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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, 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 could cost you money.

If you decide to hire someone to edit or proofread your manuscript, and you haven’t fixed your punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling, you will be paying extra for someone else to do that for you. And how will you know if that editor is right?



Commas with Dates

Dates in text include a comma only if the month and then the date precede the year.

“On October 10, 1980, Donita submitted her fourth book in the series.”


When using only the month and year (or date, then month, then year), do not use a comma.

“Copyright October 1980” or “On 6 October 1924 Angela arrived in Istanbul.”



For Books: According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:

backseat (noun)

“Henry found a wad of gum on the backseat.”


back-seat (adjective)

“Terrence was a back-seat driver.”


For Articles: Per Webster’s New World College Dictionary, spell as two words (back seat) when used as a noun to mean “a secondary or inconspicuous position.” Example:

“Food takes a back seat to romance when you’re in love.”


Dangling Modifiers

When you start a sentence with a modifying word or phrase, the next thing in the sentence is what must be modified by that word or phrase. A “dangling modifier” is a phrase that does not clearly and sensibly modify the appropriate word.

Example: “Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the Mustang seemed to run better.”

A Mustang cannot change its own oil. So you’d want to rewrite that as:

“Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, Sandra found she got much better gas mileage.”



For Books: babysit, babysat, babysitting, babysitter

For Articles: baby-sit, baby-sitting, baby-sat, baby sitter


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