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Common Mistakes Writers Make When Writing
For those writers who plan to have a book published, I can only hope that your manuscript undergoes considerable proofreading before publication. It is especially important for those who self-publish or use publishing-on-demand services to market their book. These methods usually don’t require or offer editing services to correct errors that could cost you credibility as a writer.
Working as an editor for individual authors as well as a contract editor for two publishers, I have come across many grammatical or mechanical errors in manuscripts. I’m going to share some common mistakes in hopes that you can avoid them.
Please note that the Associated Press (AP) style is commonly used for journalistic works such as newspapers and Web content. The examples I will use are from the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) published by the University of Chicago Press. It is one of the most respected and trusted sources for literary works such as books.
1. In many of the books I have edited or proofread, there is a very common error in titles, subheadings, and subheadings. The Chicago Manual of Style 7.127 states: In regular headings, also known as heading style, the first and last words and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, adverbs, and conjunctions (if, because, as , that, etc. ) are capitalized. Articles (a, or, of), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, not), and prepositions are lowercase, regardless of length, unless they are the first or last word of a title or subtitle.
2. A book is not entitled (in the sense of right, permission, permission); it is titled (meaning it has a title, label, or name).
3. Titles of books, record albums, movies, TV shows and screenplays should be in italics. Do not use quotation marks. Do not underline these headings unless you format them for bibliography. However, the titles of articles and the titles of poems and songs fall within the quotation marks.
4. Unless a word is an abbreviation, it should not be ALL CAPS. Use italics for emphasis.
5. OK should be written: ok.
6. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. To write the “ISBN number” is the same as writing the International Standard Book number. The use of the word “number” or the pound sign (#) after the ISBN is redundant.
7. Percentage symbols (%) should be written “percent” unless used in a chart or table. Numbers after percentages must be in numeric format. Example: 91 percent. However, if percent is the first word of a sentence in a literary work, it should be written. Example: Ninety one percent of students passed the exam.
8. After a while, use a question mark, colon, or semi-accent one space (not two). This is the exact opposite of what we were taught during typing class! It can be a hard habit to break.
9. CMOS 5.57 says, “In an array that lists three or more objects, the elements are sorted by group.” Example: A dog, a cat, a hippo and a cow jumped on the moon.
10. Do not use an apostrophe when writing years. Example: 1960, not 1960 unless you want the possessive form of the word. If abbreviated: ’60 is true; the 60s is incorrect. Note that the apostrophe [ ‘ ] is used as a substitute for missing numbers, and not a single sign [ ‘ ] which is the opposite.
11. When referring to years, use a dash and a number when you write “16-year-old boy”. No notebook is needed, and when you write “the boy is sixteen” the number is written.
12. Internet is a proper noun and the first letter must be capitalized. The debate about whether the Web should be capitalized or not is still ongoing. CMOS says it must be written in the correct state. It is another name for the World Wide Web, which is a proper noun.
RE: Website. When a word is commonly used, its spelling is generally accepted even if it is incorrect. The most common spelling and usage of this word is site. However, according to CMOS, it is two words: Site. As long as you are consistent throughout your book or document, I doubt most people will question both spellings.
13. We ran [-] It is defined as one em (the letter “m”) in width. A double dash will turn into an em dash — if you type two dashes — and don’t put a space before or after. Or, you can create a dash in Windows-based programs by pressing Caps Lock and Alt while typing 0151 on your number key. Just like a sentence (like this), a dash separates clauses in a sentence.
14. En dash [-] It is one en (the letter “n”) in width: half the width of a dach. An en dash is used to indicate a closed sequence, or a connection between two things, of almost any kind: numbers, persons, places, etc. Example: June-July 2008. In Windows programs, press and hold Caps Lock and Alt while typing 0150 on your numeric keypad. There must be no space before or after en.
15. When writing a dialogue, all punctuation marks go inside the verbs. The first example below is correct when a word or phrase is used to break up the text into scare quotes; the second one is wrong:
Every day we hear that the price of corn has reached an “all time high”. Every day we hear that the price of oil has reached an “all time high”.
16. Numbers less than ten should always be written. Some style guides will disagree about the higher numbers. Chicago advocates that all numbers below 101 should be written. If in question, always consult a style guide. Be consistent throughout the document or manuscript and use the same style guide. Correcting these common mistakes will make your manuscript much easier to read.
If you need help preparing your book manuscript, our team of editors will be happy to help you. Our rates are cheaper than you might expect. See writersinthesky.com for more information.
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