Being an editor requires that a great deal of your life is spent proofreading, and it can be a frustrating process. Education seems to be no solution. Some of the worst writing you will ever see comes from deliriously intelligent people with master's or doctorate degrees who somehow never mastered what every third grader is supposed to know.
I'm no English major (I wanted to get a paying job) so I make a horrifying number of errors in my own speech and writing. In fact I have a whole list of words in my head that I spell wrong every time I write them, even though I know full well how they are spelled. I chalk it up to a frayed wire in the brain somewhere, and having given up on fixing the spelling, I just try to remember that I'll have to go back and repair them every time I use them.
These include "cemetery," "embarrass," "judgment," "maneuver" (I blame the French for this one), "pastime" and goodness help me, "rhythm" - which I can manage to spell 15 ways and still have none of them be right. Frankly, I like the way I spell all of these words better.
Still, there are mistakes that come to us over and over again. It might be understandable in letters to the editor dashed off in a hurry or in anger, but inexplicably, they arrive constantly in the form of press releases from schools and colleges, and from public relations firms that are well paid to write such things. So, let's fix a bunch of them, once and for all, right here, right now. Give me 10 minutes.
* "Loose" and "lose." I have no idea why people mix these words up, but they do, every day, more than any others I see. For the record, a lug nut may be loose, while lose is what you may do if that wheel comes off on the interstate.
* "Effect" and "affect." Constantly screwed up. And don't think you can get away with replacing them both with "impacts" on a term paper... I already tried that. Affect is a verb that means to do something that causes an effect, a noun. Nope, I wouldn't remember that either: So try thinking that the "a" in affect is for action - which is what a verb does.
* "Principal" and "principle." I've actually seen a principal get this wrong. Of course, a principal is a school official, a principle is an ideal. Try remembering that "principals have principles."
* "Bring" and "take." These get confused all the time, but it's an easy fix. People bring things toward you, and take things away from you.
* Apostrophes. Don't just stick them anywhere and everywhere, please. There's only two reasons to use one: indicating possession (Joe's car) or to indicate missing letters in a contraction (can't). They do not belong in your family (the Larsen's) or in years (the 1960's) or your collection (CD's). The Larsens, or the 1960s, or CDs, is correct.
* "It's" and "its." If you watch closely, you will find these wrong even in novels, which have probably been professionally proofread half a dozen times before printing. I've threatened my staff with an "Editor's Retirement Fund Jar" with a $1 fine for each "it's" violation. If I go through with it, I'll see you in the Bahamas soon. But you'll never make this goof again, because you'll know that "it's" means "it is" only. If you are indicating possession (the cat licked its paws), no apostrophe.
* Don't forget that comma. "I like cooking my family and my pets" or "I like cooking, my family, and my pets?" Let us hope for the former.
* "Alot" - Unless you write "alittle," there is no such word.
* "Irregardless" - This also isn't a word. It's just regardless, regardless.
* "I could care less." - Think about it. That would mean you do care. You're looking for, "I couldn't care less."
* "Very unique." Unique is one of a kind, it doesn't get any more unique than that.
* "Lay" or "lie." This is a real toughie. If you can replace the word with "put" or "place," you're pretty safe using "lay," otherwise go with "lie." See why "I need to lie down," and "He can lay his books down on the table" are both correct?
* "I seen." - No, you didn't. Stop it.
* "But," "just," "only" - These are often meaningless clutter in your sentences. See how often you can cut them out.
* "Thru" - This isn't Twitter. Real writing isn't shorthand. If you use this, you should be thru writing.