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, 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 the Christian Editor Network 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 The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network.
Use a comma after exclamatory oh or ah if a slight pause is intended.
“Oh, what a frightening cover!” Marilyn said when she saw Jim Bell’s latest novel.
“Ah, how charming!” Rachel said when she finished Deb Raney’s sequel.
No comma after vocative O or Oh.
“O mighty king!” “Oh great warrior!”
“Oh yes,” “Oh yeah,” and “Ah yes” are written without a comma. When spoken like a single word, “Yes sir” and “No ma’am” may be written without a comma. If “sir” is used in direct address, use the comma.
“No, sir, I disagree.”
breath (always a noun) refers to the inhalation/exhalation of air.
“Tamara’s breath was frozen in the cold air.”
breath (noun) can also mean “a slight indication or suggestion.”
“The faintest breath of a scandal.”
breathe (always a verb) means “to inhale or exhale air.”
“If you breathe deeply you will feel better.”
breathe (verb) can also mean “to feel free of restraint.”
“Martha needed room to breathe.”
breathe (verb) can also mean “to permit passage of air.”
“This fabric really breathes.”
breathe (verb) can also mean “to utter or express.”
“Don’t breathe a word,” Kay begged.
Opening with Pronouns
As a general rule, you don’t want to start a new chapter or section with a pronoun. If you open with “He pulled out a gun and aimed it at her head,” your reader will have no idea who these characters are. Chapter and section breaks often indicate a change in time, place, and/or point of view, so your reader cannot assume that the people referred to in the new chapter/section are the same ones talked about in the last one.
NOTE: If you’re writing a suspense novel, you may want to keep the identity of a character a mystery. This is tricky, but can be done if you know what you’re doing. If this is your goal, try using a first-person pronoun (I, me) for that character, or an ambiguous noun “the man” (or better yet, something more descriptive like “the handsome foreigner”) instead of just “he” or “she.”
airmail (one word)