A Common Error Indie Authors Make






Firstly, one of the most common. This error is everywhere when people write.

  1. Lay Lady Lay.

A few words from Face-book the other day, “ … instead of laying on the lounge I laid on the beach.”

The word lay is a verb that requires an object. You have to lay something or someone. Like an egg.

It has NOTHING to do with being supine on a bed or lounge. Used that way, it is an error.

Now he/she may have been talking about sex. ‘Cause that works. The verb lay can sometimes have an object that is understood, ie not actually stated but there nevertheless.

Because lay can also mean ‘have sex with’, the understood object would be ‘my partner’, or some-such variation thereof.

The sentence quoted above, if it read, “...instead of laying my friend Bill/Betty on the lounge; I laid him/her on the beach” then it would not be an error. My friend Bill/Betty and him/her – being the object(s). Strange, maybe, but grammatically accurate.

To help avoid this error, try this.

Write these words — “lie, lay, lain” (to recline);
then below them — “lay, laid, laid” (to place or put down).

We call this the Michiko Sato rule after the Japanese lady who invented it. A great and easy way to avoid this error.

Check this list each time you need to use one of these words. You will be amazed how it helps you get the grammar correct.

  1. She jumped off of the train.”

The compound preposition off of is generally regarded as informal and is best avoided in formal speech and writing. So not really an error? Perhaps.

What is a preposition? Prepositions are usually used in front of nouns (things) or pro

nouns and they show the relationship between the noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence.

The construction is “much inferior” to the form without the “of” according to Garner’s Modern American Usage (3d ed.).

There is nothing linguistically or grammatically wrong, it has been said with off of. It’s non-standard in some dialects (mainly American) and informal in most, so you should probably avoid it if you’re concerned about your writing seeming formal, or accurate from a grammar perspective. OK. Not an error, but to be avoided.

Cambridge Grammar notes that the combination “off” followed by an “of” phrase occurs only in American English.

The Oxford English Dictionary calls it “only colloq. (non-standard) and regional” in current use. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage says it’s “primarily a form used in speech”.

So what’s supposedly wrong with off of? The main problem seems to be that the of is unnecessary. In the case above, why not use just off or perhaps from the train, for example? The “of” adds NOTHING to the exchange.

'Off of' has become idiomatic in the USA, although it has “faded into the past” in Britain.

I still think it’s non-standard, an error, in fact, and doesn’t belong in the best written English.

Conversation and informal writing? Not sure. Perhaps!

It has been said, that one day “off of” will undoubtedly be accepted as standard American English, but not yet. I hope not ever. I hate it.

But then I’m not American.

  1. I took the knife off her

There are a couple of strings to this particular bow. Off is a preposition as defined above. It shows relationship between two things. Here the knife (noun) and her (pronoun – substituting for a female person).

As such the usage above is correct - on the surface.

However, off is usually considered an opposite (antonym) of on. Therefore if the knife is on (top of) the woman, off is the correct usage. But, as is probably the case, the knife is more likely in her hand or pocket or handbag. So “from” would be a better preposition to use. Even “away from”, but not “off”.

Then you have the ‘One Word One Meaning’ argument. If off means not on, it can’t mean anything else? But ...

This would seem to prevent anything from being ….. off topic, off in the distance, off like a shot, on and off, straight off, a little bit off etc. Quiet. I'm thinking!!

Once again (see above) this might be considered colloquial/regional American English.

It seems to me that where the preposition FROM could be used, then it should be. This will avoid all of the above discussion.

None of my sources suggest, on the other hand, that from and off are synonyms. (having the same meaning). Therefore if we are taking something away from a person, animal, object or place; then the preposition FROM should be used in all instances, unless one of the ‘things’ is actually on top of the other, and off is then appropriate.

I’m not even sure American English is a thing. I guess I hope not.

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