Working with Your Pet Peeves

Everyone has their pet peeves. One thing to keep in mind is pet peeves are about the person who holds them, not the person who’s doing the evil deed. Generally, people are not out to get you (unless we’re talking family). They’re not trying to push your buttons.

If you have a pet peeve in writing, think of it as an asset rather than another way for others to irritate you. As a critique partner, your pet peeves can come in handy. Why? Because when you see the particular item, it stands out to you in a way that may not have stood out to the writer. It’s an opportunity for you give your valuable expertise to someone less experienced in a particular topic.

For example, I don’t know about others, but homonym (who’s versus whose, it’s versus its, your versus you’re, past versus passed, and there versus their versus) are my biggest problems and mistakes I make all the time. It’s not that I don’t know the difference or when to use them. It’s more on the line of human error. I have to make an extra check in my mind while typing homonyms. I’m pretty sure I type the way I read (by the word rather than the letter, unless I have to sound things out). So when it comes to homonyms, I’m guessing the first word that pops into my mind is the one I type.

If I realize it’s one of my problem words, I’ll stop and check it in my head before continuing to type. If not, I might gloss over it. Later, I may or may not catch it in editing. Just like anyone else editing their work, I don’t always catch all my mistakes. I also find it easier to spot glitches in another person’s work than my own. And we know spell/grammar check is not perfect. There are programs, like autocrit, which do identify homonyms and other errors writers should check though, but even those are not infallible. So I make the mistake. And yeah, misusing homonyms are on a lot of people’s pet peeve (say that fast three times) list. Then again, I’ve got my own set of pet peeves.

Anyway, I had a writer read one of my manuscripts recently. She pointed out several misuses of words (administrations versus ministrations and purses versus pierces, etc) which I had. Honestly, I had no idea I used them incorrectly. I also didn’t realize how often I used the terms in my manuscript (which was more than I liked). For me, having her point it out was an invaluable learning experience. If not for her, those errors would likely still be in my manuscript. I’m 30something and still learning new grammar rules and new vocabulary. Last year I learned the difference between lay versus lie.

For me, writing is a journey. I learn as I go. I understand that everyone is at different levels in their writing experience. The compiled writing list of rules areĀ  excellent tools, but not everyone is there yet. Not everyone knows about the guidelines. I believe part of the job of a critique partner is to point writers in the right direction. Show them the guidelines and refer them to resources which will help.

Critiquing combines the idea of give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish and lead a horse to water. We, as critique partners, can just go through and make the changes, or we can explain the guidelines. We can make suggestions, but we can’t force our partners to use them.

So I say, keep your pet peeves. Don’t yank your hair out when you encounter them. Instead take them and use them to help someone else through constructive criticism.

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