I don’t want to mislead anyone. I am not a grammar expert. When I write, I constantly search the Internet for comma placement rules, how to hyphenate and the like. Excellent editors have been assigned to help me with my books, and I continue to learn from them. Because I did not pay attention to English in high school, and took technical classes in college almost exclusively, my writing was quite lame when I wrote my first book. That was eight novels and one short story ago, and I still make many mistakes. I make no claim to exclusive knowledge of any kind.
I am just an author who looks to the Internet for guidance when he’s not sure how to structure a sentence. And that’s the point of this blog. Many of you need to BE MORE VIGILANT when it comes to your writing. It is a shame when I review a good story that is destroyed by senseless mistakes and bad editing. Such stories are hard to read and frustrating to review. In my humble opinion, if I feel that way, and I’m just a hack, then real reviewers MUST feel the same way too. Want good reviews? Then make it your goal to write well. Don’t just shove something out the door. A couple of pointers I hope will help are provided below.
Point one. When you finish self-editing your story, sit on it for several weeks, and then read it again. At a minimum, the passage of time will help you find missing words because you won’t remember “how the sentence should read.” You need to forget what you meant to write, and read what you did write. Use a different media for your final self-edit pass. If you read your manuscript on a PC the last time, then print it or transfer it to a Kindle or equivalent this time. That will help you catch “wrap around” errors, the errors that crop up at the end of a sentence.
Point two. A semicolon is not a comma, a colon, a period or a dash. A semicolon can be used to join two independent clauses, where each clause has its own subject and verb. On the other hand, a comma is not a semicolon, so don’t use it like one. If you join two independent clauses with a comma, that is called a run-on sentence or comma splice. Don’t do that. I recently read a book with over 100 run-on sentences. How can such a thing be published? Arggggg!
Point three. Proper hyphenation is difficult. Don’t be fooled. Those little hyphens can tell a reviewer a lot about the author. The bottom line is this: when in doubt, look the words up. For example, take the words, “bottom line.” Are those words supposed to be hyphenated? Is it one word, or two? I’ve given a few hyphen rules below. You might be surprised; the rules are not easy.
a. Hyphens and Nouns: To check whether a compound noun is two words, one word or hyphenated, look it up in the dictionary. If you can't find it, treat the noun as separate words. Examples: eyewitness, eye shadow, eye-opener. These words had to be looked up in the dictionary to know what to do with them.
b. Hyphens and Verbs: Compound verbs are either hyphenated or appear as one word. If you do not find the verb in the dictionary, hyphenate it. Examples: To air-condition the house will be costly. We were notified that management will downsize the organization next year.
c. Hyphens and Adjectives: Generally hyphenate between two or more adjectives when they come before a noun and act as a single idea. Examples: friendly-looking man (compound adjective in front of a noun), friendly little girl (not a compound adjective) brightly lit room (brightly is an adverb describing lit, not an adjective.)
d. Hyphens and Adverbs: When adverbs not ending in “ly” are used as compound words in front of a noun, hyphenate. When the combination of words is used after the noun, do not hyphenate. Examples: The well-known actress accepted her award. Well is an adverb followed by another descriptive word. They combine to form one idea in front of the noun. The actress who accepted her award was well known. Well known follows the noun it describes, so no hyphen is used. A long-anticipated decision was finally made. He got a much-needed haircut yesterday. His haircut was much needed.
Hope this helps. I’ll provide more pet peeves in subsequent blogs. If you would like to read a few of my reviews, please stop by http://cookinwithmisshavana.blogspot.com/. If you scroll down a few posts, you will also find my own self-edit “checklist.” I make a point to read the checklist before each edit pass, just to remind myself what I’m supposed to look for.
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Thanks for reading,
James L. Hatch
Author for: Solstice Publishing, xoxopublishing.com and Eternal Press