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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 confusion.

My older son, Tom, is a very busy professional, so a lot of our communication takes place via e-mail. One Sunday, I asked him what he wanted me to make for dinner that evening. His response was:

When you decide what you can say I decided this and if it’s not OK that’s OK.

It took me a while to decipher that. And when I asked my son for permission to quote it, his response was, “Did I write that? What on earth does it mean?” Even he didn’t know! Well, after reading that line several times, I came up with this:

When you decide what, you can say, “I decided this,” and if it’s not OK, that’s OK.

Pretty confusing without the punctuation, is it?



Spacing Between Sentences

In material that will be typeset (books or articles), one space, not two, follows a period (or any other punctuation mark) at the end of a sentence.



back door/backdoor

    back door (noun)

“Randy pounded on Jim’s back door.”

     backdoor (adjective) means “indirect” or “devious”

          “She suspected the men were involved in some kind of backdoor operation.”



fewer vs. less

    Fewer refers to quantities/numbers.

“If you proofread your work carefully, you will get fewer rejections.”

    Less refers to amounts.

“First drafts require less work than rewrites.”



harebrained (not hairbrained)


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