The New York Times SPEAKS!

If you’re like me, you do look to The New York Times for punctuation guidance, even if it does seem like “newspaper style” has taken on a life of its own (which frankly I’m sorry to see).

I just read a story and here’s how The New York Times puts together a plural acronym:


Yes! Caps, of course, but what about those periods! And then the trailing lowercase “s.”

Interesting. Okay, what are our options? What are our choices?


CEO’s…WRONG. One letter plus apostrophe plus “s” is the plural  for a single letter or single number (X’s, I’s and T’s), but CEOs is three letters, which gives credence to the “CEOs” form.

But what about the periods? Well, let’s ask ourselves: What does the acronym stand for? This acronym is “Chief Executive Officer,” which is a mouthful, but since I know a) we use the expression “CEO” all the time and b) it is commonly accepted: I could say “CEO” and be understood by a substantial part of the population. So why the periods? I’m for streamlining the whole kit and kaboodle, so my personal preference would be CEOs.

You know what? I’ll ask my buddy at the NYTimes and get an opinion: what triggers the use of periods with a multi-level acronym, or are periods between letter combinations of two letters and up—C.E.O.s—the style right now?

So, NYTimes’ style says acronyms use periods between the capital letters and no apostrophe accompanies the lowercase “s” in the plural: C.E.O.s. Hmm. Still not enthused about the periods.

Will report back.

Red-Line Editing: Worst Offender of the Month


I rarely get too upset when I read bad content anymore. It seemed as though I’d plumbed the depths. But, no! Just when I think I’ve seen the worst, the depths get a little deeper! Here’s a new low! Steady yourself!

Montana Directory Your one-stop destination for anything you can think about montana. This Montana Directory is designed to help its users find the montana information, articles, source, companies, products and services.*

“Montana” typed as “montana” was red-lined in this content, so why wasn’t it corrected? I don’t see how somebody got this through spell-check. How can such a basic error, jaw-droppingly unforgivable for any reason but all the more so because it is this organization’s home state, get past anyone drawing breath? This is nuts!

Hey! Since when is the name of one of these United States of America not a proper noun? I mean, since when is the name of a state not capitalized? We learned that when, in second grade? First grade?

Okay, let me put this more positively: always capitalize the name of a state. There are no exceptions to this rule. This should have been “Montana” throughout. Capital “M” always.

Here’s the rule: You always capitalize a proper noun. A proper noun is a word like the name of a state (you moron!), or someone’s name, or, in the case of a “specialty” situation, a concept, like an acronym. Other examples of a proper noun would be the name of a company, a street name, or a trademarked term.

At any rate, I never thought I’d ever have to chide anyone (much less an educated nonprofit’s website editor, someone who should know better) about this fundamental mistake.

So—drum roll, please!—the “Red-Line Editing: Worst Offender of the Month” award goes to a religious nonprofit’s website that I visited five minutes ago, which shall go unnamed. Tsk, tsk.

*(Oh, how often do you really get to use an asterisk in writing! Love it!)

Rule: use asterisks rarely, if ever. What this rare asterisk means is that I’m giving you notice that “I changed the name of the state.”

I won’t tell you where the material I post comes from, though you may be able to find out.

It’s like this: I’m not trying to embarrass; I’m trying to educate.

I was very free with the italics in this post, wasn’t I? Well, I guess I’ll put it down to having an “italics kind of day.”


The NUMBER ONE RULE when writing content.

Gee, it’s so simple: put your content into spellcheck.

Last week I got three emails (the same email, three times) from an organization that is trying to get me to attend one of its events. The keynote speaker is from Australia. The word “Australia” was misspelled once, twice, three times!

How does that happen? How can an organization with any claim to professionalism misspell “Australia”?

It wasn’t surprising to me when I found that a quick look at the website promoting the event showed numerous misspellings, punctuation and grammar errors, and just plain sloppy writing.

Moral of the story: use spellcheck. Spellcheck will help you identify many of the common writing problems, though not, of course, all of them. That’s your job!

August 24 Horrible-Publisher Quiz with Answers!

It might seem like I’m poking fun at this publisher (poor publisher!) or being mean, but the fact of the matter is that sloppy writing from a publisher is inexcusable. If you aren’t at least competent in your profession, you’ve got no business hanging out your shingle, passing yourself off as a professional, and taking money from gullible rubes.

1.    If you have a book that you think fits with our theme of ABC authors, ABC books and ABC stories; call or email to begin a conversation. [This nasty sentence appeared twice!]
Why the semicolon? It’s so wrong! Just a comma, please. Semicolons divide complete sentences, and that introductory clause is not a complete sentence.
2.    At XYZ we believe in a collaborative process whether we are publishing tweets, blogs or books.
I’d stick a comma after XYZ and a comma after “process.” Plus, as is well known, I like a serial comma, so I’d stick a comma after “blogs” as well.
3.    XYZ publishes: a few books each year, several websites and social media posts for authors, business owners and others.
Why is that colon there?
4.    She came to XYZ and after editing, editing we have designed the cover and interior text pages.
5.    With a BA in Journalism, a talent for design and a lifelong career in journalism, marketing and public relations, MNO is able to provide a quality product in content and design and a full array of marketing to help books be in the hands of readers.
If you say so. I especially dislike that “full array of marketing to help books be in the hands of readers” phrase. Yuck.
6.    XYZ is an offshoot of XYZ Communications operating from 1990 to 2005 as a marketing/desktop publishing/business consulting services company in the STU area.
I’d stick a comma after “communications,” take out the “operating,” and put in “which operated.” This is some really lousy writing.
7.    People here and from away love ABC. We love ABC for its people, beaches, rocky shores, lighthouses, mountains, trails, wild edibles and , did I say, its people.
Well, there is the extra space between “and” and the comma, but the whole thing stinks.
8.    An active community member she co¬chaired the rehabilitation effort of the RST and guided the planning and creation of two riverside parks at each end.
“An active community member” is what’s called an “introductory phrase.” It needs a comma after it. There’s also a space on one side of the hyphen in “co-chaired.” Sloppy.
9.    Many people have purchased Wild DEF of Maine: A Useful Guide by Timmy Smith.
Why is “by Timmy Smith” in italics? It’s not part of the title. I know, because I checked.
10.    Poison ivy, virgin’s bower (wild clematis, a vining plant of edges and woodland trails), often mistakenly called “poison oak” and several other plants can cause mild to severe reactions in people.
This needs a rewrite. The easiest fix is to include the “mistakenly called” phrase inside the parentheses, and put the comma after the last parenthesis.
11.    The first name is the genus, or general family and the second name tells something specific about the plant.
Need another comma after “family,” which is part of the parenthetical phrase “or general family.”
12.    Along with two others she founded and serves as a member of the board of Save Our RST.Org to ensure the maintenance of the historic RST designed and built bridge connecting the two towns.
I’d suggest a comma after the introductory phrase, “along with two others.” “.Org” shouldn’t be capitalized. And, here’s an example of the suspended hyphen rule: RST-designed and –built bridge.
13.    Visit Berlin, XYZ and travel in time through the years!
If we were talking about Berlin, Germany, we wouldn’t need to say “Germany.” In this case, “Berlin” is a tiny town in a specific state, so we need the state specified, which we have, but we also need a comma after the state, which lots of people forget.
14.    From school–s, to factories, to founding families, to all the minutiae that create a town—Frontier to Industrial City provides a clear picture of the many facets of Thomaston during its transformation.
That first dash is a) incorrect, and b) incorrectly placed. The title of the book needs italics.
15.    Immerse yourself in the 17th Century South with either of these deftly written books.
Since “17th century” modifies “South,” you should write “17th century-South.” And why is “century” capitalized?
16.    Through perseverance, back-breaking work, bravery and sometimes luck¬—the family beat the odds and held onto the their land for centuries.
I would have used a comma, not a dash, and it looks as though a hyphen is joined with a dash there; I’m not 100% sure what’s going on. Plus, there’s that “the their,” bit, which is obviously a mistake. But, you know, spellcheck picked that up! So use spellcheck before you hit “publish”! Spellcheck isn’t perfect, but it’ll save you from looking like an idiot more often than not.
17.    Read about and see ABC people at their finest—everyday hard at work, ready to lend a hand and creating a better world—right here at home in ABC.
“Everyday” as one word means commonplace, nothing special: an everyday dress, an everyday meal. “Every day” means, well, every day. Plus, I think “hard at work every day” sounds better.
18.    This trilogy AT, BC and RR, chronicles many of the same quirky characters and much of the landmarks in this mystery set in post Vietnam War rural ABC.
It’s “post-Vietnam War,” with a hyphen. And I’m not fond of the “much of the landmarks” phrase; I think you need to stick with the “many”: many landmarks. “Much landmarks” is incorrect, even though I can’t—at the moment—put my finger on exactly why….
19.    Enjoy these tales as they takes you around the world and back to ABC with nonstop action revealed through Shoot’s prose—that like, her poetry, is, “careful language, precise, with a sparse beauty.”
They “takes” you? Hey, this is a PUBLISHER’ s writing. I’d take out the commas after “like” (whaat?) and “is,” too: you need a comma to introduce dialog, but this is just an unattributed quote.
20.    You can either pay by credit card, Visa, Mastercard, Discover or Amex, or you can setup a Paypal account at your time of purchase.
“Setup” as one word is a noun: the setup for the disc jockey was perfect. “Set up” as two words is the verb, which is what you need here.
21.    No credit information will ever be sent to us directly to help insure your privacy.
The word “insure” is only ever used in the context of insurance; here, you need “ensure.” I think I’d stick a comma after “directly,” too.
22.    PayPal uses the best commercially available technology and procedures to protect the security of your online transactions. Review their Data Security and Encryption if you have further questions.
Paypal is a company. It is singular. It is an “it.” You cannot use “their” to describe a company.
23.    At XYZ, we publish through twitter, blogs, websites, books and more.
“Twitter” is a proper noun. The verb “tweet” though, should be lowercase.

Gotta love this guy!

There’s one particular fellow who is pretty well known (to hear him tell it, he’s a world famous, best-selling author) and I just love him. Every email I get from him is rife with basic punctuation and grammar mistakes, and many an quiz has been drawn largely or entirely from his material.

Here’s a great example of one of about the dozen or so mistakes in this one email, but this one is especially awful:

When you join Brendon and I for this interview, you’ll discover:

  • My PROVEN 4-step process for writing a book and getting it published. I use this EVERY time I write a book – and you can use it, too

It should, of course, be “Brendon and me.” You know why? Well, here’s the test:

When you join Brendon for this interview…

So far, so good.


When you join I for this interview…

Oh, no! You have to write this:

When you join me for this interview…

People think that using the “I” makes them sound smarter, but, no.

And for someone who is trying to get me to pay to learn from him, to sit at his feet and absorb his wisdom, for someone who claims to be a best-selling author to write this way, well, this kind of writing is inexcusable.