What does a working relationship between a writer and an editor look like? Author and HNE client, Jessie Clever and I have known each other for more than ten years. So in our case, it looks a little snarky.
Welcome to Letters to My Editor. She writes to me one week on her blog. I reply the next on mine. Mayhem just might ensue.
There are scads of books out there about grammar. Some brilliant and some that make excellent door stops. I shy away from any book that calls itself The Only Resource You’ll Ever Need or The Best Book About…, because language is a living, breathing thing that evolves over time. Some parts of it seemingly haven’t changed in centuries while others might take a big leap in a matter of decades. For this reason, there isn’t a one-and-done answer, as far as I’m concerned.
However, I do have a few recommendations.
Mignon Fogarty is, perhaps, my favorite go-to resource. Equal parts helpful and entertaining. Check in regularly, subscribe, or just go for a quick search. Great infographics. (I do so love a good infographic.) Here’s one about commas.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Know all the memes about punctuation saving lives? (Let’s eat Grandma vs. let’s us, Grandma.) Here’s a book, enjoyable and witty, that waves that flag proudly. Check out Lynne Truss in general.
This might be like using a tank to swat a mosquito, but if you hate mosquitoes as much as I do, well, here’s a tank for ya. I like Chicago for fiction writing, but there are many style manuals out there. See what works for your purposes. Unlimited access to the online resource requires an annual subscription. However, it is quite glorious, especially when wanting to look up an answer quickly and get back to writing.
While something like Grammarly costs quite a bit and will still only take you so far, following on social media costs you nothing. You can wear your love of language on your virtual sleeve by sharing images proclaiming “proper grammar is sexy” or find like-minded individuals who have strong opinions on parentheses. If you’re on the Facebook/Twitter scene, this is a free way to keep an eye open for new resources.
Keep a finger on the current grammatical pulse. There are many instances when I simply have no idea if a comma is needed either. Truth is, editors have to look up stuff, too. If I know a particular rule, it’s possibly because I’ve memorized it after looking it up a million times before. Foster an ongoing interest in the mechanics of language so that you have a working knowledge to rely on when the first draft commas get you down.
Be sure to subscribe to Jessie’s blog at Romancing a Blog to get her next letter!