15 Grammar Goofs that Make You Look Silly

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s life! But when you’re an aspiring writer then you should take the time to learn the basics in grammar. Using the wrong word in a sentence can change its meaning. More importantly, it can also make you look silly to the reader.

Here are some basics you should know:

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
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Editing Course: Using Technology

Editing and proofreading is not just about printed matter/publications, it also involves working with other technology such as:

A website, where you would proof the pages on-screen and either email, fax or post back the corrections.

A PDF document, where you would proof the document on-screen and email back the corrections.

A Word, RTF or other soft document created in a word processor, where you would edit the document using “Track Changes” and email it back to the client.

An editor/proofreader must understand the processes of doing their work using technology. However, it is up to the individual if these services are offered. Of course, the more flexible you are, the better for you.

How Much to Charge

To start with you would probably charge about $20 – $25 per hour, but this will increase to $25 – $35 per hour as you gain experience. This is the same amount you would charge to edit/proofread hard copies.

Remember, proofreading attracts a lower fee – $20 – $25 per hour. Copyediting is around $25 – $35 per hour. And substantive editing is $40 upwards.

Keep in mind also that you will probably have to print out the soft document as it is usually easier to work with.

Technology Jargon

It is always helpful to know the jargon when using technology. Here is a short list of meanings:

These days it is not uncommon to see “e” in front of words (for example, email, e-zine, e-commerce, ebooks). The “e” means electronic.

“Uploading files” means sending files.

“Downloading files” means receiving files.

“PDF” means portable document format.

“RTF” means rich text format.

“Log in” means to access an account (and is two words).

When editing/proofreading, it is important to remember the following:

Internet should always be spelt with a capital “I” as it is a proper noun.

World Wide Web should always be capitalised too, for the same reason.

Web, when referring to the Internet, should be capitalised as it is the formal abbreviation of a proper noun.

Email can be hyphenated (e-mail) or can be written without the hyphen (email), but all other “e” words should be written with the hyphen, unless house-style dictates otherwise.

Using Spelling and Grammar Checkers

It is dicey to use spell checkers included in word processors as they are unreliable.

Use them only if you have the right one installed for your location (ie it is no use using a US spell checker if you are in Australia), and you only use it to pick up everyday typos at a glance. Do not depend on them and always edit your own work for errors.

Remember, these checkers are often wrong!

Editing Course: Perfect Punctuation II

When editing manuscripts for books, it’s important to understand the use of inverted commas for speech, quotes and apostrophes.

Speech Marks: Single or Double?

We use speech marks (ie “…” or ‘…’) in novels, magazines and newspapers to indicate when a person is talking.

Different countries have their own standards when displaying speech marks. In Australia and England the standard is to use single inverted commas for adult fiction and non-fiction.

When using single speech marks (ie ‘…’) and you need to quote a section of text within the speech, the quoted section would use double speech marks (ie “…”). Example: ‘Jim told me “it would be better for everyone”, but I don’t agree with him.’

In contrast, many children’s publishers in Australia and England use double speech marks for dialogue in picture books and early readers.

Magazines and newspapers also have adopted the double speech marks, and use single speech marks for quoted sections with text. However, they use double speech marks for stand alone quotations.

It is recommended to authors to use double speech marks as it is easier to do a find and replace to change double to single than the other way round because of apostrophes.

Conventional Usage for Punctuation with Speech

Should the comma/full stop/question mark/exclamation mark be inside or outside the quotation marks? It’s not an easy question to answer as there is no definitive answer.

In America these marks always go inside the speech marks. In Australia and England it changes depending on the situation.

This is quoted from the Australian Style manual:

In North America it is conventional for closing quotation marks to follow commas, but to precede semi-colons and colons. In Britain the situation is not quite as simple, although it is more logical. If the quoted material would have contained the punctuation mark in the absence of any interruption, the punctuation mark stays inside the closing quotation marks. On the other hand, if the punctuation is part of the carrier sentence it follows the closing quotation mark.

For example, when the punctuation closes the entire carrier sentence, not just the dialogue:

Josie faced her husband and said, “James, I’m leaving you”.

or

“James, I’m leaving you,” said Josie, facing her husband.

Alternatively, when the punctuation is part of the dialogue:

Josie faced her husband. “James, I’m leaving you.”

Other Things to Remember

Thoughts: Never use inverted commas for speech as it will confuse the reader. They will be unable to determine if the characters are speaking or thinking. The standard convention is to use italics for thought.

Dialogue Breaks: This is not a universal rule, but generally a new paragraph should start whenever the dialogue changes to a different character. This is a clear indication that someone else is speaking. Some authors prefer to run the dialogue on in certain cases such as writing style, to show several people are talking at once or to speed the pace up.

Quote Marks: As with speech marks, the use of quote marks can vary from country to country. They can be single or double inverted commas, but they must be the opposite of speech marks when used to together. Style is an in-house preference and should be consistent.

Apostrophes

Apostrophes are used in a range of text, such as when contracting two words into one (“it’s” for “it is”), for showing singular possession (Tim’s pen) and plural possession (Jones’s car).

There is a rule for when using apostrophes with names ending in “s”. If the word has one syllable (eg James) then you would add the extra “s” (eg James’s book). If the word has two or more syllables (eg Collins), you would not add the extra “s” (eg Collins’ house).

Many people ignore this rule and use only one “s” all the time as they prefer this method.

Knowing when to use an apostrophe when it comes to time can be tricky. The rule, however, is quite simple. For day, month and year the apostrophe is only used when referring to one of them, but is not used when referring to more than one. Examples are:

One day’s salary
Five days experience
One month’s anniversary
Ten months old
One year’s weather pattern
Twenty years weather pattern

Other Things to Remember

Ellipsis Points: When text is omitted from the start three full stops (ellipsis points) followed by a space are used before the rest of the text.

Example: … as can be seen here.

When omitting text from the end of a sentence you insert a space followed by the ellipsis points.

Example: “Did you mean …?” Pat gasped.

When used in the middle of a sentence the use of ellipsis points can indicate one of two things, words have been omitted or hesitancy. The ellipsis points would have a space before and after them.

Example: “Oh … I … didn’t mean that.”

In some countries the ellipsis may be spaced out (. . .) with or without a space before and after the points.

Salutations: The standard is not to use punctuation after salutations.

Example: Mr Smith rather than Mr. Smith

Greetings: The standard is the same as for salutations, not to use punctuation.

Example: Dear John rather than Dear John,

or

Yours sincerely rather than Yours sincerely,

Working on Punctuation

Copyeditors and proofreaders need to be focused when working on documents with lots of dialogue as the mind picks up what it should see, not always what is there.

To develop loyal clients, it is important to slow down and put extra effort into punctuation. It is important to hand back a thorough job instead of a job that still has lots of uncorrected mistakes. If you do this, the client will not come back to you again and they certainly won’t recommend you to others.

Important Note: No matter what the standard, it is all about consistency. If punctuation is used throughout the entire document in a certain way then check with the client prior to marking it up as it might be an in-house preference and not considered an error at all.

More than just "Find and Replace"

I discovered, the other day, that Word has a nifty feature that might prove invaluable.

Find and replace.

Yes, I knew about the normal operation of “find and replace”, but I didn’t know you could use this feature to turn all words in italic to underlined instead. This would literally save hours and hours of work if a publisher’s submission guidelines insisted on this.

Another thing it can do is search and replace spaces. If you are like me and were taught to type with two spaces between sentences, but submission guidelines say it has to be one space, then this feature will become your new best friend. Guaranteed!

This is how you do it (curtesy of David Meadows, a member of my message board):

Select Replace from the Edit Menu (or Ctrl-H)

Click the “More” Button.

Click “Format” and select “Font” from the drop-down.

Select “Italic” and click OK. If you’ve done it right, it will say “Format: Font: Italic” under the “Find what” box (the box itself should be blank, as you don;t want it to find any specific text.)

Click in the “Replace with” box.

Click “Format” and select “Font” from the drop-down.

Select “Underline” and click OK.

Click “Find Next” or “Replace” or, if you’re confident, “Replace All”.

Some Dos and Don'ts in Writing

I found this simple page of Some Dos and Don’ts in writing. Some of the things listed are common sense, but others may not be so well known.

However, one of them I didn’t understand at all and would appreciate some enlightenment. Maybe I’m not fully awake, although I should be it’s almost 1pm, or maybe my brain isn’t working, but the following means nothing to me. It’s complete gibberish.

Case: “There is perhaps no single word so freely resorted to as a trouble-saver,” says Gowers, “and consequently responsible for so much flabby writing.” Often you can do without it. There are many cases of it being unnecessary is better as It is often unnecessary. If it is the case that simply means If. It is not the case means It is not so.

Edit: OK, it’s starting to sink in now. I think I’ve almost got it.

Grammar and Punctuation

I had to find some basic grammar and punctuation websites to post in a thread on my message board, and I thought it might be a good idea to place them here too.

I don’t believe a successful writer has to have talent. Anyone can learn to write, if they have the desire to do so. Some people, however, have to work harder at it than others. No one can allow themselves to become lazy in their writing, and it’s for this reason that I believe we must all return to the basics every so often to ensure we are still on the right track.

Here are some links that should be of help:

Owl Grammar Tips

WebGrammar

Get it write online – grammar tips

Ask Oxford – Better Writing

Edufind – English grammar and punctuation

English Punctuation – this is a module that takes you through the basic steps of punctuation.

Punctuation: Comma

In years gone by I was extremely good with punctuation. I always received top marks for comprehension and extra marks for presentation. However, with the introduction of the internet, I’ve found that I’ve become confused with some punctuation usage. I suppose reading a lot of American websites has done that.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to return to the basics (as you’ve no doubt realised by my latest blog entries), and relearn what I had always known. I discovered that in most areas I had stayed true to what is expected in Australia, but I seem to have digressed in two areas. One of those areas was the comma.

Please note that the following usage is for Australians only (it definitely does NOT apply in America, but may apply in England). You should check what your regional standard is.

The Comma

The comma makes the meaning clearer by separating parts of a sentence. It sugges a short puase and is used in the following places:

  • to separate items in a list:
    We had sandwices, fruit, a cake and milk for lunch.
    (There is no need for a comma before “and” in the above sentence.)
  • to separate lists of adjectives or adverts:
    She is a bright, friendly, happy girl.
    The dog moved slowly, carefully, quietly and warily away from the cat.

    (That second sentence is a shocker; never, ever do that in your manuscript.)
  • to separate principal cluases in a sentence:
    They were tired, but they hurried anyway.
  • to separate words, phrases and clauses at the beginnings of sentences:
    However, I wish to disagree.
    In the afternoon, the opposing team arrived.
    If you try hard, you will succeed.
  • to separate words and groups of words that add extra information:
    My dog, Honey, swam in the creek.
    The captain, our best player, scored the goal.
    Sarah, who had a sore throat, stayed at home.
  • to separate words that are said in direct speech.
    “I know,” said Mary.
    “Would you mind,” I asked, “if I sat next to you?”

Sometimes the use of the comma is optional; you can decide whether or not it is needed, for instance, either example is acceptable here:
I hurried but I missed the train.
I hurried, but I missed the train.

Always use a comma if it makes the meaning clearer.

Laid, Lain, Lay, Lie

Now this one is more for me, than you. These four words are a curse to me, because I cannot remember which word I should be using. I’ve been told a million times, I had a friend send me a photocopy of the rule, but still I don’t know.

(Note: The following usages are for Australians. They might change elsewhere in the world, so please — please — do not confuse me by telling me it’s done differently elsewhere. I need to know how it’s done in my own country.)

Laid, Lain

Laid is the past tense of the verb to lay. You always lay something in some place. The hen laid an egg; She laid the plates on the table.

Lain is the past tense of the verb to lie. You lie or rest somewhere. I have lain on the bed for a rest.

Lay, Lie

Lay is a verb meaning to put something down. To lay a path in the garden.

Lie is a verb meaning to “lie down”, “to be at rest”. It is dangerous to lie in the sun. It can also mean to tell an untruth. Do not lie to me. Lie can also be a noun. That is a lie; you know it is untrue.

Source: The Foundation Grammar Dictionary by Gordon Winch

Grammar: The Basics

The other day I shared some more unusual grammar terms with you. Today, I think we’ll return to the basics, because if you don’t know these…we’ve got a problem.

Adjective – is a describing word. It adds meaning to a noun or pronoun. fast car; windy day.

Adverb – adds meaning to a verb or another adverb. very humid; too hot.

Noun – is the name of a person, place or thing. Karen; Australia; computer; happiness. ie Karen came to Australia in 1969. Messing around on her computer brings her happiness.

Pronoun – is used in place of a noun. He is mine.

Verb – is a doing, being or having word. The dog ate his food; We are happy; They have a new teacher.