Showing posts with label editing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label editing. Show all posts

What Authors Need to Know to Avoid Vital Front Matter Booboos

 


To WritersontheMove Blog Subscribers and Visitors:

2023 has been a celebratory year for the release of the third edition of The Frugal Editorthe winningest book in my #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, and I don’t want to let the year pass without sharing part of what my publisher says is approximately 50% new material in this edition.

He also says, “We really overachieved on this book. There's nothing within a mile of it in terms of scope and depth.” One of the reasons for such praise is the inclusion of information on front matter that is as likely to assure a great first impression for a book as a great cover and one that books on editing or publishing rarely cover. So today’s blog post (see below) is what you need to know regardless of the publishing process you have chosen for your book.

The new Frugal Editor also covers the magical properties of back matter including increased readership and book sales but it’s way too long for a blog post. Find the frugal e-copy of the book at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTXQL27T/!)


An Excerpt from the Third Edition of The Frugal Editor

What Authors Need to Know to Avoid Vital Front Matter Booboos

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
 HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

Because I am a book marketer and an English Lit major, I love front matter where I often find unexpected information, but when I am reading for entertainment, I hardly notice it. Readers tend to pay little attention to front matter unless we have a reason to do so but industry gatekeepers are pickier. That includes the professional reviewers both authors and publishers want to impress.

Front matter mistakes or intentional deviation from the norm are not as readily forgiven as those in back matter. The easy way to make sure yours is in the realm of industry standards is to request Gorham Printing’s beautifully organized, free Guidebook: Adventures in Publishing, Explore Book Printing. Though I include a long list of both front and back matter elements later in this chapter, Gorham gives you a basic (safe!) order for frontmatter fundamentals for paper books:

1.     Title Page

2.     Copyright Page (lefthand page)

3.     Dedication

4.     Contents (begins on the righthand page)

5.     List of Figures or Tables. In this book, “The Frugal Editor’s Extras” list in the front matter is a cousin to these lists in an effort to make finding information easier for readers much like table or figure lists do. Use it as an example of a way to deviate with your own idea for “extras”in your book.

6.     Foreword 

7.     Preface

8.     Acknowledgements

9.     Introduction

Note: Gorham’s list doesn’t mention a prologue. I like them when they come just before the first chapter in books of fiction, meaning nothing—absolutely nothing but a chapter title—should intervene!

Gorham’s book is a great tutorial that includes their printing costs for books from hardcover to spiral books (often used for the likes of cookbooks). You’ll find a couple more front matter considerations below.

No matter how you plan to publish, you may think of a good reason to deviate from what appears to be acceptable among publishers. If your research inspires an idea for front or back matter that might benefit readers or help to sell more books, you might negotiate with a traditional publisher to accommodate your idea rather than stick to their company-wide style guidelines. I remember a fine publisher had included a short paragraph highlighting their use of a font style that was especially appropriate for the topic of that specific book on one of its front matter pages. 

If you are self-publishing, know what rules you are breaking. Ask yourself if doing so would be welcomed by your readers and if it might attract the ire of a publishing industry professional. Ask yourself if the pluses outweigh the negatives or if you would feel comfortable saving your creative idea for a time when you are so experienced and established that your idea is likely to be accepted and emulated regardless of how brazen it is.

Of course, you can always choose a few books from your library or browse newly released books from publishers you admire at your favorite bookstore, too. Be sure to look at some of the best known books in the same genre as yours. This little exercise might convince you that your title can accommodate a little daring-do!

Here are some other less frequently used front matter components I promised you including the use of two title pages. What, you never noticed a second title page? They can be handy for keeping a nice, open layout with all the sections that should be on the left page where they belong. They are called the title page and the half-title page. Old-timers call title pages other than the first bastard title pages. In those pre politically-correct days, they were abbreviated versions of the title page that could be torn out before the book was bound. One defense for the keeping the practice is that authors can sign and personalize one page and the book still has one left untouched. Another is that an additional title page can separate the book’s text from long and complex frontmatter. The setup of a book’s frontmatter might be part of your publisher’s style guidelines and be nonnegotiable. If the frontmatter is quite long, there may even be a third title page just before the body of the book begins.

Note: An excellent example of a book that departs from frontmatter standards in ways that benefit both book and reader is Behind the Bears Ears: Exploring the Cultural and Natural Histories of a Sacred Landscape by R. E. Burillo (Torrey House Press, 2020). It includes a map of Bears Ears National Monument (US), an anthropologic timeline, and probably breaks some norms for the length of its introduction. This 407-page book also uses back matter effectively.

 

10.  Warning: Don’t neglect your acknowledgements page. There are ways it can be used effectively for both pre-promotion and general marketing. It is spelled Acknowledgements. With a d, please. Even very good editors can overlook a misspelling of this word, at least in part because they don’t bother to peruse front and back matter. “Foreword” is often misspelled, too. Don’t leave the out! Your spellchecker may not catch it!

MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Carolyn Howard-Johnson started what she considers her “real writing” career when most are thinking of retiring. She brings her experience as publicist, journalist, marketer, editor, retailer, and the author of those books published almost every way possible including traditionally, to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. She blogs at https://thenewbookreview.blogspot.com and https://sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com.

Three Neglected Components for Publishing an E-Book


By Carolyn Howard-Johnson





A Website owner was asked what the “three most important components are for publishing a professionally produced e-book” and he referred the question to me. As long as I was mulling over this answer this all-important question, I figured I’d pass the answer along to you, but the question was too hard to answer in its original form. I took the liberty of qualifying it with an introductory clause and here it is: 

 

Because a self-publisher must be a jack of all publishing trades and because many readers are still not comfortable with e-books, I believe the three most important components of publishing an e-book are:

 

1. The cover. Visuals are powerful tools. A great book cover may be even more important for an e-book (even though it's virtual) than for a paper book. It will probably be the only visual a reader will have to connect the reader to the author's (and publisher's) credibility.

 

2. Great editing. Too many authors and e-book publishers think that great editing is merely the process of eradicating typos, but it's a lot more. It's grammar. It's the conventions of writing (like punctuating dialogue correctly). It's even formatting that anyone can hire done, but should know enough about to prepare their manuscript for its final edit. And it’s knowing about the things that your English teacher may have considered correct, but they’re things that tick publishing professionals like agents, publishers and the media people who get to choose a book for print or internet exposure off!

 

3. Formatting. I list this last because most e-book services like Amazon, Createspace, BookBaby etc.  make it clear that formatting is essential and provide guidelines for getting it right.  I included expanded step-by-step instructions for formatting your book for Kindle directly from my publisher, Modern History Press, in the Appendix of my multi award-winning book on editing. For the recently released third edition of The Frugal Editor, go to https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTXQL27T) to get the Amazon special for the whole series of my HowToDoItFrugally series of e-books for writers with one click.

 

Note: You should know that when a reader buys your e-book on Kindle, they get to choose what reader format they prefer, and it costs you no extra time reformatting and tracking several for e-book exposure on different platforms.

 

PS: The fourth most important component of e-books is marketing. No e-book—no book!—is truly published if it hasn’t been marketed. It’s part of the publisher’s job no matter how it is published or who the publisher is. And if it is self-published, marketing is as much the author’s job as the writing of the book. Everything you need to know to market your book the way a professional would if you had the money to hire her is in the tried-and-true The Frugal Book Promoterhttps://bit.ly/FrugalBookPromoIII

 

More About Today's Contributor




 Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the multi award-winning third editions of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Editor; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Her blog  TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, lets authors recycle their favorite reviews absolutely free.  Find submission guidelines at https://thenewbookreview.blogspot.com/2023/05/send-us-your-fav-book-review.html.

 

 

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Here's What You May Not Know About Adverbs

Pesky Adverbs or the Means to Making Pure Gold?


 

Here’s What You Seldom Hear About Adverbs

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, 
writer of fiction, poetry, and the multi-award winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

 

We are often warned that adverbs can be overdone. Then writers take the warning too literally; they think they shouldn’t use any at all! 

 

Of course, we wouldn't have adverbs if they didn't serve a purpose. But when we examine them—carefully (very carefully!) we often find that they duplicate a quality that the verb itself (or another adverb) has already achieved for us. That makes them redundant. 

 

Adverbs are often awkward. Or they slow down the forward movement of a sentence. Or both.

 

Authors often worry when an editor removes their adverbs. They think those edits will change their voices. Though an author can (and should) reject edits that he/she thinks aren't appropriate, these edits of adverbs rarely change a voice. Certainly voice isn't achieved by using adverbs or most other edits. It is achieved by much subtler elements of writing. Point of view. Use of colloquialism or slang. Choice of detail. 

 

For the most part, I think most writers worry way too much on having their voice changed and not enough about improving their writing skills.

 

Having said that, I worry more about editors who don’t really have the training to be editors. Would an editor really remove all of a writer’s adverbs? And how would a new author know if an editor is overstepping if he/she doesn’t have lots of information on editing under his or her own little writer’s belt?

 

I hope those of you who have been relying on an outside editor—someone you hired or a friend—will read The Frugal Editor in its 3rd edition and now published by Modern History Press. It includes lots of do-it-yourself stuff. I know most authors—you?—don’t hire an editor for all the daily stuff they do like writing query letters, media releases, etc.) but this book also includes how to partner with an editor, how to save money hiring an editor, and how to hire one that is compatible with your personality and the kind of writing you do. Many good editors like Barbara McNichol (www.barbaramcnichol.com) specialize in specific genres, nonfiction vs. fiction, etc. Larry Brooks (www.storyfix.com) helps writers of fiction with structure. Good editors know that it is hard to be an expert at everything.

 

Editing is a two-way street. There's gotta be some trust and also some confidence. The more an author knows about editing, the better equipped she or he is to discard or keep edits. That’s comforting. But it’s essential to know things like agents’ pet peeves. They rarely have anything to do with the grammar we learned in the fourth grade.

 

Essential? Yes, because those are the documents you send to the people who have something to say about the future of your book including newspaper and magazine feature editors, movie producers, and the millions of folks who read what you put out there on the web. So, yep. Examine every adverby "ly" word. And then use each one to your advantage. Know the adverbs we usually don’t think of when we hear the term adverbs (like “even” and “just”). There is a list in The Frugal Editor (see Amazon’s new series page for it at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTXQL27T .) Make a list of the ones you tend to overuse. Either discard each one or use one of the methods in The Frugal Editor to turn them into more visual writing. Their best quality? Adverbs can turn you into a magician—that is help you turn them into image-producing gold—similes, or better, metaphors.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults, and speaks on issues of publishing. Learn more about her other authors' aids at https://www.howtodoitfrugally.com. She blogs on editing at https://www.thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com and all things publishing (not just editing!) at https://www.sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo .

 


 

                                                                         LINKEDIN

The Frugal Editor & Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips || Combined Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Frugal Editor & Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips Combined Book Review of Carolyn Howard-Johnson's landmark Editing Books.    Reviews by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Book Review || The Frugal Editor, Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your new bestseller by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Today I am sharing my favorite self-editing book. Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a friend and co-contributor to Writer’s On The Move (WOTM).  She is a consistent source of encouragement for the writer’s journey!

Carolyn’s delivery style is down to earth, illuminating, & frugal in its time saving, headache preventing approach. My favorite aspect of her book includes the basics required for an effective writer’s practice, and the seven thorough Appendices:

*Appendix One, “Editing At A Glance”,
*Followed by Recommended Reading & Resources,
*A Generous Agents List,
*Sample Cover and Sample Query Letters, and
*Formatting for Kindle Made Easy.

The Goal of the book is to equip aspiring and accomplished authors with the best self-editing skills and tips for successful publishing.

I highly recommend this book. It’s refreshing, informative and empowers our writers' journey.

Thank you Carolyn Howard-Johnson!

DON’T MISS THE FOLLOW ON …

Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers, The Ultimate Frugal Reference Guide for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy by Carolyn Howard-Johnson  *second edition

My favorite self-editing book just got better, with its second edition addendum book of Great Little Last-Minute Tips. I enjoy Carolyn’s down-to-earth and humorous writing style. It enlightens, is a kick and prevents headaches too.

This little book is powerful with pointers from the depth of her knowledge, writing and editing expertise. This is NOT a boring grammar/editing book. Carolyn’s Word Trippers are full of surprises and fun to make us better writers, better communicators, and better at doing the job we set out to do.

I highly recommend this book, too!
Thanks again Carolyn Howard-Johnson!


Thank you, Carolyn Howard-Johnson for providing me a review book copy of “Great Little Last-Minute Editing tips for Writers”.  I was not required to write a positive review, I receive no compensation, and it was my choice to write this review. All comments and opinions are solely my own.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson has been promoting her own books and helping clients promote theirs for more than a decade. Her marketing plan for the second book in the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, The Frugal Editor, won the Next Generation Millennium Award for Marketing. The just-released third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter, published by Modern History Press, is New, Expanded, and Updated. Her poetry, fiction and nonfiction books have been honored by the likes of Writer’s Digest, USA Book News Award, the Irwin award, Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards and more. Learn more about Carolyn and her books of fiction and poetry. Each of them helped her learn more about maximizing marketing efforts for different writers, different titles. Learn more at www.howtodoitfrugally.com
Links:
https://howtodoitfrugally.com/
http://www.writersonthemove.com/

 


Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:
https://www.amazon.com/Deborah-Lyn-Stanley/
& https://books2read.com/b/valuestories


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A Sneak Peek at Adverbs and a New Frugal Editor

A Sneak Peek at the Ins, Outs, Ups and Downs of Adverbs

 Contributed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning

 HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

I am in an editing mode. The editor is at work editing the next edition of her The Frugal Editor and, honestly, barely thinking of anything else. When I ran into the chapter on adverbs, I thought it is (still!) one of the best chapters. Then I thought I wanted to share it with visitors and subscribers of Karen Cioffi’s WritersOnTheMove blog. But it’s too early for that.
 
Soooo…will a sneak peek do? And if I share with you now, will you come back for the real updated edition when it’s ready sometime in 2022? Or maybe offer to write a blurb. Really, anything that we authors do when we’re #SharingwithWriters or doing that #AuthorsHelpingAuthors thing? Here’s just the adverb angle on why you must come back.
 
We are often warned that adverbs can be overdone. Writers often take the warning too literally; they think they shouldn’t use any at all!
 
Of course, we wouldn't have adverbs if they didn't serve a purpose. But when we examine them—carefully (very carefully!) we often find that they duplicate a quality that the verb has already achieved for us. That makes them redundant.

Adverbs can be especially egregious when they are used too liberally as dialogue tags.
 
Or they are awkward. Or they slow down the forward movement of a sentence.
 
Authors worry when an editor takes a red pen to their adverbs. They think those edits will change their voices. Though an author can (and should) reject edits that he/she thinks aren't appropriate, these edits of adverbs rarely change a voice. Besides, voice is rarely achieved by using adverbs or most other aspects of speech we editors tackle with a vengeance. It is achieved by much subtler elements of writing. Point of view. Use of colloquialism or slang. Choice of detail.
 
For the most part, I think most writers worry way too much on having their voice changed and not enough about improving their writing skills.
 
Having said that, I worry more about editors who don’t have the training to be editors. Would an editor really remove all of a writer’s adverbs? And how would a new author know if an editor is overstepping if he/she doesn’t have lots of information on editing under his or her own little writers’ belt?
 
I do hope those of you who have been relying on an outside editor—someone you hired or a friend--will read The Frugal Editor—even in its old edition. And here is the deal. Read it now and let me know with an email to hojonews@aol.com. I will add you to a special list of authors that I will send an e-copy of the third edition so you won’t miss a thing. The best of two worlds—now when you need it and later when you’ll still need all the new stuff like what to do with the new rules for gender friendly pronouns.
 
Find the “old” second edition now at bit.ly/FrugalEditor. It includes lots on how to partner with an editor, how to save money hiring an editor, and how to hire one that is compatible with your personality and the kind of writing you do. Many good editors like Barbara McNichol (www.barbaramcnichol.com) specialize in specific genres, nonfiction vs. fictions, etc. Larry Brooks (www.storyfix.com)  helps writers of fiction specifically with structure. Good editors know that it is hard to be an expert at everything.
 
Editing is a two-way street. There's gotta be some trust and also some confidence. That’s why this offer (keep reading!) is on the honor system. But it’s also because I am avid about editing and love to share. The more an author knows about editing, the better equipped she or he is to discard or keep edits.
 
So, yep. Examine every adverby "ly" word. And then use each one to your advantage. Know the other adverbs (like “even” and “just”). There is a list in The Frugal Editor (bit.ly/FrugalEditor) Especially the ones you tend to overuse. Either discard each one or use one of the methods in The Frugal Editor to turn them into more visual writing.
 
Here is a quick sample of the kind of advice you’ll find in the old edition where I urge readers to do one last manual edit even when they think their book is ready for the big time:
 
“A Good time to check your copy for each entry on this list [of the most deadly adverbs] is early in the editing process and then again when you have finished everything but your final edit. You may ask, why not after the final edit? Remember how your mother always knew when you had been rooting around in the cookie jar? You left crumbs behind. You’ll need that final edit to pick up all your crumbs—even the ones left after you have finished this search for your overused words” ©
 
-----



Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults, and speaks on issues of publishing. Learn more about her other authors' aids at https://howtodoitfrugally.com where writers find lists and other helps on the Resources for Writers page.
She blogs on editing at http://www.thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com and all things publishing (not just editing!) at  http://www.sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com.
She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo

Editing Skills Your High School Grammar Teacher Didn't Teach You




 Editing Skills for Do-It-Yourselfers or Those with Editors: Help Your Editor Avoid “Bad Breaks”


As a freelance editor of fiction, memoir, and poetry as well as the author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the winningest book in the series The Frugal Editor, I know that I can give an author a better price on a per-page quotations if they have submitted a “clean” manuscript. As a writer who has published every which way I know that tricks like the one in this article will help authors produce much more professional hardcover or print copies no matter what platform an author chooses.

To put a fine point on it, authors benefit when they knows some of the things editors look for whether they work independently or with a big five publisher.  In fact, great editing (along with marketing skills) can help them convince an agent or publisher "this project" is the one they should invest in. MSNBC brands themselves with the quotation, “the more you know." It applies to authors, even when it comes to something they think they can turn over for someone else to do! 

One of those editing skills we weren't taught in our high school grammar class is what editors call bad breaks. Here is what they are talking about:
 
~Bad breaks can be widows (where the last line of a paragraph appears all by its little lonely self on the next page).

~ Bad breaks can be orphans (where a paragraph, title, subhead, title or section begins on one page and gets left dangling there with only one line until the reader gets to the next page).

~A bad break can be a hyphenated word at the end of line that appears as the very last thing a reader sees on any given page.

~A bad break can be a word that breaks incorrectly at the end of a line. Check your dictionary when you must break a word. Dictionaries tell you where syllable breaks are and we don’t break words anywhere but between syllables. Great publishers also don’t break a long word after the very first syllable or before the last one.

~We also don’t break a name (use a hyphen) after an initial in a name. So, we should leave a name like “J. R. Turner” on one line with no attempt to break it even if avoiding the break screws with the spacing a tad.

You’ll find many other tips on “Avoiding Humiliation and Ensuring Success” (which happens to be the second subtitle for my The Frugal Editor) in the paper or ebook edition on Amazon at http://bit.ly/FrugalEditor.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes  The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book
News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically launched to rave reviews from Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Reviews and others:








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Writing - Sometimes It Isn't Smart to Avoid Cuss Words


By Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Many who know me—personally or as a writer--think of me as that sweet woman with the silver hair (platinum, if you please, but not gray!). However, I can on occasion—and sometimes more frequently—let loose with language you would unfriend me for. So I was thrilled to see an article in AARP: The Magazine titled “In Praise of Cussing.”

It turns out that a few carefully chosen zingers can be “an indicator of intelligence” according a study from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Marist College in New York.

Yay!

And expletives can help “reduce and endure physical pain” as well. That’s from Keele University in England. Yep. And “forge better teams in the workplace” and “communicate more persuasively.”

One survey even says I am in good company (meaning the majority!). Fifty-seven percent of workers swear on the job. (I do try to avoid doing that! And I also almost never swear when I am driving! So there!)

So, I don’t think you’ll ever find an unsavory expletive in my newsletter, but you are sure to find idioms and colloquialisms everywhere. I do try not to let even my foulest fictional characters cuss beyond what is needed for their character and the situation. And, yes sometimes I use words with lots of syllables, too, especially when they say things better than the short ones (which is rarely).

All this is not to encourage writers to cuss. It is to remind them that if the words they use in dialogue are too. . . mmmm. . .staid, they may render them . . . well, let’s say unnatural? Or stilted?

One of your characters may just be the type who must have a potty mouth if she is to seem real to your reader. And sometimes that character won’t be the tough-talking dude cliché. Those who write humor know that tough-talking character may be a fragile woman with gray. . . er. . . platinum hair.


Carolyn has been a proud contributor to Writers on the Move since its inception. Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and founder and owner of a retail chain to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoterand her multi award-winning The Frugal Editorwon awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. Her newest book in the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com.

MORE ON WRITING


Tips on Polishing Your Novel
How to Catch an Acquisition Editor's Attention
Pros and Cons of Outlining Your Novel



Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 7: Apostrophes


Sometimes people underrate the importance of punctuation. If your work is full of errors, you risk not only confusing and/or annoying your readers, but you also risk losing credibility. Punctuation errors are bad enough in a novel or a short story, but if you're writing non-fiction, your readers may think, “Hmm...if this guy can't put apostrophes in the right place, can I really trust his expertise in the subject matter?” This is something you do not want your readers to think.

Recently I read an independently published non-fiction book plagued with so many apostrophe errors that the author unwittingly inspired today's post. Here are the main types of errors he made, over and over again:

1) Wrong: His mothers fears
Right: His mother's fears

If you're showing possession, you need that apostrophe. Otherwise is looks like a plural. This would be doubly confusing if it were “His mothers fear” because that reads like he has two mothers and they both fear something. It's not until the next word that the reader is jarred into the intended meaning: “His mothers fear was made reality.” Oh...his mother (or mothers, we're still not sure because it's not punctuated correctly) had a fear and it came true.

2) Wrong: Humanities primal urges. Also would be wrong: Humanitie's primal urges.
Right: Humanity's primal urges

When a word ends in y, and you want to make it PLURAL, you change the y to i and add es. But when you want to make it POSSESSIVE, you do not change the y. Just add apostrophe s. The city's streets are clean. Not many cities are so clean.

3) Wrong: A process which Heracles labours are forcing him to undergo.
Right: Heracles' labours... OR Heracles's labours

The correct way to punctuate names and singular nouns that end in s is debatable, and depends on which style guide you use, though nowadays most lean toward adding the apostrophe s instead of just the apostrophe. Charles's camera. The bus's back tires. But of course, if the noun is plural, you just add the apostrophe. The girls' playhouse (there are at least two girls).

4) Wrong: The sea's were troubled.
Right: The seas were troubled.

It's a plural noun. The apostrophe has no place here. Exceptions may be made (depending on which style guide you follow) for acronyms, years, and other strange cases. Some people write CD's, DVD's, etc. when they mean multiple CDs or DVDs. They write the 1980's when referring to the decade, instead of the 1980s. I personally think this is imprecise and potentially confusing, but it's common and often considered acceptable. You should use an apostrophe in plurals of some one-letter words that would be confused with other words if you didn't add the apostrophe. So, for example, you can write “I replaced all the a's with i's in my secret message.” These a's and i's are plural, not possessive, and would generally not use apostrophes, but if you don't add the apostrophe, you get this: “I replaced all the as with is in the secret message.”

5) Wrong: Helios see's all things.
Right: Helios sees all things.

Never put an apostrophe s in a verb UNLESS you're making a contraction with is or has (he's tired, she's singing, Mary's awake, the cat's never caught a bird before, the world's been going downhill..) Otherwise, just don't do it. Please. A regular s is sufficient. Helios sees. Helios hears. Helios knows.

6) Wrong: It's muscles flexed.
Right: Its muscles flexed.

This is a very, very, very common error. It's is a contraction of it and is (It's hot in here). Its is the possessive of it (This book is complicated. Its appendix of characters is twenty-seven pages long.). I think most of us know this, but it's easy to make the error in haste or with bad typing and then not catch it later because we know what it's supposed to say, so our brain skips over the error. If you're worried about it, there's a long, boring solution: use the find feature on your word processor to hunt down every example of both it's and its in your manuscript and make sure they're all right. While you're at it, check you're and your.


A few other things to remember:

“My parents' house is old” means that the house belongs to both your parents.
“My parent's house is old “ means that the house belongs to one of your parents (and for some reason you call this person your parent instead of your mom or dad.)

Let's is not the same as lets
Let's go swimming this afternoon. Mom never lets me go swimming.

Who's is not the same as whose
Who's going to cook tonight? Whose carrots are these?

They're is not the same as their
They're going to cook tonight? But their carrots are old.

You're is not the same as your
You're invited. Your invitation got lost in the mail.

We're is not the same as were and he's is not the same as his. Yes, these last ones should be obvious, but I've seen the mistakes in work people felt ready to publish.


The problem with these types of errors is that spell checker will never find them. Your grammar checker won't help a lot either. You have a sacred duty to your readers to find somebody (yes, an actual person, and preferably several of them) that will be able to hunt down and correct errors like this after you do your best to correct them yourself.

Happy hunting.

For more punctuation help, see my other posts:
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 1:  Commas Save Lives; the Vocative Comma
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 2:  Commas and Periods in Dialogue
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 3:  Commas with Participial Phrases
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 4:  The Mysterious Case of the Missing Question Mark
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 5:  Adjectives with Commas
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 6:  Hyphens in Compound Adjectives

Don’t Depend 100% on Your Publisher

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) In 2007, America’s Publicist Rick Frishman invited me to participate on the faculty of MegaBook Marketing Uni...