This morning our editor, Pam Watts Harris, had a good article on punctuation and grammar on our closed FB group. It is the best article I’ve ever read about this subject. We are so honored to have Pam as our editor. She keeps us on our toes with our writing.
All authors, please read.
Publishing a book is a long process. Kathy has explained the steps in the past. As a writer, I know how long it can seem between signing the contract and seeing the published work. One reason it takes so long is the editing. The easier the edit, the faster the publishing.
As most of you already know, we use Chicago Manual of Style. Also as most of you know, I’m a licensed high school English teacher, and I also consult with English teacher friends, online grammar resources, and more. And you also know it is a team effort, between me and the author, to catch all the mistakes because I’m not perfect, and my vision is far from perfect. However, that doesn’t mean I know it all—definitely not. But here are some suggestions that will make the grammar editing part go much faster.
1. It is always “okay,” never “OK.”
2. It is always “all right,” never “alright.”
3. Semi-colons are basically unnecessary in fiction and definitely not needed in dialogue. A semi-colon just replaces a conjunction. You can do that with a period or comma because in dialogue, it just indicates a pause.
4. Colons should only be used before some sort of listing, not to separate two sentences.
5. Be careful of the word “that.” Most of the time, it’s not needed. For example, “She believed that the world was flat” should be “She believed the world was flat.” I saw this tip by an editor for a large publishing house.
6. Be careful about what Kathy calls “weasel words.” Those are unnecessary words that are used over and over, and they detract from the story.
7. Commas. Do not use a comma before conjunctions if there is not a new subject unless there are more than two verbs.
Wrong: Kathy read the proposal, and sent a contract.
Wrong: Kathy read the proposal, then sent a contract. (Treat “then” like “and”)
Right: Kathy read the proposal and sent a contract.
Right: Kathy read the proposal, and she sent a contract. (new subject “she”)
Right: Kathy read the proposal, consulted with her staff, and sent a contract. (more than two verbs–read, consulted, sent)
Also, I am reading articles (blogs) and watching videos about editing, and one I learned about last week was to drop “of” in cases like “all of.” Instead of “all of the boys,” write “all the boys.” Of course, you’d need it in some cases like “all of you,” but the video I watched pointed out it is an unnecessary word sometimes. The editor said it’s okay to have some uses of “that” or “of,” but to be aware of overuse. She said she’d cut them if the author didn’t.
Obviously, we break grammar rules all the time in fiction with incomplete sentences when in deep POV, and that’s fine. We’re using that for effect, to put us in the character’s head. Makes for good writing and a better book. (See, incomplete sentence!)
Sorry this was so long, just wanted to give some reminders and hints. The more I edit, the more I learn. As I keep reiterating, I am not perfect, just trying.
Kathy here. I learned a long time ago about that and of. I’d suggest every writer to read some of the better Christian authors. I read the ones from the larger houses, and I pay attention to their writing. It is a good learning tool, plus you have fun reading. The better your book is written, the more book sales and 5 star comments you’ll have. Pay attention to what you write. It will pay off in the end.