When we read a book by an esteemed author, aren't we entitled to expect no typographical errors, no awkward phrasing, no misuse of language?
I've just read a new book in which each of those sins occurs. To cite one: the author writes about a man "peddling" his bike around the city.
Makes you wonder if the rider is an ambulatory eBay vendor.
It seems the man was actually "pedaling" his bike, using his feet to apply pressure to the pedals.
Errors erode trust in a speaker or writer. That's the main reason writers — especially those who do not have paid editors — should ask a friend or colleague to vet the writing for them.
Emails from readers keep landing in my inbox, asking me to elaborate in a kindly way on a misusage, or, if a reader was really steamed, to pour boiling oil on the sinner.
Take the difference between like and as.
The most common misuse: "Like I said ..."
It should be, "As I said."
Use "like" in making a comparison: "When the quarterback went down and stayed down, the crowd's hush was like the stunned silence of a family at a graveside."
Here's a misuse of "like": They now go to a movie without reading a review beforehand, like we suggested they do.
In that example, "like" improperly introduces a clause that leads directly to the verb "suggested."
The right way: " ... without reading a review beforehand, as we suggested they do." Or "the way we suggested."
Another common error involves the choice between disinterested and uninterested. Many people choose "disinterested" to express someone's lack of interest in a subject.
The correct choice is "uninterested."
"Disinterested" applies to someone who acts as, say, a judge or juror, is neutral about the possible outcome and, therefore, trusted to decide an issue fairly.
One more choice: Stationary? Or stationery?
Stationary means an object that doesn't move. Stationery means the paper you write on.
So, no boiling oil poured on sinners this week. But keep an eye out for new candidates, and aim them for my inbox.
Gary Gilson can be reached through www.writebetterwithgary.com.