The Nitty Gritty, Vol. 1

Do you find yourself sharing Internet memes calling out grammar Nazis and publicly shaming them?

Perhaps you’ve shared a meme declaring your proud inclusion in the Oxford comma camp?

Or perhaps you’re thinking, “Another Oxford comma reference? What the hell is that thing? I don’t live in Oxford. Why do I have to care where those Brits keep their commas?”

I get you.

An awful lot of people don’t want to be bothered figuring out where to put commas. They don’t give a darn what a semicolon is and how it differs from a full colon. They don’t want to know whether an em dash is a real thing. They just want to write their ideas down on paper, and let someone else worry whether an apostrophe makes a word plural or not.

Fixing all the grammar and punctuation and sentence structure and word usage is what editors are for. Right?

Actually, yes, that’s what we’re here for. And that’s what I do all day long. Full confession here… I don’t like real Nazis, but I am all for being a purist when it comes to figuring out whether you should say toward or towards. I know whether you should use an ellipsis or not. I care whether you put a hyphen in e-mail.

I adore Grammar Girl. They should make a superhero movie about her.

With a Bachelor’s in English, a Master’s in teaching English, years of teaching freshman composition, years of editing freelancers and full-time communications department staff, I’ve learned to stop worrying and love the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style.

And I can help you learn to stop worrying and love the little details that turn writing from good to great. Or at least I can help you understand why your editor keeps fussing at you when you overuse sentence fragments.

That’s what this column is all about — getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes writing style, sentence structure, word choice, grammar, and punctuation work so flawlessly that readers don’t get distracted by that nitty-gritty. Instead, they just think you wrote a damn good book.

Those readers don’t need to see the editor behind the curtain. They can continue to think we just pull out Sharpies and correct public signs while acing Scrabble games.

You, the writer, know better. You may not want to understand or care what magic we editors do. But for every time you have a question about how to do something… every time you want to understand why your editor makes such a big deal about not overusing dialogue tags… I’m here for you. And so is this column.

We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of why the details undergirding your writing matter, and why getting them right makes your writing stand out in a world full of, frankly, crapping writing.

And I won’t get out the red pen any more than I need to.
Honest.

See you next month!

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