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Hi! I’m Kathy Ide. In addition to being a published author, I’m a full-time professional freelance editor. For CAN, I’m blogging about “PUGS”–Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling…tips for writers based on the most common mistakes I see in the manuscripts I edit. Each blog post will have one tip for each of the four categories, as well as a reason it’s important for authors to “polish their PUGS.” (For more PUGS tips, check out my website,, or get a copy of my book “Polishing the PUGS” (available through the website or at the conferences where I teach). If you’re interested in working with a freelance editor (or know someone who is), e-mail me through the contact page of my website, Or go to to get referrals to other established, professional editorial freelancers. Or go to if you’d like an overall critique. If you’re a freelance editor yourself, or think you might be interested in that field, check out


Details Are Important

How much time and effort have you put into the other aspects of your writing? Is your manuscript not worth polishing? If your craft was pottery, would you go to the effort of creating a beautiful pot and then not varnish it? If you made an afghan, would you not tie off the last row? If you sewed a garment, would you not finish the seams and hems?

And if you did create something without finishing it properly, would you put out your unfinished craft for sale to strangers, expecting people to pay you for it?


Pluralizing Words

Do not use an apostrophe for most plural words. Examples:
dos and don’ts
no ifs, ands, or buts
the 1980s
the Joneses
five Toms, four Dicks, and three Harrys
I had to go to two DMVs to get my license renewed.

Exception: To avoid confusion, pluralize single lowercase letters as well as abbreviations with two or more periods (or that have both capital and lowercase letters) by adding apostrophe-s. Examples:
x’s and y’s
a’s and b’s
p’s and q’s
M.A.’s and PhD’s



aid (verb) means “to provide what is useful or necessary.”
“One nurse can aid several patients during one shift.”

aid (noun) means:
“a subsidy granted for a specific purpose” (Example: “financial aid”)
“the act of helping” or “help given” (“providing aid,” as in money or supplies)
“something by which assistance is given” (Example: “an aid to understanding”)

aide (noun) means:
“a person who acts as an assistant.”
“The aide helped the teacher hand out tests to the students.”



that vs. which

That is used with “restrictive clauses,” phrases that narrow a category or identify a particular item in that category.
“Manuscripts that are not solicited by the publisher will be returned to sender.”

In this example, the category is manuscripts. The “not solicited” phrase narrows the category to unsolicited manuscripts. If you took out the phrase, you’d have “Manuscripts will be returned to sender,” which would be different.

Which is used with “nonrestrictive clauses,” phrases that add something about an item already identified.
“My manuscript, which was not solicited by the publisher, was returned to me.”

The item—”my manuscript”—is already identified. The “not solicited” phrase adds additional information. You could take out the phrase without changing the meaning of the sentence. “My manuscript was returned to me.”

NOTE: Which clauses require commas; that clauses do not use commas.



dining (I see this spelled with two n’s all the time, probably because dinning is also a word, so spell check doesn’t catch it.)


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