What's the Right Way to Use a Semicolon?

What's the Right Way to Use a Semicolon?

You can't use a screwdriver to hammer a nail. Likewise, you can't use a semicolon to introduce a list. Here's how to use your grammatical tools the right way.

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Apostrophes: How & When to Use Them

Apostrophes: How & When to Use Them

Apostrophes are like weeds. Sometimes they crop up in the most unexpected places. How do you know when and where to use an apostrophe? In this article, we set the record straight.

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Should You Use an Exclamation Point?

Should You Use an Exclamation Point?

Exclamation points punctuate the end of a sentence meant to display admiration or express excitement, astonishment, or some other strong emotion. Some people go mad with their exclamation marks!!! (See what we did there?) In this article, we discuss when, and when not, to use this pesky punctuation.

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When To Use (And When to Avoid) The Apostrophe

When To Use (And When to Avoid) The Apostrophe

The apostrophe, when used correctly, can add clarity to a piece of writing. But when misused, the results can be confusing. We take a look at getting it right.

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When to Use To vs. Too vs. Two

When to Use To vs. Too vs. Two

To, too, two. We teach you how to decide which of these pesky little words to use in specific situations.

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Why an Editing Tool is Like a Hovering Librarian

Why an Editing Tool is Like a Hovering Librarian

Imagine a kindly, bespectacled woman with fresh, minty breath hovering over your shoulder as you pour words out on the screen. Her critical task is to help you make every word choice the best and to guide you to clearer, more concise sentences. She has your literary best interests at heart.

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It’s vs. Its: Let’s Get It Straight

It’s vs. Its: Let’s Get It Straight

Contractions. Possessives. When do you use an apostrophe? Follow these rules on *it’s* versus *its* and self-edit with confidence.

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Inventing Characters: A Character is What He Does, His Motives, and His Past

Inventing Characters: A Character is What He Does, His Motives, and His Past

Characters in books give us insight into the human condition. We learn how people behave and what’s in human nature from our favorite characters in books and on the big screen. Orson Scott Card says out of the multiple ways to get to know someone, the most powerful and the ones that make the strongest impression are: - What your character does - What his or her motives are - What they’ve done in the past Let’s look at these and a few other ways of getting to know your characters.

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Exclamation Points Don’t Have to be Useless!

Exclamation Points Don’t Have to be Useless!

Cursed exclamation points! What purpose do they serve in modern literature? They’re still taught as basic punctuation, but their existence is frowned upon. Last I heard, no more than two should be used in an entire novel. Two? That’s it? Even for thrillers and horror?! This topic outrages me to the point of using them after every sentence, even the questions.

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What is Hyphenation?

What is Hyphenation?

Compound adjectives are made up of a combination of *noun* plus *adjective*, *noun* plus *participle*, or *adjective* plus *participle*. More often than not, these are hyphenated. Let’s look at a few.

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Should Dialogue Stand Alone?

Should Dialogue Stand Alone?

How you format dialogue is a matter of style rather than a rule. There are a few guidelines, however, that make dialogue easier for your reader to follow. And we want our work to be easy to read. Some novelists like Cormac McCarthy do their own thing with dialogue. For example, McCarthy doesn’t use quotation marks, which is his style of choice. Most of us need to follow our publishing house’s rules, or at least accepted standards. Here are 3 unequivocal standards for starting new paragraphs in dialogue.

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When to  Use Italics & When to Underline

When to Use Italics & When to Underline

To italicize or underline. That is the question. How do you handle the titles of magazines, books, newspapers, academic journals, films, television shows, long poems, plays, operas, works of art like paintings and sculptures, music albums, etc.?

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How to Punctuate and Format Inner Dialogue

How to Punctuate and Format Inner Dialogue

Inner dialogue is an excellent way to give your readers a peek inside the heart and mind of your characters. Readers can’t get this depth of character strictly from the actions you include in your story. You should give them inner thoughts to create 3-D characters with which your readers will fall in love. The bad news is that there is no hard and fast rule about formatting inner dialogue. Depending on which author, editor, or publisher you talk to, there are as many ways to handle inner dialogue as there are people writing it.

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Hyphen, En Dash & Em Dash: Do You Know the Difference?

Hyphen, En Dash & Em Dash: Do You Know the Difference?

Are you aware of these three little lines and how they’re used in punctuation? -Hyphen ⎻En Dash —Em Dash Let’s talk a little more about each.

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When Do I Need to Hyphenate?

When Do I Need to Hyphenate?

Depending on who you subscribe to, you may hear some very different ideas concerning when and how to hyphenate. We’re here to set the record straight: When in doubt, look it up. Yep. This is the one form of punctuation that you’re best off looking up if you’re unsure. And another complication is that various style manuals conform to different rules. Add to that the state of fluctuation around certain words that can either be hyphenated, two separate words, or written together as one. Click through for some practical examples.

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