Friday, February 27, 2009

PUGS POINTERS #13: PUGS Errors can Tarnish your Reputation

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”).


PUGS errors can give Christians and Christianity a poor reputation with the world.

Several months ago, James Dobson expressed concern over a children’s video called “We Are Family.” Keith Olbermann, a nationally known commentator, derided Dr. Dobson for getting so upset about this video. He received a couple of thousand e-mails from concerned Christians who agreed with Dr. Dobson’s views. But he said that many of those e-mails contained gross typos and errors in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. He included a few examples on his Web site, using them as “proof” of how stupid Christians are. And yes, he used the word stupidity.

The world watches Christians carefully, just waiting for us to make mistakes, actually hoping we will make mistakes so they can “prove” that Christians are stupid and, therefore, that Christianity is only for the uneducated and easily duped.

As Christian authors, we are even more closely scrutinized and criticized than the general public. Many people in this country refuse to buy or read Christian books because they don’t think our books are as well written as those that are published by the secular press. They consider Christian writers and publishers “inferior.” And if they find errors in a Christian book, they will use those errors as “proof” of their point.

Let’s not give them any fuel for the fire of that argument. Polish your PUGS so that your work reflects positively on your faith and your Lord.


In this column, and in my Polishing the PUGS book, I have stated that US book publishers use The Chicago Manual of Style for punctuation rules, and that newspapers and magazines go by The Associated Press Stylebook. A fellow staff member at a writers’ conference once told me that many magazines she’s worked with are using The Chicago Manual of Style rather than The Associated Press Stylebook. She said the AP style is mostly used for newspapers and journalistic-type magazines. (We learn something new every day, don’t we?)



affect (always a verb, except for one use as a noun in psychology) means “to influence” or "to cause a response.”

“This article will affect the reader’s thinking.”

affect (verb) can also mean “to assume,” “to be given to,” or “to pretend.”

“Deborah affected a silly manner of speaking.”

effect (noun) means “result” or “accomplishment.”

“What was the effect of this appeal for money?”

effect (verb) means “to cause” or “to bring about.”

“The new manager will effect major changes in our sales methods.”

effects (plural noun) means “goods” or “property.”

“The deceased man’s effects were willed to charity.”


different from vs. different than
Things and people are different from each other.

“This guy is different from the others I’ve met,” Becky said.
“Writing is different from speaking,” Colleen said.

Different than is a convenient shortcut for “different from the way in which.” It can be used when comparing action verbs.

He acts different than he talks.


handmade (one word, no hyphen)

homemade (one word, no hyphen)

man-made (hyphenated)

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.

For more PUGS Pointers, see Kathy Ide’s Web site. Or get her book Polishing the PUGS, available here.


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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