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.



A colon introduces something (or a series of things) that illustrates or amplifies what is written before the colon. Example:

The panel consisted of three agents: Ned Aloof, Terry Friendly, and Mel Charming.


Capitalization with Colons

The first word following a colon is lowercased unless (a) the first word after the colon is a proper noun, (b) the colon introduces two or more sentences in close sequence, (c) the colon announces a definition, or (d) the colon precedes a speech in dialogue or an extract.

“Latisha had two choices: Should she try to write a steamy romance novel? Or should she go for a self-help book about punctuation addiction?”

Michael: My book has already been printed.

Timothy: Then you can’t correct the error until the second printing.



all ready/already

all ready means “completely ready,” as in “We are all ready to be published.”

already (adverb) means “previously,” as in “My book has already sold a thousand copies.”



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

Never start a sentence with a conjunction. (See CMS 5.191.)

A conjunction is a word that defines the relationship between different units of thought. Examples: and, so, but, if, or. Writers are often taught that beginning a sentence with a conjunction makes it incomplete, a sentence fragment. And sometimes that’s true.

Example: “Try to catch me. If you can.”

But sentence fragments are perfectly acceptable (if not overused, confusing, or unclear). Experienced writers may deliberately use the occasional sentence fragment for emphasis or to create a particular tone. (Note, however, that a dash can also be used for emphasis, and is preferable if the effect is the same.)

In many cases, opening with a conjunction does not turn a sentence into a fragment; it simply serves to connect the current information more strongly to the information that comes before it. Beginning a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but, or however is sometimes the best way to express the sentence’s relationship with the previous one. As with sentence fragments, avoid overdoing this type of sentence construction.




Spell as one word, whether used as a noun or adjective.


2 thoughts on “PUGS Pointers #17


January 4, 2013 - 22 : 13 : 43

I sell articles through Constant-Content and one of their editors once sent back my work because of how I used “backyard”.
I was told if you say “backyard poo” it is one word, but if you say “he is in the back yard”, it is two words. I have since been following this rule. What am I to believe?


Kathy Ide

January 7, 2013 - 13 : 06 : 48

Some article publishers go by The Associated Press Stylebook (and Webster’s New World College Dictionary, which AP recommends), rather than The Chicago Manual of Style (and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which CMOS recommends). CMOS is the standard for book publishing, and many popular-style magazines also use it. Most journalistic-style publications use AP. So it’s important to know which style guide a publisher uses. And always go by the most recent edition, because some rules do change from one edition to the next.
My PUGS Pointers are based on the latest editions of CMOS and Webster’s Collegiate. In most cases, the rules and spellings are the same as AP and New World. In the case of “backyard,” the reference books agree.
The AP Stylebook is reprinted every year, but the one I have (which is 2010) says “backyard” is one word in all uses, noun and adjective. Webster’s Collegiate says the same.
Most publishers have their own “house style”–select exceptions to the standard rules. But as an author/contributor, you can’t go wrong if you follow the standard guidelines. Publishers know their “house rules” are exceptions, so they don’t mind making the changes.
If a fellow writer (or even an editor) tells you to do something that contradicts what the industry-standard reference books say (unless it’s a publisher’s house style), you’ll always be safe by following the current edition of the appropriate reference book for your type of writing.


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