Ever had a good head-bashing from an editor? Take your medicine. You'll be glad you did. Whether you're a writer or a reader, this will interest you. A word from editor extraordinaire, Laura Clark:
I’ve been doing a lot of proofreading and editing lately for indie authors. It’s something I’m good at, and it gives me a valid reason to stay up all night reading novels. For the most part, I enjoy proofreading and editing, but there are times when it makes me want to slam my head into the nearest hard surface. This happens when I see a good or great story buried under a pile of errors. There are a lot of variables that factor into a writer’s ability to properly use the nuts and bolts of his trade, and I don’t intend to go into those here. Instead, I mean to give writers – both established and aspiring–a few tips on how to use some of those nuts and bolts.
There have been many, many, books written on grammar, style, and punctuation. Some are incomplete, and some are hard to follow, but any of them can be useful--if a writer has one and takes the time to study it. These books have a much larger scope than this blog post. I highly recommend finding such a book and becoming friends with it.
So now, on with the show: a few tips to keep your editor and/or publisher from going stark-raving mad and/or strangling you. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but it should help a little.
The semi-colon only has two purposes: to separate list items that contain commas, and to connect two closely related independent clauses (sentences) without a conjunction.
I went to the store; I needed milk.
I wrote a long letter full of gossip: the latest news about Uncle Joe, Aunt Patty, and their thirteen kids; chit-chat about my job, school, and my friends; and the big scandal over at Colony High.
There are specific rules for the use of commas. They should not be placed anywhere you feel there should be a pause. Find a book about punctuation and learn the basic rules for comma usage. You'll be glad you did.
Dialogue attribution tells the reader who is speaking. Take care when using words or phrases other than "said" or "asked". Do NOT include adverbs in dialogue attribution.
"I love you," Jane said sadly.
"I love you," Jane said, her voice cracking as tears spilled down her cheeks.
An ellipsis is that little string of dots that denotes hesitation or missing words. There should be only three dots in an ellipsis. If the ellipsis falls at the end of a sentence, then it should be followed by proper punctuation.
"I...I don't know what to do," June said.
"What...what do I do?" June asked.
"But I.... You know what, never mind," June said.
Direct address is when one of your characters calls another character by his or her name, a nickname, or a title. Anytime one character directly addresses another, the name should be set off by a comma.
"Jane, please look at me," Joe said.
"Please look at me, Jane," Joe said.
"Ma'am, look at me, please," Joe said.
"Please look at me, ma'am," Joe said.
Run-on sentences are a very bad idea because they are hard to understand and can make the reader lose track of what you are trying to say in a sentence and this can make them want to stop reading. See what I mean?
Do NOT use song lyrics in your work unless you have a written agreement allowing you to use them. ASCAP or the rights-holder will find out about it sooner or later and come after you. They will take your house, your car, your wife, your dog, and your neighbor’s dog and then bludgeon you to death with your own foot.
There is no reason why folks should confuse these two words. They do not look alike nor sound alike, and they have different meanings.
Loose – Adjective meaning "not tight."
Her hair came loose from its tie.
Lose – Verb meaning "misplace."
I often lose my keys.
Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings and usages. Learn them!
To – Preposition meaning such things as "toward", "until", or "as far as".
I want to go to bed.
Too – Adverb meaning "also", "excessively", or "very."
I am too tired; my eyes won't stay open.
Two – A number that is one more than one.
There are two wheels on a bicycle.
Their – Possessive pronoun meaning "belonging to them."
That is their truck, not mine.
There – Adverb meaning "that place." Also used as an introductory element.
There is a big stack of pancakes on his plate.
Let's go over there now.
They're – Contraction of "they are."
They're coming to dinner tomorrow.
It's – Contraction of "it is."
It's time to go to bed.
Its – Possessive preposition meaning "belonging to it."
The cat licked its whiskers.
Your – Possessive preposition belonging to you.
It is your turn.
You're – Contraction of "you are."
You're going to be late for work if you don't get up soon.
She's available, and affordable, for those aspiring or established authors looking for help. Don't be afraid to contact her. email@example.com Or if you just have a college class or employment project and want to make a GREAT impression ;)