Friday, January 30, 2009

PUGS Pointers #9: PUGS Errors Could Cost You Money

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 Polishing the PUGS, the 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 could cost you money.

If you decide to hire someone to edit or proofread your manuscript, and you haven’t fixed your punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling, you will be paying extra for someone else to do that for you. And how will you know if that editor is right?


Commas with Dates, CMS #6.46
Dates in text include a comma only if the month and then the date precede the year.
“On October 10, 1980, Donita submitted her fourth book in the series.”

When using only the month and year (or date, then month, then year), do not use a comma.
“Copyright October 1980” or “On 6 October 1924 Angela arrived in Istanbul.”


For Books: According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:

backseat (noun)
“Henry found a wad of gum on the backseat.”

back-seat (adjective)
“Terrence was a back-seat driver.”

For Articles: Per Webster’s New World College Dictionary, spell as two words (back seat) when used as a noun to mean “a secondary or inconspicuous position.” Example:
“Food takes a back seat to romance when you’re in love.”


Dangling Modifiers

When you start a sentence with a modifying word or phrase, the next thing in the sentence is what must be modified by that word or phrase. A “dangling modifier” is a phrase that does not clearly and sensibly modify the appropriate word.

Example: “Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the Mustang seemed to run better.”
A Mustang cannot change its own oil. So you’d want to rewrite that as:
“Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, Sandra found she got much better gas mileage.”


One word (no hyphen) according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

For Articles: According to The AP Stylebook (p. 25), should be baby-sit, baby-sitting, baby-sat (one word with a hyphen), except for baby sitter, which is two words, no hyphen.


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.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Interesting post. I often wondered about some of these. When I was young, we were taught to spell cookstove as one word. Now apparently, it is to be cook stove. Go figure. These types of words can be really confusing. Thanks for the heads up.