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Don’t “Try and” Do Anything!

One of my big pet peeves is the “try and” construction, which many writers fall victim to because we have learned to talk this way. I see this often in published novels; obviously, the copyeditors and proofreaders of many publishing houses don’t catch this error either. When you use this phrase you are not talking about both trying and doing something else. You are talking about trying to do something.


Try and help me move this boulder.
I want to try and understand what you are saying.


Try to help me move this boulder.
I want to try to understand what you are saying.
Try to pay attention to this often used but misused expression.

This also applies to the phrase “be sure and . . .” as in “Be sure and tell him I’m coming.” The correct way to say this is “Be sure to tell him I’m coming.”

Speaker Tags ~ You Can’t Cough Speech

Speaker tags can only use verbs that can be used to create speech. Writers often get creative in their speaker tags, but structurally they are incorrect.


“I love you,” he smiled (or laughed, joked, lied, sighed, coughed, chuckled, etc.).
You can’t sigh speech or cough speech, so only use verbs like said, asked, replied. Simpler is better. The word said is most recommended because it is considered invisible—the reader is so used to seeing that word that she glosses over it, which is a good thing.


“I love you,” he said with a smile.
“I love you.” He coughed, then added, “I mean . . . I think I do.”

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