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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Part I: Yvonne Perry of Podcast Fame Shares on Editing Books

While I am on vacation, I asked several of my most brilliant and giving friends in the pubishing industry to share articles with you. This is one from Yvonne Perry of Writers in the Sky Fame. She kindly abridged some our podcast which is still available if you'd rather hear the whole thing. Find it at: Because of the length, you will find this in two blog posts. See November 24 for the last portion.

Welcome to Conversation with Editors with Yvonne Perry and Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

I’m Yvonne Perry, the owner of Writers in the Sky Creative Writing Services. Carolyn is an editor and author of The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward To Avoid Humiliation And Ensure Success (How to Do It Frugally).
This audio is for anyone who needs a little help with editing. We’ll take about an hour and discuss some of the more common mistakes we see writers make and tell you how to correct them. Below you will find a list of the topics we cover and you should know the answers are based on Manual of Style (CMOS) published by the University of Chicago Press. It is one of the most respected and trustworthy guidelines for literary works. I will pose a question and have Carolyn comment on each one.

Titles and headers 2
Entitlement 2
Titles 2
Using all caps 2
Is this okay or OK? 2
Number Number 2
Use of percent symbol 2
Spaces between sentences 2
Serial Commas or killers? 2
Writing for Decades 2
Hyphenating 3

Coming on this blog Nov 24

Internet and Web site
To Dash or not to Dash
Away a way 3
A lot or alot 3
That that that 3
Writing Dialog 4
Writing Numbers 4
Questions from our Readers 4

Titles and headers

A very common error in many of the books I edit or proofread occurs in the title, headers, and subheaders. The Chicago Manual of Style 7.127 states: In regular title capitalization, also known as headline style, the first and last words and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions (if, because, as, that, etc.) are capitalized. Articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor), and prepositions, regardless of length, are lowercase unless they are the first or last word of the title or subtitle.


A book is not entitled (meaning deserving, allowed, permitted); it is titled (meaning to have a title, label, or name).


The titles of books, record albums, movies, TV shows, and screenplays should be in italic type. Do not use “quotation” marks. Do not underline these titles unless you are formatting them for a bibliography. However, article titles and poem and song titles do go inside quotation marks.

Using all caps

Unless a word is an acronym, it should not be in ALL CAPS. Use italics for emphasis.
Is this okay?
OK should be spelled out: okay.

Number Number

ISBN is the acronym for International Standard Book Number. To write “ISBN number” is the same as stating International Standard Book Number number. It is redundant to use the word “number” or the pound symbol (#) after ISBN.

Use of percent symbol

Percent symbols (%) should be spelled out “percent” unless used in a chart or table. Numbers followed by a percent should be in numeric form. Example: 91 percent. However, if a percentage is the first word of a sentence in a literary work, it should be spelled out. Example: Ninety‐one percent of the students passed the test.

Spaces between sentences

Use one space (not two) after a period, question mark, colon, or semi‐colon. This is quite the opposite of what we were taught in typing class way back when! It can be a hard habit to break.

Serial Commas or killers?

CMOS 5.57 states, “In a series listing three or more items, the elements are separated by a comma.” For example: The dog, cat, hippo, and cow jumped over the moon.

Writing for Decades

When writing years, do not use an apostrophe. Example: 1960s, not 1960’s unless you want the possessive form of the word. If abbreviated: ’60s is correct; 60’s is incorrect. Notice that the apostrophe [ ’ ] is used as a placeholder for missing the numbers, and not a single close quote mark [ ‘ ] which faces the opposite direction. Strunk & White will disagree.


Speaking of years, hyphens and numerals are used when you write “the 16‐year‐ old boy.” No hyphen is needed, and the number is spelled out when you write “the boy is sixteen years old.”

Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success at Learn more about her other authors' aids at, where writers will find lists and other helps on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog.

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