Friday, January 23, 2009

PUGS Pointers #8: PUGS Errors are Distracting

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 or to purchase the Polishing the PUGS book, see Kathy Ide’s 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 be distracting.

If I'm reading a book, no matter how good the content or story might be, if there are too many mistakes in punctuation, usage, grammar, or spelling, it's tough for me to get past those enough to concentrate on the book. I have been known to stop reading a book, and put it back on the shelf, if I find too many errors. And there are other readers like me out there.

Don't let PUGS problems distract readers from your message or your story.


Descriptive Phrases, CMS-15, #7.27 and AP p. 327

An apostrophe is not used when a noun is “attributive”—used in a descriptive sense rather than showing possession.

Rule of thumb: If something is for or of the group, don’t use an apostrophe.
a teachers college (a college for teachers)
a writers conference (a conference for writers)
writers guidelines (guidelines for writers)
a used books sale (a sale of used books)


aisle (noun) is a passage, as in “We met in the grocery store aisle.”
isle (noun) is an island, as in “We spent our honeymoon on a tropical isle.”


more than vs. over

More than is used with figures (numbers).
“More than one thousand people bought Vickie’s book.”

Over refers to spatial relationships.
“The football soared over the receiver’s head.”




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 Kathy's Web site.

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