Hydra editor, Josiah Davis, is back with part two of his five-part series on getting your manuscript ready for editing. Many think it’s the job of the editor to fix every mistake, when in truth, your manuscript should be as clean as possible when submitted to a publisher. One of the big culprits? Punctuation. Josiah offers up tips on what to look for when spell and grammar checking your document.
Part Two – Punctuation
We’re back again with the second part of a five-part series, Getting Your Manuscript Ready for Editing! This week, we focus on the pesky issues of punctuation. What do I mean by that? Well, even though most people think they know all of the rules of punctuation, there are many facets that the average human tends to forget about, or just plain ignore at times. Let’s look at one of the most common ones that I see. If you are writing in American English, and you have a period or a comma, it goes inside of your quotation marks every time. Rules are a bit different for UK English, so we won’t worry about that here. An easy way to make sure you’re sticking to this rule is just doing a search in your document for any uses of quotes where you have a comma or period outside of the quote mark (for clarification purposes, that would look like this: ‘.).
So, that’s all well and good for the quote marks, but what about other punctuation issues? There are some other common errors you can search for as you work on polishing your manuscript. First, you need to make sure that you have a comma before any use of “but” that comes before an independent clause. If your clauses can stand on their own, or the one following “but” expresses a contrary thought, you need a comma preceding it. Just do a search through the entirety of your document and check every use of “but” that you have.
Want another? Search through your document for any uses of “..” or “….” The former being an extra period after the end of a sentence, and the latter being an extra period after the use of ellipses. You can also do this for other punctuation marks, such as commas and quotation marks, just to make sure that you didn’t happen to use an extra one by mistake.
Punctuation can be frustrating, especially when it feels like you’re just going through the technical details of it all, rather than actually expressing your voice as a writer. But all of these steps are just pieces to the puzzle of crafting a polished, ready-to-publish, manuscript.