Creative writers sometimes mangle grammar on purpose or get creative with punctuation. At the drafting stage, we keep a dictionary and style manual at hand. When slips are unintended, we count on our copyeditors to catch them.
Editors are trained not only to look for errors but also to account for contextual nuances and stylistic preferences. We impose consistency and clarify ambiguous prose, and we know when and where to look things up. To make sure we haven’t missed anything, we make use of spelling and grammar checkers.
A defining feature of any style is how it capitalizes words in the titles of books, articles, and other works. Most recommend a variation of title case, or what CMOS has traditionally referred to as headline style.
A piece of bossy advice often given to creative writers is to sweep through your manuscripts before you submit them and delete certain words. “Just,” “so,” “very,” and “really” vie for the top target, but the most popular prohibition of all might be of the word “that.”
This month’s quiz focuses on proper nouns and the terms derived from and associated with them, including adjectives. Proper nouns are generally capitalized, whereas the related terms may or may not be, depending on context and meaning.
Recently, a question that went something like this appeared in a Facebook group for writers seeking help from book editors: Help with this sentence please! “Some advice, for whoever/whomever is interested.”
From the perspective of writers and editors, URLs do their best work behind the scenes or just off the page, in a browser’s address bar. In that role—as an internet address that will take you to a specific page online—it doesn’t matter all that much what a URL looks like so long as it works.
This month’s quiz focuses on the specialized terms that editors and proofreaders and other publishing pros use to communicate with each other. Because authors are also involved in the publication process, they too may need to know what these expressions mean.
An epigraph is a brief quotation placed at the beginning of a book or at the head of a chapter, article, story, or other work. Most epigraphs are ornamental, helping to set the tone or mood of a work but going unmentioned in the text.
To a copyeditor working on a manuscript, a space is usually just a space, and line breaks are random, fluid occurrences that vary as text is added and deleted and moved around. Designers and typesetters will take the edited text and make it pretty for publication, in part by applying different types of spaces as needed to prevent unwanted breaks.
Jack Hart has spent five decades helping writers succeed, working shoulder-to-shoulder with journalists in newsrooms both big and small and with students at five universities. Writers who’ve worked with him have written national best sellers and won prizes that include five Pulitzers and a slew of other national awards.