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. (For more PUGS tips, check out my website, www.KathyIde.com, 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, www.KathyIde.com. Or go to www.ChristianEditor.com to get referrals to other established, professional editorial freelancers. Or go to www.christianmanuscriptcritique.com 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 www.TheChristianPEN.com.


Apostrophes for Years

If years are abbreviated to two numerals, they should be preceded by an apostrophe.

Example: Kimberly graduated with the class of ’82.


NOTE: If you’re using “curly quotes,” make sure the apostrophes (and single quotation marks) are curled in the right direction.

’82, not ‘82

’tis, not ‘tis




elusive (adjective) means difficult to grasp, isolate, or identify.

“Her novel contained so many elusive concepts I had difficulty following the plot.”

“The elusive criminal led the search party further into the woods.”


illusive (adjective) means based on or producing illusion; deceptive.

“The murderer’s illusive clues took the detective on several wild goose chases.”


Just remember: elusive is the adjective form of the verb elude (meaning avoid, escape).

illusive is the adjective form of illusion (meaning deceiving, misleading).



Generations of English teachers have taught students certain rules that are either personal preferences or rules that have changed over time. For example:

Never split an infinitive. (See CMS 5.160.)

An infinitive is the to form of a verb: to go, to holler, to whisper, to study. Splitting an infinitive means to put some word (usually an adverb) between the to and the verb: to quickly go, to loudly holler, to quietly whisper, to avidly study.

Rule of thumb: If it’s just as easy to word something in a way that avoids splitting an infinitive, do so—if for no better reason than because some readers, editors, and proofreaders will fault you if you don’t. However, if doing so interrupts the flow, or makes comprehension difficult, go ahead and split that infinitive.



Whenever two spellings are given in the dictionary, the first one listed is almost always the preferred spelling. For example:

amid (not amidst)

among (not amongst)

backward (not backwards)

forward (not forwards)

gray (not grey)

till (not ’til )

toward (not towards)


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