Creative writers sometimes mangle grammar on purpose or get creative with punctuation. At the drafting stage, we keep a dictionary and style manual at hand. When slips are unintended, we count on our copyeditors to catch them.
Like many copyeditors, I sometimes find myself enforcing rules I don’t fully agree with. For one thing, I wouldn’t want anyone who might know the applicable rule to think I’ve made a mistake.
A piece of bossy advice often given to creative writers is to sweep through your manuscripts before you submit them and delete certain words. “Just,” “so,” “very,” and “really” vie for the top target, but the most popular prohibition of all might be of the word “that.”
Recently, a question that went something like this appeared in a Facebook group for writers seeking help from book editors: Help with this sentence please! “Some advice, for whoever/whomever is interested.”
This month’s quiz focuses on adjectives, which are covered in CMOS paragraphs 5.68–96. Adjectives are words that describe things, like the word “favorite” in the heading above. To learn more about this descriptive part of speech, take the quiz.
People sometimes worry about honoring the personal pronouns of those who don’t identify with the gender binary. They’re concerned that using (for instance) “they/them” in place of “he/him” or “she/her” will be complicated or confusing.
I’ve used this space before to caution copyeditors against scrubbing voice and character out of fiction manuscripts by adhering too closely to a style manual.
For this month’s quiz we return to the grammar chapter—specifically, paragraphs 5.172–95, which cover prepositions. The main job of prepositions is to set up other words, an important job that usually goes unnoticed (except, maybe, at the end of a sentence).
If you work with words, you’re probably familiar with the related but supposedly antithetical concepts known as prescriptivism and descriptivism. And people take sides. Either you’re a stickler (you’re a prescriptivist) or you go with the flow (you’re a descriptivist).
Do you sometimes dither over whether to put a comma between two or more adjectives? Although the guidelines for deciding in CMOS work well for any kind of writing, there are times when creative writers prefer to ignore them.