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Hi! I’m Kathy Ide. Iin 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 where I teach). 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 give an unprofessional appearance to publishers.


You don’t want an acquisitions editor or someone on a publishing committee looking at your manuscript and thinking, “You know, this author has some good things to say, but she sure doesn’t know a comma from a semicolon.”






Do not use an apostrophe when pluralizing. Here are some words people tend to incorrectly insert apostrophes into:

            dos and don’ts

            no ifs, ands, or buts

            the 1980s

            the Joneses

            “I had to go to three DMVs to get my license renewed.”


Exception: To avoid confusion, use an apostrophe-s to pluralize lowercase letters and abbreviations with two or more periods (or that have both capital and lowercase letters).

            x’s and y’s                  

a’s and b’s                   

M.A.’s and PhD’s






ensure (verb) means “to assure,” “to secure,” “to make something certain or sure.”

“Molly wanted to ensure that her manuscript was received by the publisher.”


insure (verb) means to guard, protect, safeguard, or shield.

“Allstate insured the property against theft and vandalism, but not terrorism.”





among vs. between


Things are divided between two people or things, but among more than two. Thus, “The royalties will be divided equally between Megan, Becky and Connie” implies that the money is to be split into two equal portions. Megan gets half; Becky and Connie split the other half. (The missing comma between Becky and Connie also supports the claim that Megan gets half while Becky and Connie split the other half.)





all right

Most dictionaries list alright as a legitimate word, but most book publishers do not consider it acceptable. Unless you are writing for a specific publisher, and you’re certain that publisher is all right with alright, spell it as two words: all right.


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