Friday, February 6, 2009

PUGS Pointers #10: Details are Important

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.


Details are important.

How much time and effort have you put into the other aspects of your writing? Is your manuscript not worth polishing? If your craft was pottery, would you go to the effort of creating a beautiful pot and then not varnish it? If you made an afghan, would you not tie off the last row? If you sewed a garment, would you not finish the seams and hems?
And if you did create something without finishing it properly, would you put out your unfinished craft for sale to strangers, expecting people to pay you for it?


Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation
1. Closing quotation marks always come after a comma or period.
ACFW held workshops on “Characterization,” “Point of View,” and “Floating Body Parts.”

2. Placement depends on whether the punctuation is part of the sentence as a whole or part of the quotation in particular. Examples:
Candy asked, “Do you know the way?”
How can we motivate teenagers who continually say, “I don’t care”?
Tiffany shouted, “Fire!”
I can’t believe he said, “Your story is boring”!

(See The Chicago Manual of Style 15th edition, #6.8–6.9 and
The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style 14th edition pp. 344–345)


advice (noun) is a suggestion or recommendation.
Cec gave me excellent advice about publishing my book.
advise (verb) means “to suggest or recommend.”
Frani advised me to strengthen the conflict in my romance novel.


Misplaced Modifiers

The position of a modifier determines what thing or action is being modified.
“Sharon sent out a proposal for her book on living with horses last week.”
Sharon’s proposal wasn’t for a book about “living with horses last week.” Reword:
“Last week Sharon sent out a proposal for her book on living with horses.”

“The editor told me on Thursday I have a book signing.”
Did the editor say this on Thursday, or do you have a book signing on Thursday?
“On Thursday, the editor told me I have a book signing.” Or:
“The editor told me I have a book signing on Thursday.”


divorcé (a divorced man)
divorcée (a divorced woman)

fiancé (a man engaged to be married)
fiancée (a woman engaged to be married)

For Articles: The AP Stylebook (p. 94) does not use accent marks over the e’s in fiance and fiancee.


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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