Why Blog About Something You Want To Learn?

I had a friend in medical school who told me when she was learning a new medical procedure she was taught:

  1. Learn one
  2. Teach one
  3. Do one

I think this process can be applied to learning grammar and punctuation. When I’m unsure about a rule, the first thing I do is check my grammar books and read about it. This is the Learn One phase.

Next, I blog about it. If I can explain the rule, then I probably understand it. This is the Teach One phase. If you’re doing this, be careful to use your own words. Don’t cheat and look at the grammar book for help. You need to be able to explain the rule without any aids. Sometimes I don’t blog about the rule, but I do try to write the rule in my own words. Even if it’s on a scrap piece of paper, it helps me remember the rule.

Lastly, I write using the rule. This is the Do One phase. You can edit and proofread to ensure you’re using the rule properly too. I consider editing part of the Do One phase.

I figure if this is how medical students learn, it must work for other areas of knowledge too.

Do you have any tips for learning?

Thanks for reading . . .


How Do You Deal With Thoughts in Your Novel?

Do you use one of the three choices listed below:

  1. Write the thought in italics.
  2. Write the thought followed by a comma and ‘she thought.’
  3. Write the thought and assume your POV is strong enough for the reader to know whose thought it is.

I’ve listed an example of each option below.

Let me set the scene: Two women are running from an encroaching forest fire and one of them (Nora) is nine months pregnant.

Here are the examples:

  1. Kalin slammed the Jeep into park at the end of the dirt road. She leaned over the centre console and checked out Nora’s footwear. Flip-flops. Not good. “Do you think you can hike to Silver Lake?”
  2. Kalin slammed the Jeep into park at the end of the dirt road. She leaned over the centre console and checked out Nora’s footwear. Flip-flops. Not good, she thought. “Do you think you can hike to Silver Lake?”
  3. Kalin slammed the Jeep into park at the end of the dirt road. She leaned over the centre console and checked out Nora’s footwear. Flip-flops. Not good. “Do you think you can hike to Silver Lake?”

Which one do you think is best?

And can an author use all three within a novel?

I’d love to hear your opinion on this one.

Thanks for reading . . .


British Dictionary and American Style Guide Used by a Canadian

The Chicago Manual of Style says, “The more we learn, the less we seem to know.” Anyone else feel this way about spelling, punctuation and grammar?

So here is a question.

I follow the Oxford English Dictionary for spelling but the Chicago Manual of Style for grammar and punctuation.

The first is British and the second American.

Should I be following the Oxford Guide to Style if I use the Oxford English Dictionary? Or is it okay to follow one British and one American as long as I am consistently British in my spelling and consistently American in my punctuation and grammar? Now let me add that I am Canadian, and I get really confused. The borders seem to be disappearing on me.

And this gets me back to the first line, “The more we learn, the less we seem to know.”


Thanks for reading . . .

Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Three)

We are finally getting to the end of the second reading of a manuscript. Thank you to everyone who commented on the previous two blogs. It’s great to add new ideas to my process.

In Proofreading Process (Part One) and Copyediting – Proofreading Process (Part Two) I covered my process for the first and second reading of a manuscript. In the comments section of the blogs you can find lots of interesting ideas on the subject.

Today, I’m going to cover a few more technical areas and finish off the second reading. In the next blog, I’ll cover areas that involve making suggestions to an author but aren’t hard rules.

What about Mom and Dad?

Search for mom, dad, aunt, uncle, etc. and check if they are capitalized correctly. The capitalization of the first letter is easy to type wrong and difficult for the eye to see. A global search will force you to look at each case.

Mom is capitalized for direct address.

“Hey, Mom. I got a tattoo.”

Mom is not capitalized when referring to her.

“My mom doesn’t like my tattoo. Can you believe that?”


Acronyms should be added to your “list” as you read the manuscript. Then it’s easy to check if they are written in a consistent manner. For example:

PH.D or PhD or P.H.D.

AM or am or a.m.

It’s a good idea to check the style manual the author uses and pick the format from there.

Dialogue Format

When editing dialogue pay attention to punctuation and capitalization.

  • Is the punctuation inside the end quote correct?
  • Is the first word after the end quote capitalized when it shouldn’t be?

Correct: “I love my new car,” she said.

Incorrect: “I love my new car.” She said. (Did you notice the 2 errors?)

Correct: “Why did you steal my car?” he asked.

Incorrect: “Why did you steal my car?” He asked.

Possessive or Plural?

Look for words ending in ‘s’ and check if they were meant to be possessive or plural. Remember, it’s the dog’s tail, not the dogs tail – unless there are multiple dogs that share one tail, but then it would be the dogs’ tail. Now that I think about it, I guess that creature could exist in a fantasy or sci-fi novel.

The Dreaded Comma

I used to think I knew how to use a comma. Ha ha. The joke was on me. During my mentorship program with Joan Barfoot through the HSW Correspondence Program, Joan kindly pointed out I needed to learn how to use a comma.  I literally spent two months studying the comma. I guess the saying– you don’t know what you don’t know – is true. I can’t thank Joan enough for pointing this out to me.

I won’t go into the comma rules as there are enough books on the topic, but I wanted to mention how important the pesky little punctuation mark is. To create a professional looking manuscript, it’s worth the effort to learn how to use the comma.

What’s next?

Phew. I feel sweat dripping down my forehead. We are finally at the end of the second reading. The next blog, you guessed it, will start with the third reading.

I’m keeping track of suggestions and comments, and in the final blog in this series, I will post all the great ideas people have been generous enough to send me. I used some of the ideas to proofread this blog. I hope you don’t find a typo 🙂

Thanks for reading . . .

How Do You Proofread?

#writetip Proofreading takes intense concentration. Do you have method you’d like to share?

I’m talking about the final proof, after all your readers have given you feedback, you’re not going to make any story changes, and are about to send your manuscript to your agent or publisher.

It takes me about an hour to proof 5 double spaced pages. That may seem slow, but I think worth the effort.

First, I look at each character in a line, then the sentence, then the paragraph, then the page, and finally the scene.

This is where I check every punctuation mark, check for their/there swaps, and grammar errors. For example, I force my eye to look for a period at the end of every sentence.

The only editing I do at this phase it to ask whether I need every word.

If I start to skim, I take a break, let my mind relax and get back to it.

What is your process?

Should Punctuation Show Emotion?

Is it better to use punctuation or dialogue tags? #writetip Here is a very simple example.

“Stop nagging at me!” Jane loomed over her husband and glared.


“Stop nagging at me,” Jane yelled. She loomed over her husband and glared.


“Stop nagging at me.” Jane loomed over her husband and glared.

I thought the goal was to eliminate exclamation marks. Now, I’ve been given other advice and I’m not so sure.

Any views on this one?

What sense do you use to punctuate?

Some people hear a comma, some see it, and others follow the rules. #writetip What’s right for you?

For me, it’s a combination of all three. When I write my first draft, I like to hear the punctuation. Somehow it makes writing flow easier. I don’t worry about whether it’s right or wrong at this stage. I think this lets my natural style come out.

When I review the first draft, I pay attention to how punctuation looks. Does the page look too cluttered? Is my eye distracted by the noise? If it is, I check to see if I’ve overused any punctuation marks.

During my final proofread, before sending the novel to anyone, I check whether my punctuation follows the grammatical and syntactical units of my style guide. If it doesn’t, then I decide if I want to break a rule or follow it. I want my voice to come out, not that of the rules. I also don’t want to make glaring errors.

Like most things in life, punctuating a novel is a balance.