SCP Style Sheet
This may change and additions may be made as questions arise. Until a new Style Sheet is issued, this is the one we will use. Please note that this is an internal, in-house, document and is not to be shared with anyone outside of Secret Cravings Publishing.
Editorial changes/comments are to be made using Track Changes/Comment boxes. This makes it easy for the author to see where the changes must be made. Don’t be shy to make positive comments too.
The author will work directly with the editor. When everyone is satisfied that the work is ready, the editor will send the final manuscript to the Editorial Director at
Find and replace all double spaces after a period with a single space. Go to EDIT, click on FIND, and click on REPLACE. In the find what section, hit the space bar twice. In the replace with section, hit the space bar once. Hit replace all. You may need to continue to hit the replace all button numerous times until the pop-up box comes up showing “zero”.
Find and replace the space that is sometimes added after the period ending a paragraph but before hitting enter. Go to EDIT, click on FIND, and click on REPLACE. In the find what section, type ^p (hit the space bar 1 time before the “^p” but not after). In the replace with section, ^p (do Not hit the space bar before or after). Hit replace all. You may need to continue to hit the replace all button numerous times until the pop-up box comes up showing “zero”.
Find and replace the space that is sometimes added before typing the next paragraph. Go to EDIT, click on FIND, and click on REPLACE. In the find what section, type ^p (hit the space bar 1 time after the “p”). In the replace with section, ^p (do Not hit the space bar before or after). Hit replace all. You may need to continue to hit the replace all button numerous times until the pop-up box comes up showing “zero”.
Find and replace any forced line space. Go to EDIT, click on FIND, and click on REPLACE. In the find what section, ^l (do Not hit space bar before or after). In the replace with section, ^p (do Not hit space bar before or after). Hit replace all. You may need to continue to hit the replace all button numerous times until the pop-up box comes up showing “zero”.
Remove any set tabs. In the find what section, ^t (do Not hit space bar before or after). In the replace with section, enter nothing at all (do Not hit space bar at all, leave empty). Hit replace all. You may need to continue to hit the replace all button numerous times until the pop-up box comes up showing “zero.”
Font: 12 – Times New Roman
Spacing: 1.5 (with no additional spaces between paragraphs)
Margins: 1 inch all around
Example of a paragraph formatting box:
First Page: Author Information as follows:
Title (of manuscript)
Name (of author)
Scene Breaks: * * * * (at True Center – see below for explanation) Single line spacing before and after the scene break.
Short passing of time break: * * * * (but would rather you do a smooth transition into the time change instead of an abrupt switch.)
True Center: Highlight item to be centered, go to FORMAT, hit PARAGRAPH, and under “Indentation” section – open the drop down box and select NONE. Your highlighted text will move to the far left margin. Leave your text highlighted and hit the CENTER button. This will adjust your highlighted text to the exact (or true) center of your page, between the left and right margins. Otherwise, your text will be centered between your left indent mark (0.3) and the right margin.
True Left Margin: Same as True Center above, minus hitting the “center” button.
Chapter Headers: Font 18, Bold, Centered (True Center).
There should be three line spaces before the Chapter Header and before the beginning paragraph.
Chapters are to start on a fresh page, regardless of how many sentences are on the previous page.
Following the page break, there should be three single line spaces before the chapter header for the next chapter.
Chapter lengths: Chapters should be at least ten to fifteen pages. If they are any shorter than that, you will have to combine chapters or lengthen them during edits. If the book is to go to print the short four to five page chapters will be two to three pages once it’s formatted for print.
Letters, Diary or Journal Entries, Newspapers, Notes, Emails, etc.:
Hit enter once before and once after the reference.
These are aligned differently; go to Format (on toolbar), Paragraph, (under General section / alignment) drop box, Justified. Then under Indentation section; left = .5, right = .5, special = hanging.
These should all be italicized.
The End: 12 Font, Bold, Centered (True Center), All Caps.
Nothing bolded in body of manuscript (only Chapter Headers and THE END)
Nothing underlined. Replace any underscores with italics but use sparingly.
Double check that Word is using the correct dictionary, ie: US, Australian, UK, etc.
Make sure that Track Changes is turned on.
No all caps, unless stating an actual sign seen by character or quoting newspapers/flyers etc., (She searched for the big, red sign, ‘AL’s
Spell out in Word in the following instances:
Weight (one hundred twenty pounds)
Money (five dollars and thirty-four cents)
Numbers in dialogue (The score was ten to one)
Whole numbers and any number beginning a sentence
Age (three years old, forty-two years old – Not 3 years old)
Height (five feet eight inches tall – Not 5’ 8” or 5 feet 8 inches)
Simple fractions are to be spelled out (two-thirds, one-quarter – Not ¼)
Years, if they begin a sentence (“Two thousand eleven was an amazing year for me.)
Temperature (The temperature dropped ten degrees… or … it’s thirty degrees outside – Not 30 degrees or 30°)
Time of day if it’s spoken (I saw him at two-fifteen and again at seven o’clock p.m.). However, if the narrative tells us that the character is looking at a clock, use digits to literally show what the character saw/what the clock read (She glanced at her bedside clock, and the red numbers glared 4:35 – be sure Not to use a.m. or p.m., as the clock would not reflect that and the manuscript should already have let the reader know if it was a.m. or p.m.)
NOTE: *Use a hyphen to connect any word ending in “y” to another word (forty-five).
Do not use commas between other separate words that are a part of one number (One hundred thousand eight hundred seventy-three, Not one hundred thousand, eight hundred, and seventy-three)
Digits are used in the following instances:
Dates (May 25, 2011)
Decades (the 1960s or the ‘60s)
Years (2011) unless they begin a sentence
Whole numbers plus fractions (8-1/2 inches)
Odd forms of measurement (.003 mm or .6 inches)
Acts, scenes, bills (as in plays and politics) are digits
Addresses (Mrs. John Doe; 505 N. Wellington; Albuquerque, NM)
Numbers referencing percentages (but the word percent is spelled out – no symbol)
DATELINES: A dateline is a line of text, usually at the beginning of a chapter but sometimes in the middle of the chapter, that denotes setting and/or date (Malta, Montana, 1923). These should be at True Left Margin and in italics.
PUNCTUATION: All punctuation goes inside the quotation marks.
General: Do not use double punctuation (!? or !!). Use one or the other.
Do not overuse exclamation points. Use only when someone is shouting, angry, or excited, and that really shouldn’t happen that often. Raising of a voice does not require an exclamation point where shouting/screaming would.
Months (May, November)
Days of the week (Monday)
Holidays (Christmas, Easter)
Clubs (Girl Scouts of America)
Historical periods of time (Ice Age)
Proper nouns (Golden Gate Bridge)
Trademarks (Nabisco, Dodge, Covergirl)
Historical events (Battle of Little Big Horn)
Words derived from a proper noun (Marxism)
Earth, Heaven, or Hell, if implying or referring to the place.
Organizations (Second Harvest Food Bank of the Inland Northwest)
Title of publications (Declaration of Independence, Bible, Wall Street Journal, etc.)
References to God (Oh my God! Good Lord, are you serious? Do you want to meet your Maker?)
Compass directions if using as a proper noun (We drove through the Pacific Northwest… or I live in North Austin)
Titles when preceding a name (President Andrew, Captain Jones) or when directly addressed (Hello, Captain Kirk or Yes, Captain). Otherwise, use lowercase (ie: I told the president I voted)
Proper names of people, things, companies (Microsoft), religions (Christianity), languages (English/Spanish), places (Disneyland, Fort Knox), specific buildings (Seattle Space Needle), rivers (Nile), mountains (Cascade), and other geographic locations (Europe, Asia, Texas)
Relationship words (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, etc.) if not preceded by a pronoun and/or used in direct addressing, the word is considered a proper name and therefore, capitalized The basic rule is... If you can insert their given name, Joan or David, for example, into the sentence, you capitalize it, because you would capitalize their given name if it were used. If you cannot use (properly) their given name in the sentence, you do not capitalize mom or dad. For example: "My mom and my dad grounded me for a week because I was bad." In this instance you would not capitalize mom and dad because inserting their given names, Joan and David, would not be correct. For example: "My Joan and my David grounded me for a week because I was bad," is not a correct sentence and thus when using mom and dad in that instance you would not capitalize them.
Do NOT Capitalize:
Name of careers (My mom is a lawyer, doctor, accountant)
A, as, and, the, of, by, in titles unless the first word of the title
Dances (tango, waltz) unless preceded by proper adjective (Mexican hat dance)
School subjects, unless a language (English) or including a number (Science 101)
Plants (pine tree, pansies) unless preceded by proper adjective (Kentucky blue grass)
Compass directions when referencing direction (Go north on Maple Street… or I live north of the city)
Terms of endearment, unless at the beginning of a sentence (Sweetie, I told you I would take care of that)
Animals (cat, dog, horse) unless preceded by proper adjective (Siamese cat, Appaloosa horse, German shepherd)
Generic references to God(s) (She’s considered a goddess amongst the earth people… or The god of the sea is Poseidon)
Games (checkers, blackjack) unless trademarked/commercial (Monopoly, Pictionary) or preceded by proper adjective (Chinese checkers)
Relationship words (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, etc.): if the relationship title is preceded by a pronoun it is Not capitalized (I don’t know how my mom would like that)
Respect references/labels, unless at the beginning of a sentence (sir, mister, ma’am, miss, etc. (ie: yes, sir, I will do that right away… I’m sorry, miss, what did you say your name was?)
Colon: Colons are to be avoided and can be replaced by periods or em dashes
Comma: Commas are used mainly to provide pauses in thought and to make long sentences understandable.
Before a dialogue tag (“It’s cold outside,” she said)
To separate every word, clause, or phrase in a series (Her toes are painted blue, pink, and yellow)
When leading into a direct quote (The Krem 2 news headline was, The accident was caused by a deer in the road.)
Before and after a name if that person is being directly addressed (Hey, Jason, how was your day?)
Commas and participial phrases:
We find participial phrases in three positions.
Participial phrases can come before a main clause (initial position), after a noun phrase they are modifying (middle position), or after a main clause (final position).
· When the participial phrase comes before a main clause, it is followed by a comma.
· When the participial phrase follows a main clause, a comma must come before the participial phrase.
· When the participial phrase occurs in mid-sentence position, we use two commas. One comma comes before the participial phrase and the other comes after it.
Do Not use a comma:
Before the word too at the end of a sentence.
With action tags/any tag that cannot convey speech (laughed, choked, sighed, hiccupped, etc.) a period should separate speech from action tags.
Do not use before and after a name if that person is being talked about, unless the name is being used as additional detail/information (My daughter, Tina, loves those cars.)
Avoid Comma Splices:
A comma splice is when a comma is placed where a period, semicolon, or coordinating conjunction and comma is needed.
Example of a comma splice:
I will by an apple, I want an orange.
There are two independent clauses or sentences in this run on sentence. I will buy an apple could be a sentence. And, I think I want an orange could be a sentence.
A sentence needs a subject and verb. Also, it should be a complete thought. In the first sentence, I is the subject, will buy is the verb (will is the helping verb and buy is the main verb), and the sentence is a complete thought. After the comma, I is the subject, want is the verb, and the sentence is a complete thought.
How to fix a comma splice:
You have three options to fix this comma splice.
· Use a period: I will buy an apple. I want an orange.
· Use a semicolon: I will buy an apple; I want an orange. (Remember to use semicolons sparingly in your manuscripts.)
· Use a coordinating conjunction and a comma: I will buy an apple, but I want an orange.
Coordinating conjunctions include for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.
There is more on coordinating conjunctions later in the guide.
Ellipses: Used to express halting speech (Put…me…down…now!), to indicate broken speech (But…but…why would you do that?), and in trailing off speech or thought (Hold on, weren’t you on your way to…where was that place?)
There are no spaces before or after ellipses.
Always complete the last word before an ellipse.
Ellipses appear mostly in dialogue and seldom in narrative.
Following ellipses with a question mark or exclamation point is acceptable.
There is no comma after ellipses, not even before a tag line (“But…” she said)
Ellipses are three dots/periods together, never four, not even if at the end of a sentence.
Ctrl, alt, . will give you a proper ellipsis.
Ellipses are commonly overused and tend to break up a story when abused. Try to use these sparingly, when necessary to get a point/feeling across.
Em Dash: Used to replace commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, cut off dialogue, or abrupt change of thought (You are the friend—the only friend—who offered to help me. What the hell is—)
Complete the last word before the em dash
No additional punctuation
These are two dashes/hyphens with no spaces before or after
Hyphen: (aka en dash)
Used to indicate stuttered speech (Th-the c-car sp-sp-spun out of c-c-control); referencing periods of time (January-June, noon-two o’clock p.m.); linking prefixes (pre-war) and connecting words/numbers (see cheat sheet attached for examples).
Hyphens do not have a space before or after them.
Initials: When using initials for titles, departments, agencies, ranks, etc., you should spell out the actual title in the first reference, then use initials thereafter (Traci works for the Central Intelligence Agency –next reference to her employer- “Nice to meet you. I’m Agent Hall with the
No periods separate initials in this case.
Sounds (swoosh, bang, pang, kaboom, etc.)
Telepathic communication and with no quotation marks
Foreign words, unless commonly used enough to appear in the dictionary (déjà vu, tortilla, cappuccino, etc.)
Emphasized words and with no quotation marks. However, if the emphasized word is in thought and already italicized then the italics should be removed from that word.
All direct/inner thought, flashbacks, and dreams with No quotation marks or tags (he/she thought, wondered, etc.) The reader understands that it’s a character’s thought and tags are unnecessary. Thoughts are always first-person, present tense.
Parentheses: Unless non-fiction, do not use parentheses. They are easily replaced by em
Possessives: For possession with singular names, use ’s (Tim’s)
For family names, use s’ (the Smiths’ farm or the Phillips’ house)
Single quotation marks for quotes within dialogue
All punctuation goes inside of the quotation marks
Double quotation marks for opening and closing of dialogue.
Punctuation goes after single quote but before double quotes (“He said to me ‘I don’t want to have a birthday party’.”
If at the beginning of a sentence, double quotes and single quote marks go together (“‘Don’t cry,’ were his exact words to me.”)
Running dialogue (goes two or more paragraphs) requires opening quotation marks in first paragraph, no closing quotation marks, and opening and closing quotation marks for second/final paragraph.
Semicolon: Semicolons should be used to separate items in a very long and complex series. Otherwise, semicolons and colons are not used much in fiction nowadays and should be replaced with em dashes, commas, or periods whenever possible.
Be sure to state credit: She danced around the living room while singing Sara Evan’s, A Little Bit Stronger.
Make sure to use correctly. You cannot convert them to a verb or alter their spelling in any way.
You can reference a Trademark; brand, song/book title, etc., but you may not quote song lyrics without written consent or the song has no copyright. The same rule applies to poetry.
If you do use a Trademark name, you must leave an acknowledgment. Here is one to use:
The author acknowledges the trademark status and the following trademark owners mentioned in this work of fiction.
Sentence Structure: Try to keep sentence length to 3 lines when able and paragraph length to 10 lines or less, if possible.
These show whether the subject acts (active voice) or is acted on (passive voice); whether the subject performs the act or receives the action (Passive – The tree branch was broken by the storm. Active – The storm broke the tree branch).
Active voice is normally the best choice. Sentences in the active voice are stronger and more to the point. There are, however, situations when you will want to use the passive voice as in instances when you don’t know who performed the action, or when you want to emphasize the action or the object, but you don’t care who did it.
Conjunctions: Conjunctions are words that connect and establish specific logical relationships between sentences or sentence elements. There are four types of conjunctions: Coordinate; correlative; subordinate; and adverbial.
Coordinate conjunctions include: and, but, for, so, or, nor, and yet. Each of these establishes a specific relationship between the words it joins:
Two words: pie or cake
Two phrases: in the car or on the bike
Two independent clauses: You must study, or you won’t learn grammar.
Note: Then and Now are not coordinate conjunctions so punctuation does not apply.
Correlative conjunctions include: both/and, not only/but also, either/or, neither/nor, and whether/or and are always used in pairs to connect words, phrases, or clauses of equal grammatical value. Correct use of these conjunctions is critical in achieving parallelism in sentence structure. Make sure that the grammatical structure following the second half of the pair is the same as that following the first half.
You must decide either to fly or to drive.
Contrary to my plans, I spent much of my vacation both correcting papers and contacting students.
I hope not only that you will attend the play, but also that you will stay for the cast party afterwards.
Subordinating conjunctions come at the beginning of a Subordinate (or Dependent) clause and establishes the relationship between the dependent clause and the rest of the sentence. They also turn the clause into something that depends on the rest of the sentence for its meaning.
Subordinate conjunction: unless
Subordinate clause: unless you are allergic.
Independent clause: I will bring my cat.
Example: I will bring my cat unless you are allergic.
Subordinating conjunctions join an independent clause (contains both a subject and a verb and can act as a complete sentence) and a dependent clause (also contains a subject and a verb, but is not a complete sentence). Basically, dependent clauses cannot stand alone; they need to be joined to an independent clause. Subordinating conjunctions do just that. The word subordinate (adjective) means something of lesser or unequal value, which also gives you a clue about its position in a sentence in relation to an independent clause.
They went running (independent clause), although it was very hot (dependent clause).
We decided to take a couple of French classes this summer (independent clause), since we could not go away on vacation (dependent clause).
Monica went to law school in New York, while her brother went to law school in California.
Subordinating conjunctions always come at the beginning of a dependent clause. It’s important to note, however, that dependent clauses can sometimes (not always) come before an independent clause. We could write the above sentences this way:
Although it was very hot, they went running.
Since we could not go away on vacation (dependent clause), we decided to take a couple of French classes this summer (independent clause).
While her brother went to law school in California, Monica went to law school in California.
While coordinating conjunctions join parts of sentence that are similar, subordinating conjunctions often show a contrasting or unequal relationship.
Notice that some of the subordinating conjunctions in the table below — after, before, since — are also prepositions, but as subordinators they are being used to introduce a clause and to subordinate the following clause to the independent element in the sentence.
Common Subordinating Conjunctions
after if though
although if only till
as in order that unless
as if now that until
as long as once when
as though rather than whenever
because since where
before so that whereas
even if than wherever
even though that while
Adverbial conjunctions indicate a relationship between sentences and independent clauses. When a conjunctive adverb appears at the beginning or in the middle of an independent clause, it is usually set off by commas. When a conjunctive adverb introduces a second clause within a sentence, a semicolon precedes it and a comma follows it.
Carrot cake is very tasty. Moreover, the carrots make it a "healthy" choice for dessert.
I realize you were busy. It is unfortunate, however, that you missed that phone call.
The hurricane has lessened in intensity; nevertheless, we are evacuating in an hour.
Here is a chart of the transitional devices (also called conjunctive adverbs or adverbial conjunctions) accompanied with a simplified definition of function (note that some devices appear with more than one definition):
again, also, and, and then, besides, equally important,
Addition finally, first, further, furthermore, in addition, in the
first place, last, moreover, next, second, still, too
comparison also, in the same way, likewise, similarly
concession granted, naturally, of course
although, and yet, at the same time, but at the same
time, despite that, even so, even though, for all that,
contrast however, in contrast, in spite of, instead, nevertheless,
notwithstanding, on the contrary, on the other hand,
otherwise, regardless, still, though, yet
emphasis certainly, indeed, in fact, of course
after all, as an illustration, even, for example, for
example or instance, in conclusion, indeed, in fact, in other words,
illustration in short, it is true, of course, namely, specifically, that is,
to illustrate, thus, truly
all in all, altogether, as has been said, finally, in brief, in
summary conclusion, in other words, in particular, in short, in simpler
terms, in summary, on the whole, that is, therefore, to put it
differently, to summarize
after a while, afterward, again, also, and then, as long as,
at last, at length, at that time, before, besides, earlier, eventually,
time sequence finally, formerly, further, furthermore, in addition, in the first
place, in the past, last, lately, meanwhile, moreover, next, now,
presently, second, shortly, simultaneously, since, so far, soon, still, subsequently, then, thereafter, too, until, until now, when
Parenthetical Clauses add to the information in the rest of the sentence, remaining in close logical and syntactic relation, and must be bracketed by commas. Information more remote in relation to the sentence are set off by em dashes or parentheses.
The Hooligan Report was, to say the least, a bombshell.
Wilcox, it was believed, turned the entire affair over to his partner.
Bardston—he is to be remembered for his outspokenness in the Wainscot affair—asked for permission to address the assembly.
Who vs. Whom
Use the he/him method to decide which word is correct.
Who/Whom wrote the letter?
For who/whom should I vote?
We all know who/whom wrote that story.
We want to know on who/whom the police were called.
Who vs. That vs. Which
Who refers to people. That and which refer to groups or things.
That introduces essential clauses while which introduces nonessential clauses.
NOTE: Essential clauses do not have commas surrounding them while nonessential clauses are surrounded by commas.
If this, that, these, or those has already introduced an essential clause, you may use which to introduce the next clause, whether it is essential or nonessential.
NOTE: Often, you can streamline your sentence by leaving out which.
http://www.grammarbook.com for more grammar rules.
Head-hopping is moving from one character’s viewpoint to another’s while in the same scene. If you are in “his” point of view, you cannot have him hearing her thoughts, only his own. He cannot know what “she” thinks, does, and sees, unless he witnesses it, or she tells him about it. His POV can only reveal what he can: see with his eyes, sense with his various senses, read, or already knows.
Only the POV character can tell their thoughts, feelings, knowledge, etc.
Constantly shifting POVs can irritate the reader if you only do it for a span of a sentence or paragraph. If you must shift POVs, create a scene break, and continue with that character’s POV for a while. Scene breaks need to be limited. Jumping between characters too much can keep your reader from “bonding” with a character. One POV per scene is good. Keeping one POV for at least 750-1500 words would be best, if you can’t keep them by chapters.
Remember, the person with the POV can only assume, but can’t know for sure, unless your character is a mind-reader.
Head-hopping jerks a reader from one character’s POV to another and disrupts the flow of your story. It pulls the reader from the story, and they don’t like that.
Usually, everything in a particular scene is observed through the eyes of only one character.
If the dialogue already shows/conveys screaming (“You idiot!”) then it is not necessary to add a tag line of she screamed.
Whenever possible, substitute characterization, emotion, story progression, or body language/attribute/action tags in place of dialogue tags.
Try avoiding as many dialogue tags as possible. If there are two people in a scene, and if it’s clear who is speaking, most dialogue tags are not necessary and should be left out.
Acceptable dialogue tags:
Unacceptable dialogue tags: yawned, smiled, nodded, laughed, grinned, sighed, or any other physical movement.
Action tag example:
“You idiot!” She slammed the door behind her.
Mark untied the restraints from her wrists. “I’ll hunt that bastard down if it’s the last thing I do.”
Cursing in your story:
Curse words should be kept to internal thought and dialogue where it will have more punch.
*Make sure sentences are clear, make sense (eyes don’t roam the streets or fall to a woman’s cleavage, gazes do. Otherwise, you are saying your characters eyes have jumped out of their sockets and are roaming the streets aimlessly or rolling around in a woman’s cleavage)
*Watch POV, only one per scene. If there is a short line or two of text in the wrong POV, it can easily be fixed by adding words like: as, seemingly, appeared, looked, apparent, apparently, obviously, obvious, etc. (He was surprised – He looked surprised, James felt sick – It was obvious to Tom that James felt sick). But if the text in the wrong POV is a paragraph or more long, highlight for the author to look at and fix accordingly. Povs in a story should be kept to 3 or 4 separate characters, too many can confuse the reader as to who the story is about and what the actual story is.
*Pay attention to dialogue and that each speaker’s dialogue is separate in paragraphs. Two characters should never speak in the same paragraph.
*Use active/present tense words instead of passive/past tense words (more ‘ing words than ‘ed words)
*Make passive voice an active wherever you can. Try to eliminate as many was, has been, had been, will be, being, began to, felt as if, etc. as possible.
*Take out chit-chat, wording that doesn’t really move the story along or grow your characters.
*No underlines, bolding, or all caps. Use italics for emphasis.
*If unsure of a word, spelling, sentence structure, etc., use the internet, research the information. Do not rely solely on Word’s spelling and grammar check. Grammarbook.com; Wikipedia.com; Merriam-webster.com; thesaurus.com; dictionary.com, etc. are great sites to use.
*If author is from another country, make sure spelling is American spelling, but do not change the author’s style or flavor otherwise.
*Make notes. Make sure manuscript is consistent throughout. (Jane becomes Jan and her green eyes are now brown by the end of the story. Also, if Mary tosses her hat on the ground and a paragraph later, she adjusts it on her head without stating that she ever picked it up, this needs corrected.)
*Keep a list of Trademarks referenced in manuscript.
*Watch for excessive/overuse/repetition of anything, including em dashes, ellipses, stuttering, tags, words/phrases/descriptions, talking in circles, etc.
*Watch for constant repetition of characters’ names, particularly during dialogue. When speaking to each other, we rarely call each other by name, especially more than once or twice. If there are only two people in a scene—one male and one female—he/him and she/her are sufficient, less distracting, and won’t slow down the reader.
*Sentence fragments should only be used for effect and in dialogue or direct thoughts.
*Point out plot weaknesses, farfetched/outrageous/unbelievable scenes/scenarios, incorrect facts/references, scenes and paragraphs that come across as mundane/boring, etc.
*Correct incorrect facts/references. This is fiction; however, you are trying to be as realistic as possible. You cannot have your character living in a 3 story home, on the beach, in south Florida and hiding in a basement from a hurricane. South Florida doesn’t have basements in 3 story homes built on the beach. South Florida is at (and in some cases, below) sea level, therefore, beach homes there cannot be built with basements, according to state code.
*Just so feathers aren’t being ruffled anywhere, fanfic references are to be avoided from now on. Even though it isn’t copyrighted material, some might still get miffed if their material is used. We’d like to avoid that issue.
*Using senses to describe an action scene, including love scenes, strengthens the story. Look at the scene and if it sounds weak, suggest sensory narration.
*Make sure that certain goals, motivation, and conflict/tension are present in every story and resolved in it’s entirety by the end of the story. The exception to this is when you are writing a series, and even then, it’s iffy.
*Characters should have a clearly defined role with motivation and purpose to move the story forward.
*Let author know if a sex scene needs more passion and/or sounds too clinical.
*Suggest revisions to character if they do not come off well. (No shrewish behavior from the heroine, unless it’s very clear she’s going to change by the end of the story.)
*Remember, this book is not your book or necessarily how you would write it. Allow the author’s voice to come through, loud and clear, while making it the best read you can.
Weak/Over-used Words: generally considered passive, weak, or over-used and should be taken out or replaced with other words whenever possible.
a bit a little a lot about actually
almost already appear as approximately
basically been began begin begun
being caused close to completely could
essentially even eventually exactly extremely
fairly finally get got had
half has have here highly
in into just just then kind of
knew knowing large like momentarily
mostly must nearly notice now
only out practically pretty quite
rather really seem(s) seen simply
slightly small so somehow something
sometime somewhat sort of start such
suddenly that then there therefore
thing to to be truly unbeknownst
utterly very was watch were
within would all names
Filler Words: similar to weak/over-used words. Eliminate and/or minimize as many filler words as possible. These are like empty calories.
that really while all had
his to from so little
which but and he by
into well then about was
the she for of just
as very were her they
in out up down it
Stall Phrases: Avoid stall phrases that slow down the action for no good reason.
attempted to going to reached for
seemed to started to thinking about
tried to wanted to
Be cautious of phrases starting with:
about to began to begin to begun to
could start to would
*In most cases, it’s better to have your character “do” instead of the above.
Commonly Misused Words and Phrases:
Accept: willingly receive something (accept a present)
Except: exclude something (I’ll take all of those books except the one with the red cover)
Advice: opinion, recommendation, suggestion
Advise: to Give advice, instruct, counsel, warn, notify.
Allude: refer to something indirectly or by suggestion. Hint, imply, insinuate, refer to.
Elude: escape, evade, avoid, shake off a pursuer.
Ambiguous: vague, unclear, hesitant.
Ambivalent: torn between opposing feelings, beliefs, views, motivations
Apart: separate, in two or more pieces (she pulled apart her sandwich to pick off the onions)
A part: an object or piece thereof (he ate a part of his orange)
Affect: is to influence someone
Effect: is a consequence
*The way you affect someone can have an effect on them.
Alright: considered non-standard – it should be all right.
Assure: to make secure, remove doubt, guarantee, promise, to give confidence.
Ensure: make certain/sure of a future event of condition (alternate spelling of insure)
Insure: provide compensation if a specified risk occurs
Capitol: a building, usually one that houses the legislative branch of a government,
and often one located in a capital city.
Capital: finances (capital gains), punctuation (begin a sentence with a capital letter, a
city where the capitol is located (capital city), and punishable by death (capital punishment.
Compare to: noticing similarities only
Compare with: noticing similarities and differences, both
Complement: (now rare) is something (or someone) that completes; the consummation;
fulfillment; totality; the full amount or number which completes something.
Compliment: praise, congratulations, encouragement, stating something nice.
Could of/Should of/Would of: do not use. The proper usage is could have, could’ve, should have, should’ve, would have, would’ve.
Cum: male semen, the substance
Come: move, arrive, appear, an action (he was about to come)
Desert: a hot, dry patch of sand.
Dessert: a sweet, fatty treat you have at the end of a meal
Disc: magnetic media device, music cd, dvd.
Disk: flat, round/circular object: frisbee, ufo, dinner plate.
*technically, both of these spellings are alternate spellings for each other and both refer to flat, round, circular objects. However, over the years, we use the “c” spelling for media devices and the “k” spelling for flat, round, circular objects that are Not media related.
Discrete: separate (move people into two discrete groups)
Discreet: secretive (very discreet when talking about her affair)
Disinterested: lacking interest, having no stake or interest in the outcome, free of bias, impartial
Uninterested: not concerned, unmotivated by personal interest
Emigrate: To leave the country in which one lives, especially one'snative country, in order to
Immigrate: To move into another country to stay there permanently
Elicit: to draw forth. to generate, obtain, or provoke as a response or answer.
Illicit: unlawful, criminal, illegal, prohibited, illegitimate.
Further: To support progress or growth of something; greater degree
Farther: physical distance
Empathy: the intellectual identification of the thoughts, feelings or state of another person;
capacity to understand another person’s point of view.
Sympathy: A feeling of pity or sorrow for the suffereing or distress of another; compassion. The
ability to share the feelings of another.
Fewer: refers to something that can be counted one-by-one
Less: a smaller amount of something
*you can have fewer candy bars, but like the dark chocolate one less than the milk chocolate.
Flair: a natural or innate talent or aptitude; a knack, distinctive style or elegance; panache
Flare: A burst (of fire or anger) or a widening of an object with an otherwise roughly constant
width, e.g. on the lower legs of trousers and jeans popular in the 70’s.
Forego: abandon, leave, precede, go before
Forgo: let pass, do without, refrain, abstain
i.e. is used to explain or clarify a statement by either (exhaustively) listing options or by
rephrasing the previous statement. Often confused with e.g.
e.g. Literally, “for example”. Used to introduce an example or list of examples to illustrate what
is being discussed.
Inflammable: (comparative more inflammable, superlative most inflammable) Capable of
burning; easily set on fire. Commonly confused with non-flammable
It’s: It is
Its: Belonging to it. (the heart has its reasons, and the mind has its)
Imply: hint at, suggest, allude to.
Infer: draw a conclusion based on clues, deduce, assume, conclude.
Inquire: to ask, investigate
Enquire: (alternate spelling of Inquire)
Lose: lose a game, didn’t win
Loose: relax, free from, slacken, release tension
May: possibility, wish, could, present of “might”
Might: strength, force (pushed with all her might); possibly (past of May)
Moral: ethic, virtue, something you want to teach your children
Morale: The capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others.
Stationary: fixed, immobile, changeless, not moving
Stationery: writing materials
Then: subsequently, next in order, soon afterward
Than: more, introduces a comparison (It took longer than that to finish)
There: a place, in relation to, in existence, (he sat over there / there are two apples in the basket /
Is there an answer to your question?)
Their: ownership, belonging to (They made up their own minds)
They’re: they are
To: directions, ratios, time; preceding (He went to the park / the score was ten to one)
Too: also, in addition, excessive, degree, more than enough, very
Two: the number 2
Lie: to be placed in horizontal position, place or situate, to give (false information), tell an
Lay: to put something down in a position of rest, leave something somewhere, to have sex with,
deposit an egg
Set: put down (set table with dishes or set down your glass), adjust (set the site on his gun),
prepare (set everything up for class), a collection of various objects (set of tools), scenery
for a film or play,
Sit: sit in a chair
Whose: The possessive form of who. Belonging to (whose wallet is this? This is the man whose
dog caused the accident. We saw several houses whose roofs are falling off)
Who’s: Who is.
Whoever vs Whomever:
Him + he = whoever
Him + him – whomever
Give it to __________________ asks for it first
Give it to him. He asked for it first
Therefore, Give it to whoever asks for it
We will hire ________________ you recommend.
We will hire him. You recommend him.
Therefore, We will hire whomever you recommend.
I, you, he, she, it, and they can all be used to replace who or whoever. These are subjective pronouns. They perform the action of the verb.
Me, us, you, him, her, and it can all be used to replace whom/whomever. These are objective pronouns because they are the object of the sentence; they receive the action of the verb.
Your: belonging to you, conveys familiarity and mutual knowledge (not your average show / that
is your book)
You’re: You are
Preferences of spelling/usage:
afterward Not afterwards
all right Not alright
backward Not backwards
blonde feminine use and general (her kids were all blonde)
blond masculine use
burned Not burnt
cell phone Not cellphone
check Not cheque
color Not colour
email Not e-mail
forward Not forwards
goodbye Not Good-bye
Internet Not internet or innernet
leaned Not leant
learned Not learnt
makeup Not make up or make-up (when referring to cosmetics)
maneuver Not manoeuvre
MP3 Not mp3
okay Not ok or OK
online Not on-line
recognize Not recognise
smelled Not smelt
stepbrother/sister Not step-brother or step-sister
T-shirt Not tee-shirt, tshirt or t-shirt
toward Not towards
U.S. or United States Not US
website Not web-site or web site
Hyphenated compounds (when used as adjectives, adverbs, or nouns):
Spaced compound words:
1621, Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy:
perform all those works of mercy, which Clemens Alexandrinus calls amoris et amicitiæ impletionem et extentionem, the extent and complement of love [...].
Solid compounds (whether used as adjectives, adverbs, or nouns):
2604 Merchant's Walk
Murfreesboro, TN 37128