Some
grammar and punctuation issues are set in stone. A grammatically incorrect
sentence will be corrected by an editor. A comma will be included before a conjunction
when the conjunction separates two independent clauses.
Then
there are issues that an editor might allow as style: A short prepositional
phrase without a comma following it, a sentence that starts with a conjunction,
em-dashes to emphasize a parenthetical clause. You get the picture.
There
are still issues with grammar and punctuation that fall within a publisher’s
style guide. What exactly is a publisher’s style guide? It’s a playbook for
editors. Some publishers do provide them to their authors so that they can edit
their manuscripts accordingly. A few items included in a style guide are:
OK versus Okay: In everyday writing, I
refuse to use “OK.” I’m a curmudgeon in that regard. Pelican, however, uses the
more fashionable and text-worthy OK. For that reason, when I edit, I have to do
a find and replace because I will skip right over “okay” without even seeing
the need to change. I want to point out that neither is wrong.
Commas: Some publishers want strict
comma usage followed (with some leeway for style); other publishers prefer to
eliminate commas if necessary (example: a comma before a short prepositional
phrase).
Blonde/blond: This gets very confusing.
You see blond is the color, but blond also denotes a male with blond hair.
Blonde refers to a woman with blond hair. Publishers may ask that the correct
usage be followed, which would mean when you are referring to a female with
blond hair, you add the “e.” When referring to a male, you leave off the “e,”
but when you are referring to the color of the hair (male or female), you use “blond.”
Still, some publishers prefer using “blond” for any mention.
Semicolons: Pelican is very semicolon
friendly, as long as they are used correctly and sparingly. Other publishers
tell you that there is no room in fiction for semicolons, and I completely
disagree. Semicolons are beautiful marks of punctuation—when used correctly.
Pronouns Used for God: Most Christian
publishers require that authors capitalize pronouns for God. This sets Him apart
and, in my mind at least, gives God the respect He deserves. Others prefer not
to capitalize the pronouns.
Capitalization of Heaven and Hell:
Seems like you would capitalize these as they are proper names for locations.
The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS) ndicates that in their general term they are “dwelling places, ideal
states, places of divine punishment and thus they are lowercase.” However, the CMoS does state that they are “often capitalized in a purely religious context.”
Christian publishers would most likely look at these places in a “purely
religious context,” but the styles do differ. Some capitalize Heaven and not
hell. Others capitalize both, and still some capitalize neither.
American English versus Non-American
English
: Yes, there is a different. Most noticeable it is in the use of “s”
and “z.” Example: realize versus realise. That usually doesn’t present a
problem unless you’re an American publisher publishing a novel written by a
non-American English author or if the publisher contracts with an American
English author writing a book which takes place in a non-American English country
and the author wishes to maintain authenticity. However, there are those words
like toward/towards/backward/backwards/forward/forwards.
The “s” is generally added in non-American English. The American English form
is to eliminate the “s.” Some publishers want to retain the American English
form, but since the non-American English form has slipped into American
English, most publishers simply ask that whatever the usage, consistency is
maintained. For that reason, as an editor of a publisher who allows both forms,
I tend to keep to the American English form unless I am editing for a
non-American English author or a book set in a non-American English country.
Other Style Issues: the form of plurals
(example: Jesus’ versus Jesus’s), scene break symbols, chapter breaks versus
page breaks, etc., are all matters of style, and a publisher’s style guide is
helpful when deciding these issues.
When
self-editing, it is always best to follow The Chicago Manual of Style (current
16th edition). Editors are aware when their house prefers an
in-house style, and these matters are usually changed by the editor in the
editing process. However, returning authors can always assist their editor by requesting
a style guide and utilizing it, especially if their work has been contracted by
that house.
Happy
editing.

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