How to Use Quotation Marks

On my to-do list was a note to write you a post about the correct use of quotation marks. Then I discovered that Jonathon Owen over at Arrant Pedantry had already done so. His article is useful and thorough, so I’ll send you over there to learn How to Use …

What to Do with Hyphens

The guidelines for hyphenation are complex and inconsistent. At least copyeditors are kept in business, but it can be frustrating for a writer to understand when to hyphenate and when not. Hyphenation errors are among the most common spelling problems I see. Yes, spelling. Hyphens are often thought of as …

Two Kinds of Dashes and How to Use Them

One of the finer points of punctuation is the use of dashes. In casual writing, we often use them willy-nilly, but when you are writing nonfiction for publication, take care to use them properly. Fiction writers only need concern themselves with one kind of dash. They will rarely have use …

Using Ellipses Properly in Nonfiction

The rules for ellipses in nonfiction differ slightly from those in fiction. In fiction, ellipses signal a hesitation or trailing off of speech. But in nonfiction, they indicate omissions from quoted material. If you’re writing a memoir or other narrative nonfiction, you may use ellipses the way they’re used in …

How to Fine-Tune Your Nonfiction Book

As was the case when we looked at fiction, Mechanics is the last section of the Elements of Nonfiction Editing Checklist. Everything we’ve covered up to this point needs to be taken care of first. Then we can worry about the kind of copyediting fixes that come under this heading. …

Double- and Triple-Check Your Facts

Even the smallest details in your story require fact checking. As an old saying in journalism goes, “If someone tells you your mother loves you, verify it.” So the last few items in this section of the checklist have to do with verification. ☐ Claims have been verified by reliable …

When to Use a Bibliography

Last time, in our discussion about endnotes, I mentioned that a bibliography is helpful but not required. The reason it’s not required is that all the information about the books you cite can be contained in the notes. The bibliography simply presents that information in alphabetical order. You might want …

How to Use Notes and Bibliographies

The next item on the Nonfiction Editing Checklist has to do with citing your sources: ☐ Footnotes, endnotes, blind notes, and reference lists have been used appropriately and are formatted correctly. The Chicago Manual of Style offers several options for citing your sources. The first of these is the least …

Place Your Story for Best Effect

Although memoir writers have an entire book in which to tell their story, many nonfiction writers use their personal stories only as an introduction to a broader topic. When that’s the case, you need to consider what place in the book will be the best to showcase your personal story. …

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