Part 1: Look it up!
Part 2: Read it out loud.
Part 3: Have someone who knows what they're doing read it.
Part 4: Consistency, consistency, consistency!
Part 5: Dialogue tag...you're NOT it!
Part 6: Pick the right word to say what you mean.
Part 7: Adverbs--Kill it with fire!
Welcome to Part 8: Editors Aren't Perfect.
I'm often asked whether anything trips me up as an editor. And the answer is, unequivocally, YES. There are just some things that, even after repeated hammerings-in, just don't make it into my thick scull.
I'm not afraid to admit that I don't know everything related to writing, but that's why I own copies of several different editing and/or style guides.
But what stumps me? What's bookmarked and dog-eared in my editing reference books?
I'll tell you.
Keep in mind that these are just a few things, and, for the sake of brevity, I'm not going to go into detail on the correct meanings or usage of them--feel free to look those up, though I might stick a link or two in there if I feel like it.
Lie and Lay
For the life of me, I can't keep this one straight, especially since the different tenses of the different words are often the same or cross-overs. This has to be one of the most-visited section of my editing guides, particularly because I have to look up the proper usage each time one of these (or a tense) is used.
Affect and Effect
Ugh. This one. Every time I use one in my own writing, even a freakin' Facebook post, I have to look it up. Drives me crazy that I can't keep this straight.
Should it be AM/PM? a.m./p.m.? am/pm? Where does it go in relation to the actual numerals? This one is a frequently visited page when it comes up, which, thankfully, isn't often.
Colons and Semi-Colons
I've been told before that I sometimes misuse semi-colons, and I'd rather not use them at all than use them incorrectly. Colons are used so infrequently (unless it's with time) that when I see one used with a list or something else, it's an automatic look-up. Personally, I'm not a fan.
Usually these don't bother me and are more of a stylistic thing I rather like using in my own work, but they sometimes trip me up when wondering where to place them in dialogue that has been interrupted by something, typically a character's action. Though, oddly enough, it makes a difference whether the dialogue stops completely for the action to take place, or whether the dialogue continues on, and the interruption is more of a note for the reader. Complicated? Not really. Hard to keep straight? Yep.
Example showing more of a "dialogue note" interruption, straight out of my CMoS 15 that I consult regularly: "Someday he's going to hit one of those long shots, and"--his voice turned huffy--"I won't be there to see it." Blogger is weird and won't let me use a proper em dash, but the little hyphens there are the same thing.
This obviously isn't a comprehensive list, but there you have it!
What grammar/spelling/punctuation thing leaves you stumped every time?