Tag Archives: grammar

Its vs. It’s, Misplaced Modifiers, and More

Here’s a cute article on some of the more common grammar glitches that plague authors. I see these come up a lot.

 

Regarding misplaced modifiers, remember that the clause at the beginning of the sentence needs to be checked against the subject of the sentence. We’ve become used to misplaced modifiers in speech and writing so you have to pay close attention to catch them. Having been a writer for years, I know that the subject in this sentence had better be “I” because the clause that begins the sentence modifies “I.” It would be incorrect to say “Having been a writer for years, misplaced modifiers bug me.” (Misplaced modifers haven’t been a writer for years, I have been!)

Happy writing and editing!

 

 

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Do you have headers in your nonfiction manuscript?

If you’re writing a nonfiction book other than a memoir, you’ll need to break up your text with headers. Good headers are like signs on the highway that reassure you that you’re going in the right direction (“Chicago/O’Hare”), orient you (“Chicago 45 milesj”), and tell you when you need to switch roads (“Exit for Dundee Road”). If you’re going to start a new topic, you’ll want to signal that with a header that gives the reader a good sense of what the next section is about. Ideally, your headers will be somewhat provocative without being too mysterious, clear without being boring. “Recite Affirmations to Focus Your Mind” is much better as “Power Mantras for Overcoming the Monkey Mind.” (Of course, if you use the latter, you have to be certain that you explain what a “monkey mind” is.)

You’ll want a header to appear every three pages or so, sometimes more often. You’ll also want to mostly use A-heads, meaning, headers that all have the same weight and are styled the same way.

A Typical A-Head Style

Quite often, I style A-heads in boldface and italics, in the same size font as the type, with two spaces before it and one after it, as I’ve done here. If I wanted secondary heads, called “B-heads,” I’d make them look subordinate to the A-head by not using all the many tools for emphasis. If my A-head is boldfaced and italicized, and the the first letter of each significant word is capitalized, my B-head might look like:

Centered, Boldfaced but not italicized or capitalized B-head

OR

Centered, italicized but not boldfaced or capitalized B-head

Keep in mind that the subjects you encapsulate in B-heads have to make sense under the A-head. Think of the old college outline with its multilevel heads:

  1. Introduction and theme of paper
  2. Jane Eyre as an independent woman
    1. Her rebellion as a child adopted by another family
    2. Her defense of Helen at school
    3. Her refusal to teach at the school and pursuit of a governess position
    4. Rejecting Mr. Rochester’s “deal”

Adding a third tier of C-heads is often confusing, so try to stick with just A-heads and occasional B-heads. You can also use bulleted and numbered lists for material. In general, bulleted lists are in no particular order whereas numbered lists have items that must  be addressed in a specific order, such as Step 1, Step 2.

Spend some time looking at other nonfiction books in your genre and get a feel for how the books you find engaging and well-organized use subheads and lists effectively.

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Filed under grammar, headers, structuring nonfiction, styling your manuscript, Uncategorized

i.e. versus e.g.

One of the most common grammar glitches is confusion over the abbreviations i.e. and e.g. In fact, most copyeditors will replace these with the more recognizable English terms “that is” or “for example” to avoid any confusion. If you do want to use them, here’s a simple explanation and way of remembering which is which:

i.e. is an abbreviation for the Latin term id est, or “that is.” You use it to restate what you just said using different words.

I like the old black-and-white “women’s” movies, i.e., the ones featuring actresses like Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn as strong, single women.

You can substitute “that is” or even a colon to get the same idea across. An easy way to remember the meaning of i.e. is to remember the “i” and think of it as “In other words.”

e.g. is an abbreviation for the Latin term exempli gratia meaning “for the sake of example.” You use it before a list of examples that is not complete.

I like the old black-and-white “women’s” movies, e.g., Bringing Up Baby, Jezebel, and The Philadelphia Story.

An easy way to remember the meaning of e.g. is to remember the “e” and “g” and think of it as “for EGgsample.” Again, you could substitute “for example” or a colon to get across the same point.

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