Since long before the days of email, the Manuscript Editing Department at the University of Chicago Press has had the honor of replying to comments and questions from users of The Chicago Manual of Style, usually typed but sometimes written in longhand or even called in by phone.
Q. Would you add a comma before the quotation marks in the following sentences?
In the writers’ groups where I hang out online, these queries are evergreen: How do I know if I need a copyeditor before I submit my work to an agent or editor? How do I find a good copyeditor? How much does copyediting cost?
Earlier this year, Fiction+ considered whether a novel should have a table of contents. Although it might seem to be a matter of personal preference, there are strong practical reasons for including or not including a TOC, depending on a book’s genre and format.
Careless quoting is a writing crime. Fiction or nonfiction, a writer must be scrupulous in quoting words precisely and crediting their source. Most publishing contracts hold the author liable for misrepresentations and plagiarism, but even without that legal pressure, a writer, of all people, should naturally respect the intellectual property of others.
Not all fictional characters are meant to be smooth-tongued and lyrical in their speech. Rather, just like us, they sometimes mumble or stumble. Giving a character flawed speech is a way to make dialogue more realistic. And this very human kind of talking often involves the use of interjections.
A chapter is a chunk of a book that comes to a recognizable end, usually marked by a page break or by an extra space followed by a new numbered or titled chapter. Chapters give readers of long works a place to pause. They provide a rhythm to the experience of reading.
Although some believe that the subjunctive mood in English is dying, many of us use it all the time, whether we know it or not. And that means the subjunctive is right for fiction, even in the mouth of a character who wouldn’t know a subjunctive from a subplot.
From our own reading, most of us know that some paperback and hardcover novels have a table of contents page in the front and some don’t. Lurking online, I perceive a widespread notion that tables of contents are old-fashioned and pointless for fiction.
One of my favorite MS Word tricks allows a novelist (or any book writer) to view and organize their chapters in the Navigation pane (an option under the View tab). Using this feature, I can see all my chapter titles at a glance, and I can go instantly to the one I want by clicking on its title.