Have you ever bought a New York Times bestseller and found a typo or a glaring error? It’s happened to most of us. Errors can detract from the overall impression of quality readers expect of a published book. This can lead to negative reviews and low ratings, which can have an undesirable impact on sales.Share
The occasional error is practically inevitable in a finished manuscript, but striving for perfection is still a worthy aim. Understanding the most common mistakes can help authors approach their work and editing process with more clarity — and keep them from stumbling on common pitfalls. At Reedsy, we work with experienced developmental editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. I asked them a simple question: “What’s the most common writing mistake you see even bestselling authors making?” You’ll find their answers below, from big-picture mistakes down to the nitty-gritty of grammar and punctuation.
1. Show, don’t tellThis might be the most commonly cited mistake among editors. Authors are naturally prone to telling rather than showing. This means that rather than letting the reader experience a story through action, dialogue, thoughts, and senses, the author summarizes or describes what has happened. They often do this by info-dumping prose or by stating a character’s emotions rather than showing how those emotions are conveyed. (Read more.)