If anything gets my family riled up, it has to be the misuse of the humble apostrophe.
My daughter, an English teacher, calls herself “The Apostrophe Nazi”. She delights in correcting errors wherever and whenever. My son even uses an apostrophe to abbreviate his name – Simon has become Sim’. It also annoys me when I see this poorly understood form of punctuation abused.
Imagine my horror, then, in reading this sentence in an email from a bookshop recently:
“Xxxx Booksellers would like to thank its’ regular and new clients for their support.”
That is a shocker!
I should be fair though; the humble apostrophe is probably the most misunderstood and misused form of punctuation in our language. Furthermore, the meaning of the sentence is still quite clear, so I’ll just let it rest. I make mistakes too – plenty of them.
- Use apostrophes correctly – an amusing article with many comments from my family.
- Writing hints – a list of writing hints from my archives.
- Apostrophes – the Wikipedia article on how to use them correctly.
Many would be writers fail before they start.
They fail because they have not learned the basics of the craft of writing. They assume that they can write a best seller on the basis of their ability to string together a few words. They have not done their apprenticeship in the craft of writing. Then they get upset because their manuscript gets rejected the first time they send it to a publisher.
Time for a reality check.
I read recently about a successful editor working for a large publishing company who stated that at least 80% of manuscripts fail in the first page or two and deserved to be rejected. That’s a staggering statistic. Novice writers are almost all rejected because they fail to study or understand the writing and publishing process.
This editor made some simple to follow observations:
- Follow the publisher’s guidelines to the letter. Most writers don’t bother to do this basic first step and so their manuscript will be rejected. That is the harsh reality whether they like it or not.
- Format the manuscript correctly. Presentation is everything. Most publishers have their own way they require a manuscript to be presented. Find out what that is and follow it.
- Check the grammar. A poor grasp of the English language, its structures, formalities and conventions will make it easy for the editor to reject a manuscript. If you lack confidence or knowledge in this area get someone to teach you – or find a book or course to help you.
- Check the spelling. Spelling mistakes can and must be avoided. Check every word, recheck and check again. When writing my current novel I’m on the 7th draft and I’m still finding typos.
- Check the punctuation. Again, check, double check and then some more. Get someone else to check the manuscript for you. Pay a professional copy-editor to check it for you. You will be amazed at how many simple errors can creep in under the radar.
In short – give yourself the best possible chance of having your manuscript accepted for publication.
My daughter is a secondary teacher of many years of experience. She sometimes calls herself “The Apostrophe Nazi” and is horrified by the abuse this poor little item of punctuation suffers. She has been known to openly correct the misuse of apostrophes on staff room notice boards, newsletters and other items on public display. She has been sorely tempted to carry a pen with her and correct the abuse of this form of punctuation in public places such as shops.
Imagine her horror a few days ago when I pointed out more errors on a public notice. We were on holidays in the Sydney and went for a day trip to the Blue Mountains. We were buying an afternoon tea treat in a small bakery. I was looking at the public notices in the window. On one of them – only a short notice mind you and I forget the intent of the notice – there were no less than six abuses of the use of the apostrophe.
Aaaaah! Her brain had trouble coping. She didn’t snap – but came close to it.
For further reading on this topic click here.