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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ten Top Tips on Grammar and Punctuation

I have a particular interest in the 'nuts and bolts' of good writing. In the time I've been writing this blog I have discussed this subject on various occasions.

So in this post - written for Problogger's 31 Days To Build A Better Blog challenge - I thought I would list ten of my favorite such posts.

1. What Mr Sanders Taught Me

In one of my earliest posts, I reveal a valuable rule taught to me by my old English teacher, Mr Sanders (God rest his soul). If you're ever unsure where to place a possessive apostrophe, this rule will tell you.

2. Representing Thoughts in Fiction

This is a question that keeps arising on my writing forum. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are certain guidelines to bear in mind. In this post I set out my advice.

3. There's the Problem...

Who would have though an innocuous word like 'there' could create so many problems for writers? And yet, time and again, it trips up even professional authors and journalists.

4. Question Marks in Mid-Sentence

Question marks in mid-sentence - are they grammatical or not? It's a contentious area, but in this post I try to throw a little light on the issue.

5. Tense in Fiction

Should you use past tense or present tense for your novel or short story? In this post I examine the pros and cons.

6. Sean and the Vocative Comma

Many aspiring writers are unaware of the vocative comma and the rules governing its use - but if you omit or misuse it, you may end up inadvertently giving your readers entirely the wrong message!

7. Capitalizing Names

This old post gets a lot of search engine traffic, even today. In it I discuss the rules regarding whether you should write Dad or dad, Uncle or uncle.

8. Using Trademarked Terms in Fiction

This is another of those issues that many beginning writers agonize over - probably unnecessarily in many cases, as this post reveals.

9. What's a Worn?

In this post I discuss the importance of proofreading your work before submitting it, and offer a few tips about this. What's a worn? Read the post to find out!

10. Bad Grammar in a Holiday Brochure

In this post I talk about a grammatical mistake I spotted in a holiday brochure, and go on to discuss the correct use of a number of related prepositions.

Incidentally, if you would like a complete guide to bringing your English up to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time, you might like to check out my downloadable course Essential English for Authors, available from WCCL (see banner below).


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10 Comments:

Anonymous Mike H said...

Hey Nick,

I have a question for you. I have written a non-fiction novel of an experience that happened to me a few years ago. I had a stay at a hospital for some very serious issues. Obviously I survived. I wrote the novel because I wanted others to know about what happened and maybe draw some hope and strength from it (and maybe make a little profit as well).

To the best of my recall, I have tried to name names and places. If I never got the names or could not remember them I made them up. Some of the people I dealt with were not so nice, others were great.

My question is this: Should I change the names of the people, hospital, and/or city? What I say in the book is what I perceived. I have tried to be as truthful as possible. Should I worry about someone suing me if I use the real names?

12:11 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Hi Mike

Thanks for your comment. I have to start by saying that I'm not a lawyer, and I certainly can't promise that no-one will sue you for libel if you write something bad about them. However, if what you write is true (and you can prove it), this is a valid defense.

You have a choice really. You can fictionalize your account and change all the names, places, and so on. That is the 'safe' option. Or you can write a true, autobiographical account of your experiences. That is the riskier option, but it might prove to be more saleable. If I were you, though, I'd still be cautious of 'naming and shaming' specific individuals. Even if what you write is true, you might find it hard to prove in a court of law.

Of course, ultimately if your book is published, it is the publisher who is much more likely to be sued rather than you personally. They will therefore run your book past their legal department and advise you if they require any changes. If you self-publish, you are taking much more of a risk personally, and in that case I would definitely suggest running your manuscript past a good lawyer first.

Hope that helps a bit anyway, Mike. Good luck!

Nick

12:36 PM  
Blogger LORRAINE said...

Hi NICK, I AM LORRAINE FROM SOUTH AFRICA,WELL RECENTLY I STUMBLED ONTO YOU,OUCH! Haha THATS A GOOD OUCH! BECAUSE I AM STILL PINCHING MYSELF TO BELIEVE,THAT I HAVE FINALLY WRITTEN MY BOOK.IN 28DAYS USING IDEAS FROM YOUR FAITHFUL NEWSLETTERS TO ME.YOU ARE MY INSPIRATION.I AM SELF PUBLISHING,AND DOING IT WITH AUTHORHOUSE IN UK.THANKS FOR THE WONDER TIPS.MY BOOK WILL BE OUT IN 4MONTHS.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Lorraine - I appreciate your kind words. Many congratulations on writing your book in 28 days! I hope it sells well for you.

6:53 PM  
Blogger LORRAINE said...

HEY NICK, ITS LORRAINE AGAIN,JUST WANTED TO KNOW,HOW DO I WRITE A FREE PREVIEW,FOR MY BOOK,I GOT THE BACK MATTER.THE FREE PREVIEW IS FOR THE WEB. Thanks once again.I DID FIND AUTHORHOUSE THROUGH YOU,AND I BELIEVE THAT IF I GIVE YOU AS MY REFERRAL YOU GET PAID FOR IT,SO I WANTED TO KNOW IF,I CAN GIVE THEM YOUR INFO, AND COULD YOU PLEASE SEND ME YOUR PRIVATE LINK ADDRESS

7:46 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Hi Lorraine

You can contact me using the 'Contact Me' link near the top right column of the blog. I'm sorry that due to my heavy workload and the large number of requests I receive, I can't provide one-to-one consultancy, though.

I don't actually know anything about Authorhouse. If they have an affiliate program I'm not a member, so I doubt if they will pay me a fee for referring you. Thanks for the thought, though!

Re. your question, I would take a look at the book previews other people have uploaded to the Authorhouse site and copy their style and approach. Check out also their FAQ for authors if they have one. And if you're still not clear, ask their helpdesk for assistance.

Good luck!

Nick

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Norris said...

Very useful tips. There are a lot of things we take for granted. As a new blogger, I will visit this blog often.

Norris

http://norrisl4.blogpico.com

10:46 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Norris. I look forward to 'seeing' you here again soon!

8:30 AM  
Blogger LORRAINE said...

Hi NICK,
finally my books past its final galley and wil be released by end june.thanks for the writing tips that you sent me so religiously.HEY you made it to be in my acknowledgements page,i am ever so grateful to you,trust me you dont know how much you have really helped.I AM ACTING IN A MOVIE TOMORROW AND ITS WAY PAST MIDNIGHT HERE IN SOUTH AFRICA,BUT I COULDNT SLEEP WITHOUT SHOWING YOU MY GRATITUDE.
Penmanship hurriedly done all correction under your observation.
I AM ON FACEBOOK LORRAINE GOKUK AND AM FOLLOWING YOU ON TWITTER.
Regards LORRAINE GOKUL

11:14 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks for your kind words, Lorraine, and many congratulations on the release of your book (and your movie career!). I wish you every success in fulfilling all your creative ambitions.

8:09 AM  

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