Monday, March 14, 2011

Things I Wish I'd Known BEFORE I Started The Manuscript: Part 2

Last week, I did a blog talking about the very first copy edits from my publisher. I listed a few of the rules she mentioned along with the corrections. This week, I’m going to finish up with some of the things I learned. So, grab a cup of coffee and read on.

I’ll start with commas: Before I get to her corrections, I want to rant a little and prefix this by telling you I am a self-proclaimed comma freak. It drives me crazy when I’m reading a story, and I find all kinds of comma errors. I can’t tell you how many contest entries and manuscripts I edit from “seasoned” writers with misuse of commas. Before two independent clauses, there must either be a conjunction PLUS a comma or it must be two sentences. We’ve all heard that if you have a short sentence, you can get by without one, but for the most part, put one in.

Here’s the way some people do it.

Jordan stopped by Food Warehouse on her way home from work, she picked up a loaf of ninety-nine cents bread, which suited her budget and her culinary skills.

No, no, no! Here’s the way it should be.

Jordan stopped by Food Warehouse on her way home from work, and she picked up a loaf of ninety-nine cents bread, which suited her budget and her culinary skills.

If you take out the pronoun after and, it makes it a dependent clause, and you don’t need the comma.

Jordan stopped by Food Warehouse on her way home from work and picked up a loaf of ninety-nine cents bread, which suited her budget and her culinary skills.

Again, the rule is – if the verb in the second clause has a noun in front of it, it either needs a comma and a conjunction or it needs to be a new sentence.

I know authors get away with some things in our writing, like:

Jordan stopped by Food Warehouse on her way home from work, wishing she didn’t have to, hoping she’d be quick. (I know - crappy sentence but you get the point!)

But the comma rules still apply.

One of my most common comma (tongue twister) errors is when I use the word then.

Jordan stopped by Food Warehouse on her way home from work then picked up a loaf of ninety-nine cents bread, which suited her budget and her culinary skills.

The rule still applies – no comma here. If I said and then she picked up – I’d need the comma.

I may have mentioned I am a complete idiot when it comes to hyphenated words. Those I do hyphenate shouldn’t be and those I do should. Here is the rule she sent and a list of the words I screwed up on.

Leave adjectival; color compounds unhyphenated before the noun. (Ex. jade and black necklace, reddish brown hair)

light-colored (since the color modifies the adjective instead of the noun??)
Olive-skinned (same reason as above)

Another rule – blond is for men and blonde is for the girls!! Really?? And fiancĂ© for men and fiancĂ©e for the ladies.

And it’s backward, forward and toward –no “s” at the end.

Now on to punctuation:

Punctuation appears in the same font –roman or italic-as the main or surrounding text. Exception: Exclamation marks set italic if the word preceding it is Italics. (Smart girls like me never knew that!!)

Italicize direct thought, imagined words, and words that are mouthed but not spoken aloud. Indirect internal thoughts set roman.

She grabbed my hand and mouthed Help me!

Italicize written letters and notes.
Foreign proper names, including recipe title, set roman. (I thought this was just the opposite!)

Now on to numbers:

Spell out whole numbers one to one hundred and any of these numbers followed thousand, hundred thousand, million, ‘etc. Spell out all numbers beginning a sentence Spell out numbers in dialogue unless awkward construction, (EX: years, phone numbers, numbers with decimals, numbers that are part of a proper noun, colloquial expressions in which figures generally appear.

Money: $6.52 and six dollars

Highways – Highway 82

Time: eleven fifteen


Percentage – fifteen percent

Anyway, I hope this hasn’t confused any of you. I found it terribly enlightening and will keep the rules by my computer when I’m writing. And from now on, I will Google every word I think I should hyphenate.

Oh, and one last note – it’s for goodness’ sake with an apostrophe!! Who knew??

So, now that I feel like a total grammar nerd, does anyone else have a good grammar rule we can use. Where’s the former copy editor who commented on last week’s blog? Now would be the perfect time to assure me I don’t need to go back to school like you did last week. And where's the Grammar Divas when you need them?

All I have to say is thank goodness Berkley liked my story!!


Lindsay said...

Thanks for the help even if it's still confusing.

Donnell said...

Liz, I'm doing line edits right now also, so I feel your pain. Working for newspapers gave me a great feel of punctuation, adjectives and more.

Interesting how some of the things I learned in non-fiction carry over to fiction, but some don't. So, I'm cursed with trying to keep them separate.

Punctuation can be learned, storytelling can't. That's why Berkley bought you ;)

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I know exactly how you feel, and believe me, every house is different. I print off a cheat sheet for each house so I'll remember what they like or don't in the future. Good luck :-)

Melanie said...

I edit and write, and I find it hard not to edit everything I read now. Comma glitches are one of my pet peeves, but those aren't as big as when people mix up "you and I" and "you and me". That one really makes my teeth hurt.

Donna Cummings said...

Great info, Liz--although I need another cup of coffee now! Whew.

The fiance/fiancee and blond/blonde are most likely because of the French language making each word masculine or feminine. Some of the other stuff seems a bit random though. LOL I'll try to keep it in my head when writing. :)

Vicki Batman said...

I agree about the cheat sheet. There's a lot of rules out there we never learned or don't use everyday. Yours are what I used to fix mine--which I though pretty much perfect! LOL

Lindsay said...

I don't think I'll ever get the blond/blonde thing straight. Guess that's why none of my heros or male characters are blond. Not to mention blond without an 'e' just doesn't look right.

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, it is still confusing. I don't think I'll ever understand em dashes and ellipses. Is there something specific you don't understand? Maybe someone out there can help you is you post it.

Leigh Michaels said...

The one that drives me nuts when I'm reading manuscripts is its/it's. it's is always short for IT IS. its is the possessive form.

We get confused because when we write about Sally's purse we need an apostrophe, so when we write Sally's purse had lost its handle (yeah, really bad sentence) we think we need an apostrophe in ITS, too.

The easy rule here is to read the sentence with the contraction spelled out. If the sentence reads correctly, then you need the apostrophe. But in my example above, Sally's purse had lost it is handle makes no sense at all, therefore no apostrophe.

(Works with other puzzling contractions too -- we're/were, they're/their/there, etc.)

Liz Lipperman said...

Donnell, if you find anything in your edits you want to share, we'd love that.

And "ah shucks" on the compliment. Coming from someone who writes like you, I'll take it.

Donnell has too much class to mention this, but she found an error in my post!!
See, you can know the rules but still screw them up!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Kari, please share anything you've found, too. I'm curious if there are any real big differences in style between the two houses you write for. (Oh yeah, where are the Grammar cops on that one??)

Liz Lipperman said...

Melanie, please don't tease me. Give me examples of what you're talking about.

And FYI, Melanie writes RS and just got her latest cover for her newest series. OMG! It was good. I'll have to bribe her into guest blogging and sharing it when it comes out.

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Donna, put a little Kahlua into that second cup!

As it's been mentioned, each house has its own style. It gets so confusing for me.

Liz Lipperman said...

Vicki, I'm sure the journalism majors out there learned all these rules, and maybe we did too, at one time. But unless I use them on a regular basis,I forget them.

I am surprised how often I Google a word I think should be hyphenated and it really isn't.

Liz Lipperman said...

Leigh, good point and good example. Poor Sally has to hand-carry her purse!! Bet that didn't need a hyphen!!

Anyway, I see a lot of your and you're used incorrectly. And then and than.

I remember when my real editor first sent her corrections. Here is her comment:

"THANK YOU thank you thank you for getting this right. I admit I’m a total grammar nerd, but I hate when people screw up the correct usage of “enamored”. Gold star for you!"

Here's the sentence she was talking bout:

No wonder Brittney was so enamored OF him.

Yay for me, and I have no clue why I did it that way!!

Jana DeLeon said...

I bet you're one of those people who like serial commas, aren't you? I've been lobbying for the removal of serial commas for years now.

Great post! :)

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Jana, welcome to M & M. I was just thinking about you when I saw and bought your new book at WalMart.

And yes on the serial commas. I think it reads better and my copy editor corrected the ones I forgot. I have to admit I am one of those people who corrects others and probably does it wrong myself half the time. Remember my background is medical. They didn't care if we used commas!!

Be sure and stop back in two weeks when Cristie Craig (your blogmate) is blogging with us. Do you wanna come by and tell us about your new Harlequin Intrigue, The Secret of Cypriere Bayou?

And weren't you supposed to send me some stuff??

Jana DeLeon said...

No - You were supposed to send ME some stuff. LOL I'm in rough draft mode at the moment, so I have no stuff suitable for semi-public viewing.

I would love to blog anytime you'd like to have me, and thanks for picking up my book. I hope you enjoy it!

Tess said...

Great points, Liz!!!! Thanks for the lesson!!!

Tess said...

Great reminders, Liz!!!! I'm the worst about trying to put two independent clauses together without the 'and'...will go check my current wip right now!

Liz Lipperman said...

Oh, my bad, Jana. I'll be in touch to see about your blogging with us.

Liz Lipperman said...

Tess, we all have our little bad habits. One of my beta readers just pointed out, I love to start sentences with AFTER and then I usually use HEADED in the same sentence. The last manuscript, it was AS. Hells' fire, before long, I won't be able to write like I talk!!

After I finish this blog, I'm heading over to my daughter's house for dinner!!

Lindsay said...

Liz I've heard you talk. Don't think you'll ever have the problem

Edie Ramer said...

I'm never sure about my usage of commas before "then" in a sentence. Thanks for that.

I looked up blonde and blond, previously, and it's a matter of choice, like using serial commas. It's okay to use blond for a female in the U.S.

One mistake I see is using a hyphen after a word ending with "ly." Like this: "I hate that beautifully-bewitching vamp who married my brother." No hyphens should be used after an ly word.

Cassy Pickard said...

Liz: This is great. Sorry I'm late to the game. My computer was giving me tons of problems today. I'm finally back in business. Thanks for such an open and fun discussion of editing. BUT, you have me thinking I really need to go back and relook at my last ms.

Marilyn said...

Did you ever use Dragon Naturally Speaking with a dog barking in the background? I did. It read like a Dr. Seuss book. Rat at sat at rat.

Lindsay said...

All the more reason for me not to use voice recognition software. At work we have the radio on and talk. At home the tv, dog and cat.
I'd hate to think what I'd end up with that for background noise.

Liz Lipperman said...

Edie, as I mentioned, each house has their own style. My copy editor wants the gender difference in blond and blonde.

I love your tip about ly words hyphenated. That's one I'll write down and keep by the computer.

Liz Lipperman said...

Cassy, bummer about the computer. Glad it;s working now.

I know what you mean about re-editing your manuscript. When I got the copy edits for Book 1, I had just finished editing over half of Book 2, and I had to go back and redo it!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Marilyn, that's too funny about your dog and Dragon. When I cough, it always types him him. What? that doesn't even sound like a cough!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, you're right. With that many animals, Lord knows what you'd end up with.

And thanks for the nice words.

Rochelle Staab said...

Will you be my comma guru, Liz? Very informative but my head is spinning. Was I supposed to add a comma there? Did I do it right?

Mary Marvella said...

Fabulous job,Liz. I'm sending an A+ for this one.

Reminder, you don't use an apostrophe after hers, his, ours, theirs, yours, so why would we add it for its as a possessive pronoun?

I do have issues with pronoun agreement lapses.

The boys got their coat. So, they share one coat?

Does everyone have their book? Hmmm, they re sharing one book?

Does everyone have her book? Or does everyone his book? Not sexist, just less awkward then his or her book.

Lindsay said...

Cassy if you'd go with PC and not some fruitie computer then you might not have the problems