Every time I write something, I worry that I'm innocently making mistakes. I wish my editors were here to go over this and correct me where I'm wrong, but they are not, so here goes…
As I judge entries for romance contests, it seems to me entrants might be better served if they became familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style and a Merriam-Webster dictionary, which are standards in the industry. Better yet, if they paid for a professional editor to go over their stories and books first. Naturally, there are differences among publishers about certain things they might prefer. For instance, if you write "She showered, shampooed her hair, and scrubbed her nails," do you eliminate that second comma or not? If you keep it, that style is called "serial commas." What about if you end a sentence with the word too, would you put a comma before it? Again, that's up to your publisher's house style.
I read many well written books whose scores I have to lower because of repetitions and errors in grammar and punctuation. I do it because even if the setting, characterizations, motivation, goal and conflict are there, simple things—like too many commas, or how an en, em and a hyphen differ and how to use them—can muddy the waters and slow the reader down. Years ago, another author suggested to watch for too many just, that, very or thing in your pieces. Adverbs ending in ly are another common repetition.
Words ending in ing are gerunds, and there are hyphenation rules for their use too. CMoS 7.85
"Well written" is in this piece. I questioned whether it needed a hyphen, and so I looked it up in Merriam-Webster and found it does not. I've learned that if it isn't in that dictionary as hyphenated or it doesn't fit what the Chicago reference tells you to do, then you leave the mark out. The M-W dictionary has a list at the bottom of the page showing whether or not a hyphen is used with non. (It's nonfiction, by the way, although you'll often see that mistake in printed things.) Great stuff to know, and easy to find. If you go to self, there are pages of words to reference. Self-published, by the way, is correct. Despite reading it online both ways.
Recently, I'm seeing things like Irish-American, etc., being hyphenated when we haven't been doing it that way before now. My 16th edition of CMoS (2010), 8.38, says some people feel hyphenation reflects bias. CMoS doesn't consider the mark represents bias and can be omitted because it "doesn't aid comprehension." However, if your publisher requires it, use it.
I bought these tools because knowing all these rules aren't things I remember from day to day. Maybe you would find them helpful as well.
We pay to enter contests. Adding a freelance romance editor's fee might make you cringe, but it may also be the best money you've ever spent.
Enjoy your week. Stay cool!
COMING THIS SUMMER - VIEW FROM THE TOP
She's the daughter of a billionaire. He's a law student and the son of a plumber. Will their romance survive when he learns she's hidden who she really is?