Here is a short selection of tips to help your writing and save your editor some strokes of the virtual red pen. They are some of the more common things that writers misunderstand.

Ellipsis

An ellipsis is a series of three full stops separated by spaces. It is used when there is a break in the narrative. For example, when a character is talking and is interrupted, or when they lose the thread of what they are saying, or when they are hesitant.
It is not used for any other reason.

Capitalisation (Names)

If a character is known by a descriptive nickname, it should always be capitalised. For example, in Robin Hood, despite it not being his given name, the little in Little John is always capitalised because that’s what the merry men call him.

Capitalisation (Job title)

When referring to someone by their job title, that title should always be capitalised. For example in my books when Tom Russell introduces himself it is written as “Detective Superintendent Tom Russell”. If a witness is speaking to him it is written as “Detective Superintendent.” However, if someone is talking about him without using his name it is written without capitals. For example, “The detective superintendent is the briefing room.”

It’s

A combination of three letters and a punctuation mark that causes every writer heartache from time to time. The rule is really simple, ‘it’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is’. Any other time those three letters stand alone without their punctuation pal.

The Oxford comma

This is one of the most debated rules of punctuation.
“What the blazes is an Oxford comma?” you might be wondering. It is the comma that comes before ‘and’ at the end of a list. (For example, Jeff filled the windscreen wiper bottle, checked the oil, and replaced the headlight bulb.)
The debate is that many people believe that the final comma isn’t necessary. The style guide for most newspapers will say that it should not be used. It is more commonly used in non-fiction writing. If you do decide to use it, make sure you do so consistently and you’ll make the life of your editor so much easier.

Consistency

This can be very difficult as we try to track what we’ve written but it is important. If you have referred to a character as James for three-quarters of the book, don’t start calling him Jimmy for the last quarter. Try to be consistent in the language your character uses, it helps the reader to better understand who that character is and makes those characters more believable.

That’s it for this blog, I hope these tips help your writing. If you have any questions or observations please leave a comment below.

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