Posts Tagged 'Chicago Manual of Style'

Writing, not Punctuation, Should be Creative

Writers are creative people and often struggle with the structure of punctuation rules. But we have those rules so readers can follow (read and comprehend) our creativity.

One of the most common punctuation errors involves one of the most common punctuation marks–the comma.

There are specific rules regarding comma use, but when I asked one author why she put commas where she did, she replied, “Because that’s where I stop and take a breath.” She meant well and her answer was creative, but her writing wasn’t getting the reader reception she wanted. Why not? The misuse of punctuation implied she didn’t know what she was doing.

Another common punctuation error I see is overuse of quotation marks. Chicago Manual of Style (the book publishing industry standard) calls these quotation marks scare quotes and says they should only be used when a word is used in an unusual manner. Here’s an example of what not to do: Sarah’s “special friend ” showered her with “big bucks” as an “expression” of  his love.

Yes, the example is extreme, but I intend to show how these quotes interrupt reading flow and add nothing to comprehension.

Finally, too many authors don’t understand when to use ellipsis (…) versus dashes (–). Ellipsis show something’s been left out (omitted). Dashes show pause or summary.

Authors tend to use ellipsis to show pause.  One of the things that makes ellipsis use confusing to writers is that ellipsis IS the correct punctuation when you have a pause  in dialogue. Example: George said, “I don’t know what to say…I mean…I thought I knew you, but it’s clear I don’t.” So, use ellipsis to show pause in speech, but use dash to show pause in the story/text/narration.

You have many punctuation marks available to you and you should use them. Just make sure you rely on your writing instead of your punctuation to show your creativity.

Happy writing!


Why Every Author Needs A BOOK Editor

Good writers understand the importance of a good editor. Wannabe writers take a little longer to acquire that knowledge.

No one would go to a dermatologist for a heart problem. A doctor is not a doctor is not a doctor. Each one specializes.

And so it is in many other fields, including editing.

An English major is not a book editor and a newspaper columnist is not a book editor and a novelist is not a book editor and your friend who loves to read is not a book editor either. Each of these examples COULD be book editors, but only if they edit books.

At Expert Publishing, we often get proposals that claim to be already edited. When we don’t see any evidence that the manuscript follows book editing standards, we ask who did the editing. The answer is typically one of the above cited examples–a English teacher, another writer of some sort, a friend who loves to read.

All of these are excellent sources for critiquing your writing, but they are not necessarily excellent sources for serving as your book editor.

We tell our authors that books are in print a long time. We strive to assure there are no errors, but  humans are involved in the process, so errors can and do occur.

Thank your friends with degrees in English or who love to read or write for their willingness to help you. Let them offer you comments/critiques on your manuscript. But find a book editor–and ask for their credentials.

For example, I took my editing training at the University of Minnesota. I’ve edited over a hundred books, some of which won book awards. I can give you the basic requirements found in The Chicago Manual of Style (the book publishing industry standard). If your editor can’t give you the basics of Chicago off the top of his/her head, you’re not working with a book editor. You’re talking to someone who edits, period.

Notice I didn’t say your book editor should have a degree in English. I didn’t even say your book editor should have a degree. I have a graduate degree in management and administration, not English.

Experience counts. It’s very important your editor does more than cross out words or add punctuation. Your editor should make your manuscript clear and cohesive as well as assure it follows correct punctuation,  capitalization,  spelling, and grammar. There’s nothing like experience for creating a good book editor.

So now you know that anyone can claim to be a book editor. Your job is to find the right one for your manuscript.

Happy writing!