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Hi! I’m Kathy Ide, and 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 I teach at). If you’re interested in working with a freelance editor (or know someone who is), e-mail me at Or go to to get referrals to other established, professional editorial freelancers. If you’re a freelance editor yourself, or think you might be interested in that field, check out


PUGS errors can cause miscommunication.

If a will stated, “The inheritance will be divided equally between Tammy, Vicki and Mary,” do you realize that Tammy would be entitled to half of the money, and that Vicki and Mari would each get a fourth? Why not equal thirds? Because the word between indicates that the inheritance is to be split into two parts. For more than two, among would be appropriate. Since there’s no comma between Vicki and Mary, those two heirs would have to split one half between themselves. This may not be what the writer of the will intended. But grammatically, that’s what this sentence indicates.

Don’t let PUGS errors create miscommunication between you and your reader.



Serial Commas

In a series of three or more elements, separate the elements with commas.

FOR BOOKS, when a conjunction (and, for, or, nor, etc.) joins the last two elements in a series, always use a comma before the conjunction.*

Example: “Frank, Greg, and Ken argued over whether to give their wives copy paper, printing cartridges, or writers conference tuition for their birthdays.”

*See The Chicago Manual of Style and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style.

FOR ARTICLES, leave out the comma before and (or another conjunction) in a series unless doing so would cause confusion or ambiguity. (See The Associated Press Stylebook.)



a while/awhile

a while (noun) means “a period of time.”

“Marilynn spent a while editing her manuscript.”


awhile (adverb) means “for a period of time.”

(NOTE: for is part of the meaning.)

“Mallory asked me to stay awhile.


Rule of thumb: If you’ve got a preposition before awhile, split it into two words.



as vs. like

Use as when comparing phrases and clauses that contain a verb.

“Jeanie proofreads her work carefully as she should.”


Use like to compare nouns and pronouns.

“Tracey writes like a pro.”



barbed wire (not barb wire)

iced tea (not ice tea)


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