"MaryHi! 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.



Letters as Letters

Italicize individual letters of the alphabet (unless used in a common expression).


the letter s

a capital M

He signed the paperwork with an X.

Mississippi is spelled with four i’s and four s’s.

Mind your p’s and q’s

Dot the i’s and cross the t’s






coarse (adjective): not fine


“coarse cloth”

“coarse language”


course (noun): a path, a customary procedure, or part of a meal


“in due course”

“of course”

“collision course”

“correspondence course”

“golf course”


course (verb): to pursue or move swiftly


“Airplanes coursed across the sky above her apartment every day.”

“Hot blood coursed through Brenda’s veins as she wrote her suspense novel.”




Subject/Verb Agreement

Make sure the subject and the verb agree in number (singular or plural).


“The synopsis and sample chapter (two things) have to be mailed by Tuesday.”

“Each proposal (singular) has to be mailed separately.”

“Every contest entry (singular) has to be received before the deadline.”

“None (not one, singular) of the stories in that book is written in present tense.”


When a subject is followed by a phrase that refers to another entity (with or without commas), the added phrase does not change the quantity of the original subject.


“Terry’s bad grammar, as well as her typos, needs to be corrected.”

“The suspenseful plot combined with unexpected twists makes this a great book.”


Some collective nouns can be treated as either plural or singular, depending on whether you want the focus to be on the unit or on the individual members.


“The couple has a young daughter.” (refers to the two people as a single unit)

“The couple get along well together.” (focus is on two individuals, plural “they”)

“My family is very close.” (focus is on the unit, which is singular)

“My family want the best for me.” (reference is to several people, plural “they”)



freelance/freelancer/freelancing (no hyphen)


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