Friday, November 21, 2008

PUGS Pointers #3: PUGS Make all the Difference

PUGS* Pointers
(*Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling)
by Kathy Ide

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling (“PUGS”). She also explains why it’s important for writers to polish their PUGS.

Each article in this column will address one item in each area. For more PUGS Pointers, see Kathy Ide’s Web site. Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling Tips for Writers is available (in book or CD-ROM format) through her Web site.

PUGS Pointers are based on the current industry-standard references in the United States.

For books:

The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition, © 2003)
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, © 2003)

For articles:

The Associated Press Stylebook (© 2004)
Webster’s New World College Dictionary (© 2002)

Many publishing houses have their own in-house style guides that may differ in some aspects from the standard references. However, unless you’re writing exclusively for one particular publisher, it’s best to follow the standard references and let the in-house proofreaders adjust to house style.


PUGS errors can cause confusion.

My older son, Tom, is a very busy professional, so a lot of our communication takes place via e-mail. One Sunday, I asked him what he wanted me to make for dinner that evening. His response was:

When you decide what you can say I decided this and if it’s not OK that’s OK.

It took me a while to decipher that. And when I asked my son for permission to quote it, his response was, “Did I write that? What on earth does it mean?” Even he didn’t know! Well, after reading that line several times, I came up with this:

“When you decide what, you can say, ‘I decided this,’ and if it’s not OK, that’s OK.”

Pretty confusing without the punctuation, is it?


Spacing Between Sentences

In material that will be typeset (books or articles), one space, not two, follows a period (or any other punctuation mark) at the end of a sentence.

*See The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) Rule #6.11 and The Christian Writer's Manual of Style (2004 edition) page 378.


back door/backdoor
back door (noun)
"Randy pounded on Jim's back door."

backdoor (adjective) means "indirect" or "devious"
"She suspected the men were involved in some kind of backdoor operation."


fewer vs. less
Fewer refers to quantities/numbers.
"If you proofread your work carefully, you will get fewer rejections."

Less refers to amounts.
"First drafts require less work than rewrites."


harebrained (not hairbrained)
origin: “with no more brains than a hare”


Kathy Ide has been writing for publication since 1988. She has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for aspiring writers, established authors, commercial book publishers, subsidy publishers, and magazines. Her services include proofreading, copyediting, substantive/content editing, coauthoring, ghostwriting, and mentoring/coaching. She also speaks at writers conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network and the Christian Editor Network. To find out more, please visit her Web site.

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