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Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Layman's Basic Microsoft Word Formatting for Ebooks to be Uploaded to Amazon

As my blog title states, I'm a layman formatter. Not a professional ebook formatter with all the HTML codes and other bells and whistles. But this way suits me fine and my previews pass muster, allowing me to upload nicely presented books to Amazon's KDP program, to the B&N online site, to Kobo and even to Smashwords for addition in their premium catalog. I must admit, getting by the meat grinder in Smashwords can be tricky, and I don't have all the answers there. If your text is not fancy (no tables, no bullet points, no numbered listings, etc.), it's much easier to assimilate your ebook into Smashwords.

So this post is written mainly for ebooks to be uploaded to Amazon KDP.

NOTE: You can find all this self-publishing info online too. Take special note that each online marketing forum has different requirements (like as to page breaks, dimensions for covers, etc.). I just hope my recap here is more relevant and concise, with all the basics you need, and easier to follow.

OVERVIEW

As a copy editor, I do a few clean-up formatting steps for my authors (removing all stray spaces, returns and any manual tabs). Of course I remind them to have their professional formatter fix things as needed in proper fashion and carry on with all his/her additional steps. As an Indie author, I don't always use Styles for some of the more basic formatting issues. From MSWord's Home tab,  I use Bold (mostly for nonfiction), Italics (for both fiction and nonfiction), plus bullet points and Arabic numerals for listings (mostly in nonfiction), but the Multilevel List (outlining, in other words) works great for when I create my bibles for my stories/series. Excel is nice for that too.

FYI: I'll keep individual keystrokes on separate lines (for easier visuals) and put my instructions as needed within brackets. I’m going to avoid typing “click” or “select” or “choose” herein wherever possible, so take that for granted within my instructions, which follow.

So here's how to do basic formatting:

TO GLOBALLY REMOVE STRAY SPACES AT THE ENDS OF PARAGRAPHS

Ctrl + F
Down arrow for drop-down menu
Replace
More
Special
Paragraph Mark
[Put the Paragraph Mark symbol in both the Find box and the Replace box.]
[Now add a space before the Paragraph Mark symbol in the Find box only. Leave the Replace box as is (with just the Paragraph Mark itself). This will delete those single spaces at the end of your paragraphs.]
Replace All
[You may need to hit Replace All again, maybe even a third time, to get all the stray spaces at the ends of paragraphs. Keep hitting Replace All until the program finds 0 left.]

TO GLOBALLY REMOVE STRAY SPACES AT THE BEGINNINGS OF PARAGRAPHS

[Now repeat the same procedure as set forth above except take out the space before the Paragraph Mark in the Find box and put the space after the Paragraph Mark there. Leave the Replace box alone.]
Replace All.
[Repeat hitting Replace All as needed until you find 0 left. This gets rid of the stray spaces at the beginning of paragraphs.]

TO GLOBALLY REMOVE MANUAL TABS

Ctrl + F
Down arrow for drop-down menu
Replace
More
Special
Tab Character
[Put the Tab Character symbol in only the Find box. Leave the Replace box empty.]
Replace All
[This will delete those manual tabs throughout your doc. But now you'll probably have everything flush left in your doc. So you need to add in audoindents.]

TO GLOBALLY AUTOINDENT ALL PARAGRAPHS

Ctrl + A
Paragraph
Down arrow for drop-down menu
Indents and Spacing
Special
Drop-down menu arrow
First-Line Indent
0.5” [OR your special indent choice of 0.3" or whatever]
OK
[This makes each paragraph autoindent 0.5” on the first line. The only problem with this is that it’ll do the same on your title page and front/back matter. For those special lines (including centered chapter headings), you’ll have to manually remove the autoindent by positioning your cursor on the first character of those lines and hitting Backspace. You can also position your cursor anywhere on those lines and hit Ctrl + R (for right-hand align). Then center your lines as needed (Ctrl + E).]

TO GET RID OF STRAY RETURNS

Stray returns are found usually on the title, copyright, dedication, etc., pages in the front matter of ebooks. These are pages of little text and normally spread out artfully on the page or centered alone. Instead of having twenty returns (or however many) to get your dedication language positioned where you want on its page, just add in an estimated 6 pt for each return (or 120 pt for our twenty-return example here) within the Paragraph menu.

Paragraph
Down arrow for drop-down menu
Indents and Spacing
Spacing
Before/After
[You may be doing a mix of Before and After on your title page. For your stand-alone copyright/dedication pages, just make Before the 120 pt and follow your text with a single return and a page break. If you want your copyright info lower on the page, try 240 pt. If you want it higher, try 60 pt.]

TO SEPARATE CHAPTERS

[At the last line of text within each chapter, make sure one Paragraph Mark follows. Then hit:]
Insert
Page Break
[I find the return separating the last line of text from the page break avoids those fully justified words I’m sure everyone’s seen at least once in some ebook.]

WHAT SHOULD BE IN THE FRONT MATTER?

See 16CMS 1.4 for an expanded list of what makes up front matter, but, for our purposes, I’m just mentioning the more well-known items for fiction ebooks (novels) as follows:

Title page
Copyright page
Dedication
Epigraph (opening quotation, true usage, although you'll find other quotes at the start of each chapter sometimes)
TOC
Foreword
Preface
Acknowledgments

WHAT SHOULD BE IN THE BACK MATTER?

Within 16CMS 1.4 is also the back matter list, which I have abbreviated here for what is normally found in novels:

Abbreviations (as needed for sci-fi novels)
Glossary (as needed for sci-fi novels)
Bibliography (or the author’s oeuvre)
[Some authors like to add a Cast or List of Characters too.]

So let's learn how to make an autogenerating TOC.

TO MARK ELEMENTS FOR A TABLE OF CONTENTS

Amazon KDP requires a TOC, even for novels, and I believe they want the TOC in the front matter (check the KDP site for current requirements). So here’s how to do one within MSWord:

On the Home tab, you’ll see Styles on the rightmost side—a section of AaBbCcDd versions, labeled Normal, No Spacing, Heading 1, Heading 2, Title, Subtitle, etc. I have used all but the No Spacing and the Subtle Em… of those styles which show up without opening up Styles further.

[Now just select text within your doc as you want to see in the TOC. For the title on the title page, highlight your whole title and then hit Title among Styles. You may see a little black box to the left of your chosen text. That’s a reference mark.]
Select chosen text [place cursor where needed, Ctrl + Shift + right arrow key to end of selected text]
Styles
Title

[Now search for “Chapter” throughout your MS. Don't forget the Prologue and Epilogue, if you used them. Everywhere you find these chapter headings, highlight the whole of it and the number designation that follows (whether Arabic or spelled-out).]
Select chosen text
Styles
Heading 1

[If you have your chapters also titled (like some authors do), but on a separate line, either you’ll have to mark both lines as Heading 1 in one single selection (and do some manual editing later) or you can simply highlight your subheads separately and designate them as Heading 2.]

TO SELECT YOUR SPOT FOR YOUR TABLE OF CONTENTS

The TOC is found in the front matter of ebooks. I believe that Amazon requires it there as well, but search the latest KDP info at Amazon. Check the source.

After your title, copyright and dedication pages, make a separate page for the TOC (meaning it should have a page break before and after). You must mark it as the spot for your ordered TOC to appear. Here's how:

References
Table of Contents
Down arrow for drop-down menu
Automatic Table 2 [my preference, choose one of your liking]
Enter
[This marks the spot where your marked levels will be added, chronologically.]

TO AUTOGENERATE YOUR TABLE OF CONTENTS

[Click inside your TOC box. The Update Table tab should appear above the box now. Click it.]
Update Entire Table
OK
[BEWARE: Every time you make edits to your text, you may be altering marked data for the TOC. So remember to Update Table as needed but especially right before formatting/uploading.]

THAT'S IT!

Yeah, that's "all." I know, at first, it can be too much info at once. And it feels clumsy going through it the first time. And, if you only upload one book every year, it'll feel like you are going through the learning curve each time. Keep at it. It'll get rote soon enough.

REPORT ANY GLITCHES/ERRORS

I tried to include all steps herein, but I may have failed to note a drop-down menu or whatever somewhere along the line. This is a multistep process. So, if you find something that doesn't work, let me know. I'll update that info as needed.

Many happy uploads to you.


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra
 



Punctuation Rules in the 16CMS

I remember my daddy once saying, the incredulity in his voice evident, "There are comma rules?" And this is a man with a mechanical engineering degree and probably a genius IQ. Yet the 16CMS has thirty-eight numbered rules regarding commas alone (see below). So this goes to prove that someone, even with an expert standing in one field, can be not-so-expert in another.

So, just to show you some of the ~8,600 grammar rules within the 16CMS, here's a quick breakdown by punctuation mark:

  • Periods (see 16CMS 6.12–6.16)
  • Commas (see 16CMS 6.166.53)
  • Semicolons (see 16CMS 6.546.58)
  • Colons (see 16CMS 6.596.65)
  • Question Marks (see 16CMS 6.666.70)
  • Exclamation Points (see 16CMS 6.71–6.74)
  • Hyphens (see 16CMS 6.75–6.77)
  • N-Dashes (see 16CMS 6.78–6.81)
  • M-Dashes (see 16CMS 6.82–6.89)
  • 2-M and 3-M Dashes (16CMS 6.90, 6.91)
  • Parentheses (16CMS 6.92–6.96)
  • Brackets and Braces (16CMS  6.97–6.102)
  • Slashes (16CMS 6.103–6.110)
  • Quotation Marks (16CMS 6.111, 6.112)
  • Apostrophes (16CMS 6.113–6.115)
  • Multiple Punctuation Marks (16CMS 6.116–6.120)

For ebooks, the 16CMS even has rules for stray spaces and manual tabs [see 16CMS 2.77(7)] and stray returns [see 16CMS 2.77(8)]. NOTE: There is only one space between each sentence, per 16CMS 2.9.

So I caution anyone who thinks they know enough about grammar to check out the 16CMS for yourself. You'll be surprised at what you don't know.

Granted, for each rule number (e.g., 16CMS 6.18), various rules are within this one designation. Plus Chapter 6 is comparatively short, spanning pages 305–348 within a 1,026-page book, so this chapter is not even 5 percent of the book. Remember too, as organized as 16CMS is, that doesn't mean a stray rule on punctuation won't pop up elsewhere. Just FYI.


So a ton of data awaits you to review. Even if you just peruse the first couple pages, I'll bet you grow a new appreciation for your copy editor.

Yes, I'm a grammar geek.

Have a good week, folks!


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Ellipsis Keystroke

I mentioned the ellipsis keystroke in my previous post. It is a shortcut key that saves us the hassle of manually typing out those trio of periods with their two nonbreaking spaces in between. However, you do need to remember to add in the regular spaces before and after it, as the keystroke itself doesn't come that way.

There are two ways to do an ellipsis keystroke: the long way and the shorter way.

For the long way: Within Microsoft Word, go to Insert, Symbols, More Symbols, Special Characters, then choose Ellipsis. Hit Enter.

For the shorter way: hit [Ctrl + Alt + (the period key), all held down together].

Add those separator spaces before and aft, and you're done.

See my previous blog post to read my argument for using the keystroke while still following the intention of the 16CMS 13.48 rule without the added bother.

Have a good one, all!


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

More about False Grammar Rules

Continuing yesterday's post, keep in mind two things:
  1. The 16CMS grammar rules may seem rigid at first glance (especially without knowing all the ins and outs of the ~8,400 rules therein), yet a beautiful hierarchy emerges overall as well as a separate interdependence involving some of the rules that allows for a bit of wiggle room. Remember too that, yes, the discipline of grammar can gain you freedom within your writing (an interesting dichotomy, for sure, but valid nonetheless); and
  2. Presenting any false grammar rule to a newbie author or to a grammatically impaired pro author does not give them enough basic data to make an informed choice here. They should know what 16CMS requires in its basic rule on any matter. Always give the basic 16CMS rule. Misrepresenting a false grammar rule as the basic rule does a great injustice to Indie authors.
ITEM #1:

Let's take these one at a time. For item 1 above, I'll give you some examples. Yesterday we talked about how 16CMS 13.48 and 13.51 show the proper way to use an ellipsis (consisting of seven "characters"): one regular space + one period + one nonbreaking space + one period + one nonbreaking space + one period + one regular space. The two nonbreaking spaces in the middle keep the three periods together, acting as one unit, no matter where they are placed within a sentence, albeit on a computer screen or on your cell phone screen.

Of course you won't see the nonbreaking spaces here, but let me show you an ellipsis or two in action:
CORRECT USAGE: Her phone rang, and she grabbed it, glancing at the screen first. "It's about time you called. . . . But I can't sit here for . . . When will you get here?"   
And there is a very good reason why these three nonbreaking periods are bookended by regular spaces. Those regular spaces are very important. Want to know why?

Because, as also found within rule 16CMS 13.51 (but not discussed yesterday), whenever you need to add other punctuation marks around the ellipsis, the regular spaces set apart those added punctuation marks from the ellipsis itself. This is especially important when adding a period before your ellipsis. Like I did above. See "It's about time you called." That's a complete sentence. It deserves a period. The period comes before the ellipsis, at the end of the sentence as normal. Then comes the ellipsis. Both are separated by that first regular space that precedes the ellipsis itself.

And on my Preview screen, the example above breaks at the perfect spot. (Hope you get to see it in email version too.) The line breaks after "called." Putting the ellipsis itself first on the next line. This shows how the sentence-ending period, separated by a regular space, allows for a line to break immediately before the ellipsis.

Now look at the next part of our conversation above. "But I can't sit here for . . . When will you get here?" Note these six words that start it off are not a complete thought but an incomplete clause, so no sentence-defining period is needed at the end (and I put none here for that reason).  Yet the final five words are a complete question, so the first word (when) is initial capped, and you'll see a question mark at the end. Just as it would be found elsewhere in a novel when presenting a question.

See? The 16CMS rules are interwoven; some are dependent on others. Then there are exceptions to the main rules. But you should know that main rule regardless. And there are even exceptions to the exceptions. The US English language is a mess of contradictions, like how the ellipsis has spaces on each end, while the M-dash and N-dash don't. Which, IMHO, is something I hope that 17CMS addresses by adding in spaces around those two noted punctuation marks also. As they currently stand, they can make for godawful word breaks. In this electronic age, we have to consider our words being read on a 17" computer monitor or on a 2.5"-wide cell phone screen.

Okay, so knowing the main ellipsis rule (the seven "characters" that make up an ellipsis) and knowing the related dependent rule (periods go before the ellipsis, separated by the initial regular space that makes up said ellipsis), I hope you can see the importance of retaining those bookend spaces as separators around the ellipsis. Going further, note that the three periods are unbroken, acting as one unit.

Therefore, I feel I can make a good argument for using the ellipsis keystroke as long as it has those separating spaces before and aft. First, the keystroke periods are still one unit (just minus the two nonbreaking spaces). Second, in the ebook world, we Indie authors (after rounds to a DE, a CE, a proofreader, etc.) then send our MSs to a formatter, who adds HTML codes as needed to our docs. I've heard from a formatter that the ellipsis keystroke acts as a valid HTML code. So seems using this keystroke would help make your formatter's job a bit easier.

Here's the above example repeated below but using the ellipsis keystroke instead:
KEYSTROKE USAGE: Her phone rang, and she grabbed it, glancing at the screen first. "It's about time you called. … But I can't sit here for  When will you get here?"   
Now, just to round out my topic here, imagine what havoc can be wreaked with an M-dash which has no spaces around it (per rules 16CMS 6.826.89). [Note the N-dash used within the range of rule numbers. It has no spaces on each side either, like the M-dash.] I'll give you an example below of one of the rare M-dash constructions that deal with dialogue yet are outside the quote marks, per 16CMS 6.84. The M-dashes come into play when there is no dialogue tag, just a quiet (nonverbal) action breaking up one line of dialogue.
"John, I'm leaving"—Mary scooped up her keys, cocking her head—"to run to the store. Did you want anything?"
Now look closer at the first M-dash. Since it has no separator spaces (per 16CMS), then the opening M-dash is connected with both "leaving" and "Mary." That's like stringing together fourteen characters (if you count the M-dash as the equivalent of two regular dashes/hyphens). Just picture this line on your cell phone screen and how it could be broken up to fit the 2.5" space. Yeah. Could be messy. That's why I'm hoping the next version, the 17CMS, is more accommodating for such things by adding in separator spaces for both the M-dash and the N-dash.

ITEM #2

What I find so heinous about these fake grammar rules being touted as "the rule" is that these falsehoods aren't presented to the newbie or pro author as an alternative (and maybe not even a good alternative either) but as the basic "everyone knows this" kind of rule. How deceptive. When I copyedit a doc, if the author's predominant style is to go with "okay" versus "OK," I note within a Track Changes comment that Web11's preferred spelling is "OK." I happen to use the second preferred spelling, "okay," in my own writings, whether an email or a blog post or a novel. But the point here is that I inform my authors of the preferred spelling and let them decide if they want to change all the "okay" references to "OK." They can then make a more informed decision.

Same thing with the serial comma. I check to see if the author prefers using it or not, and then I inform each how 16CMS 6.18 advocates the serial comma. I do not use the main part of the serial comma rule myself, as in "the red, white, and blue flag" (per 16CMS 6.18) would appear in my writings as "the red, white and blue flag." My reasoning is that I do employ the other part of the serial comma rule, what I call the "clarity comma" rule. If a passage needs a comma to define what was meant, I add in a "clarity comma." Here's an example:
CLARITY COMMA IN USE: For me I ordered biscuits and gravy, and an egg and sausage biscuit and a side of pancakes to go for my son.
WITHOUT CLARITY COMMA: For me I ordered biscuits and gravy and an egg and sausage biscuit and a side of pancakes to go for my son. 
Anytime you see multiple "and" occurrences in a sentence, always look to see if you can clarify the meaning for the reader. A well-placed comma (hence, the "clarity comma" moniker I use) can help the reader's comprehension, on the first reading, as to how to interpret the sentence. Note that "biscuits and gravy" may be listed as two items, but they act as one item, also as one order in the above context. Same thing with the "egg and sausage biscuit" but adding a side of pancakes to that order. So we have two orders here, one for the mother and one for the son. Don't you think the sentence with the clarity comma added is easier to understand without having to read it twice? I do.

I also don't think a true serial comma is needed where the comma could be replaced with "and." Remember, "the red, white, and blue flag" would easily be written as "the red and white and blue flag" or as this version of "the red, white, blue flag." Because sometimes a comma replaces "and." Therefore, using the serial comma along with "and" becomes a repetition. Just my particular viewpoint. And I hope someday the CMS will see it my way too.

CONCLUSION

I hope I've successfully argued my points here. I'm an Indie author myself and feel we get judged too harshly, especially when I see plenty of typos and grammar errors in trad-published books too. I'm a copy editor by trade, yet I can't turn off that mind-set, even when pleasure-reading. So I find plenty of errors in the books published by various US houses, big and small. I even make a point of sending a list of said errors to the appropriate publishers so that they can correct the book and upload a better version at the next reprinting.

Regardless we Indies should exceed trad-pub expectations (even though trad-pubbed books aren't faultless, as noted above). That's why I think more is required from us Indie authors. We should be closer to the perfection mark with each book we upload.

And the 16CMS grammar rules help us by giving us generally accepted writing practices in the States. And the Web11 spelling rules provide us with the preferred spellings of words. All this adds clarity for the reader. You never want your reader rereading a line or a paragraph, trying to make sense of what's before him. Once you break your reader's trance within your book, you may not be able to lure him/her back in. So avoid this by watching your grammar and your spelling.

Other matters come into play too, like syntax, context, cause-and-effect logic, yada, yada, yada. For now though, your lesson for today ends. Have a good one!

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Don't Propagate False Grammar Rules and I Name Today as Be Kind to Your Copy Editor Day

I'm a professional (and highly competent) copy editor. This makes me the queen of grammar and spelling aka the spelling and grammar police. Even so, I've been told one time too many some version of the "everyone knows the rule is ... " about something. Which, of course, turns out to not be a valid rule and yet was spoken by a person who considers himself/herself as a grammar expert. No, the US grammar expert in those cases would be me.

Anytime someone tells you the "rule is," ask them for the following:

  1. the name of the publication that they are using as a reference guide;
  2. the year of publication of such guide (hopefully within this century);
  3. if the publication is widely accepted within the States (or the appropriate reference guide for whatever country you find yourself living in and publishing in);
  4. the rule number or the page number of such "rule"; and
  5. a Xerox or scanned copy of same from that person's hard copy book that they've read and keep handy to consult with often, or a screenshot from any online version or from an e-book.

Bet they can't provide any of the above. Because it's a false rule. Yet I can give you the exact 16CMS rules for my edits (including screenshots or copies of said 16CMS rules, as needed) and can point you to the Web11 (or give a screenshot for the truly lazy among us, to settle any dispute) for the preferred spelling usages. Both these guides are American mainstays for fiction and nonfiction alike, both published this century, with 16CMS in 2010 and Web11 in 2007.

Granted, if you write articles for a US newspaper/magazine, you probably go by the AP rules here in the States. For medical white papers, the AMA. For Christian works, the Christian Writer's Manual of Style. And so on and so forth.

I'm reminded of NCIS where Gibbs tells his people to double-check everything. Take nothing at face value. Don't believe anything people tell you until you've confirmed it. Applies perfectly here.

Just within the last three days, I've heard two such fallacies. One was about how supposedly there are no spaces before and after an ellipsis. Wrong. See 16CMS 13.48 and 13.51. The other was the stupidest fake grammar rule I've ever heard (to date anyway): how there should be two periods at the end of a sentence that ends in a word with a period (like "etc.") or with a person's initials (like, instead of Charles Daniel spelled out, using his initials, "C.D."). OMG. Wrong again.

A WRONG Example: Here are my copies of the 16CMS, Web11, the manuscript, etc..

See 16CMS 6.117 and 10.12. And that last one comes from an otherwise gifted storyteller who got hit by a ginormous stupid stick the day she adamantly stated this two-period "rule," like some valid grammar rule to follow instead of the 16CMS rule I explained. Not the first time for her to conjure up these aberrations either.

So, Indie authors, to protect yourself from these misguided people who purport to be grammar experts, ask them for the five items listed above. And for you guys spewing this dung, who are too quick to hand out these supposed "rules," please, please, please don't pollute the waters with this misinformation anymore. Go check it out yourself, for God's sake. Consult 16CMS, Web11, even Google.

If you are a US author and don't own a physical copy of 16CMS and Web11, both reference guides have online resources available (some for free). Even the first full page of a Google search will tell you not to ever end a sentence with two periods. Duh! It doesn't hurt to double-check yourself, as we are all human, subject to misinterpretations or giving someone too much credence.

I'm begging you to not make our self-published authors look stupid by giving them these made-up rules that were pulled out of someone's a**.

Plus do not insult your professional copy editor by espousing one of these inane rules as the gospel truth, who (if any good at being a copy editor) knows ten times more than you combined with your ten best writing buddies who just think they know about English grammar rules. Your copy editor is there to make your books shine, not to make you look like an idiot by applying these pseudorules. If you have a question, ask me. I'll gladly discuss it with you.

So don't mistreat/abuse/bully/delay paying your copy editor (or, worse, Reject her grammatically correct edits within your Track Changes doc on a whim or merely thinking how much smarter you are than your copy editor). Meanwhile your copy editor remains the consummate professional, doing her usual outstanding work in spite of your shortcomings. Because her work (as originally completed, not as adulterated by some grammar-challenged author) is her trademark. Her work is her brand. Her work speaks for her integrity, for her skill. If your copy editor is competent, worth every penny (and more) that you pay for such services, treat said copy editor like the gold that he or she represents.

I shouldn't have to tell intelligent adults any of this. Yet here I am. Because obviously growing up physically is no guaranteed marker of growing up mentally or morally or socially. Or grammatically.

While I'm on my soapbox, if you have a disdain for the US grammar rules, don't hire me to be your copy editor. I won't speak for the other copy editors. You can check with the rest of them on this issue as needed. I'll repeat what I said in my opening: I'm a copy editor. This makes me the queen of grammar and spelling aka the spelling and grammar police.

So, if you have no intention of following the grammar rules or the spelling guidelines, don't even want to be bothered with my notations of them within Track Changes comments to explain the reason for my edits, then please reciprocate. If I can't share with you the 16CMS rules, then don't begin to proffer your imaginary ones, like they have merit or something.

Save your money and my time, and go hire instead your gardener, your dry cleaner, your yoga instructor, your favorite niece or that writing partner who agrees with you about everything. No fact-checking needed. No exceptions to the exceptions within the grammar rules to cull through. No use for a dictionary as you'll just spell stuff phonetically, right? The spell-checker catches all that, I hear a naysayer retort. Nope. Even with a version of Microsoft Word that lets you choose your default dictionary (always go with Web11 for US texts), a human eye is still needed for those pesky homonyms, for context problems, for missing words, for one-letter words that should be two-letter words, even for some instances of ALL CAPS, etc.

Let me make myself clear. I'm not belittling any of the professions listed herein. I'm just pointing out that, given the choice of a copy editor or a gardener or your dry cleaner or your yoga instructor or your favorite niece or your (very gifted) writing partner, if you are looking for the expert on grammar rules simply by these individual descriptions alone, go with the copy editor. Again I say, Duh! This should be a given. I'm shaking my head still at how this is not understood by enough people. Are we humans, as a group, getting stupider as time keeps ticking away?

You should respect the copy editor you work with (or get one you do respect), giving him/her the appropriate dues for reading the 16CMS alone. You go read it. Time yourself for ten minutes and see how many pages you have read and understood. I double-dog dare you. It is 860 pages of mind-numbing text (not counting the appendixes in the back matter), each page therein with probably an average of at least 10 rules per page. The 16CMS contains so much data that your mind shuts down pretty quickly, so this would never be a quick one-sitting read.

In all likelihood ~8,600 rules are in the one volume. The first part deals with fiction, and the last part deals more with nonfiction. And I've read over 90 percent of it (all the sections dealing with fiction writings), checking more nonfiction-related rules as needed. And, of course, I search it often to confirm how to treat certain anomalies that arise within myriad sentence constructions.

What are my qualifications to be a grammar expert? Honors English classes in high school. Decades of working with attorneys, honing my attention-to-detail skills. It's amazing how my innate gifts for clear and concise communication, plus a curious nature to go to the source and to read the rules (TRCP), which all made me a great legal assistant, are the same traits that make me a brilliant copy editor. Then there are the 8.5 years and counting where I've been a paid professional copy editor, first for Harlequin for 5.5 years, overlapping with the four or so years I've devoted myself to Indie authors. Plus my reading of the 16CMS gives me a definitive edge over all the posers. And I like to think my 150 IQ and my 80 percent eidetic memory don't hurt me either.

So I deem today as Be Kind to Your Copy Editor Day. Or maybe it should be a weeklong reminder. Go forth, and send your appreciation and thanks to people you may not have told yet.


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra


Sunday, August 14, 2016

DON'T DO THAT! Common Grammar Errors in Manuscripts

Amazon just keeps getting faster and faster. I uploaded my seventeenth book about 11:00 p.m. yesterday, and I bought the first copy about 4:30 a.m. today. Amazing.

Here's the online description for those who may be interested:



I’m a professional US copy editor, working since 2008, the first 5.5 years with a well-known traditional publishing house. Since then I’ve worked totally with Indie authors. Over all these years and these hundreds of books I’ve copyedited, what I find odd is how the same grammar mistakes are made over and over by myriad authors, both pro and newbie alike, akin to about four hundred unrelated Americans all having the same dream on the same night. But our US English language rules are not easy to learn, as the rules are not always consistent and do not always make common sense. Plus the rules have exceptions. Some of those exceptions even have exceptions.

Thus this book represents an organized compilation of those “universal” errors I’ve collected over the years, specifically gathered for American authors publishing fiction and nonfiction in the United States, using accepted spelling and grammar practices for this venue—The Chicago Manual of Style (Sixteenth Edition) aka 16CMS and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh Edition) aka Web11.

However, copy editors, like me, do much more than catch grammar errors and misspellings. I also look for what I call the:


The Nine Cs of Effective Writing are among the more than seventy topics covered in this seventy-one-page (single-spaced) book, serving as a shortcut for you, making your life easier and helping your writing shine brighter. You may be amazed to find a rule or two that you didn’t know about. Better to read these few pages than the 1,026 pages of the 16CMS or opening up Web11 fiftysomething times a day, right? Okay, you may still have to consult Web11 more than you thought possible, but my general hyphenation rule as to joining base words with prefixes/suffixes will save you valuable time and will yield the correct spelling more times than not.

As any professional author will tell you, this writing career is all about continuing education, about the growth of the author’s expertise. I’m here to help with that.

Let’s dig in.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra