Some Nuts and Bolts of Grammar

All right, so it’s the least fun part of being a writer, but we all must know it, so let’s clear up some grammar misconceptions and errors I’ve seen even in published novels, as well as self-pubbed ones:


1. There is no such thing as a four-dot ellipses:


The way ellipses points are written varies upon style. You can use three dots with spaces around all the points . . . the way I write it, or together with spaces in front and in back of the points … which some prefer. But one thing that’s universal: there are never four ellipses points: that’s an ellipses with a period. Ellipses points are for pauses in conversation (“Hey, what are you . . . ?”) or for added emphasis at the end of a sentence (If I’m going to die someday, why not get it over with. . . . ). You’ll see both ellipses points alone and ellipses with a period in novels by the greats, and I’d learn when to use which if I were you.


2. Don’t start your sentence with “However” just to do it:


The only time it’s acceptable grammar-and-syntax-wise to use the word “However” at the beginning of a sentence is when you use it in the sense of “However way you want to do this.” It may not seem important to you, but Joe Hill knows it. I’ve read most of his novels, and he uses it correctly. He also writes for one of the big-five publishers.


3. Use a hyphen for compound adjectives, but not for all of them.


I’ve seen this a lot in critique groups, the reluctance to use a hyphen for compound adjectives. But not all C.A.s use the hyphen, so consult a dictionary, or watch how famous authors do it. It’s an important-but-thankless job to use grammar and syntax correctly.


4. Don’t use bold or all-caps in a novel you’re pitching to agents or publishers:


I know, you’ve seen it done in published novels; so have I. But that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt your chances at publication and getting paid well for your art. We’ve all seen those uber-gifted authors who can break the writer rules–my favorite is Gary A. Braunbeck’s run-on sentences that seem to go on forever–but with a novice trying to get discovered, it’ll look sloppy. Basically, if you’re writing in all-caps, you’re yelling, and you can even get in trouble for it in some critique-group forums. It can be done in a better way. By that I don’t mean use of ass out of exclamation points; agents and publishers hate that, and I’m not seeing it done in my favorite writers’ books. I mean like so: “Get off my foot,” she yelled. And no bolding is a given; if you let loose with bolding, what’s next? Headers? Bullet points? A fluffy font? Control yourself!


That’s enough for now. We’ll delve into more Grammar Nazi lessons later.

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