These are not really writing mistakes, are they?

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On a short tramp through the Website glade, I found a popular list of mistakes in writing English — but they’re not actually mistakes.

The writer, Univ. of Washington professor Paul Brians, calls these bits of English non-errors on the Web page.

Many of his explanations take note of metaphor, conventional writing, or common use, to justify things like using “over” when the writer means “more than.”

The Web page is fun, yes. But on the other hand, the argument for explicit language — using exactly the best word or phrase — protects a reader’s right to meaning. As in, “what exactly do you mean?” You may or may not consider these mistakes in writing. We’ve all read these words so often we have built an instinct for what they mean.

Mistakes in writing take place when a reader doesn’t understand, loses the thread of the story’s dream state, drops the passion to pursue the plot through its characters. Even using the wrong command in a computer program is a result of a writing mistake.

Have a look at these “mistakes that are not mistakes” list and see which ones you’re using in your writing. You can break any rule in writing — if you can get away with it to make the writing do its work. But the truth is that you can’t get away with as much as you’d like. I would say allow these mistakes into your writing if the soul of the prose demands them. Always look for a unique usage make writing “fail upwards” as your goal.

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