in the place of “won’t” and “can’t.” Wont means accustomed or used to, where as won’t is will + not. Cant is whining or begging and can’t is cannot–notice it isn’t can + not. Cannot is one word. (Also take note that can + not is legal, but it doesn’t equal the contraction “can’t”.) These seem like silly mistakes, but people make them a lot.

Speaking of a lot…

I’m going to bold this sentence because this really is the most common mistake I’ve ever seen. There is a space between the A and the word Lot. Alot isn’t a word! (Allot is, but that’s not what we’re talking about.) A friend showed me this lovely post about the wonders of Alot. Hopefully it will remind you Alot lovers that there is a space.

I could go on and on about more things like these, (like their, they’re and there, which has been beaten in since elementary school) but these are the biggest things that I see. I hope this helps at least some of you!


Written by Devin Bond

November 17, 2010 at 5:30 am

Posted in Advice, Lessons, Punctuation

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