Archive for November, 2011

On Writing: Let’s Talk Grammar for a While

Those Nasty Little Apostrophes

Sunset on November 26, 2011

I would say that apostrophes are probably the most misused punctuation marks used in the English language. I constantly see them abused on bulletin boards, road signs, store ads, mailboxes, and all kinds of other literature in the mail. What is it about that squiggly little mark that frustrates folks to no end?

Well, the biggest problem is that most people never pay any attention in their English classes in school to learn how to use the little buggers correctly. The second reason they are so misused is because it’s just so easy to do so. And I must admit that some of the rules for usage are a little complicated. So let’s look at a few of the common mistakes we see with apostrophes:

1.   Right:   It’s a shame you can’t remember how to use the apostrophe. (It’s stands for “it is.”)

      Wrong: Its a shame you can’t remember how to use the apostrophe.

2.   Right:  The dog chewed its bone apart in ten minutes.

Wrong: The dog chewed it’s bone apart in ten minutes. (Remember that it’s stands for “it is.”)

3.  Right:  The Hublers live in Middleburg.

      Wrong: The Hubler’s live in Middleburg. (That apostrophe makes the name possessive and refers to one Hubler. And what does the one dear Hubler own? Nothing in this sentence; therefore, the apostrophe shouldn’t be used.)

4.   Right:  The Hublers’ house is in Middleburg. (If you are referring to more than one Hubler.)

      Wrong: The Hubler’s house is in Middleburg. (Only is correct if you are talking about one Hubler, but you wouldn’t say, “The Hubler’s house …”)

5.   Right:  The kitten’s toy is a stuffed mouse. (Referring to one kitten)

      Wrong: The kittens’ toy is a stuffed mouse. (This refers to more than one kitten. Does it make sense to say that more than one kitten has the same toy? I guess if you’re talking about a litter of kittens, but let’s not stretch the truth to extremes here.)

6.    Right:   Hoagies Sold Here! (Plural: hoagies)

       Wrong: Hoagies’ Sold Here! (The hoagies’ what are sold there? The apostrophe used here means that the hoagies own something. What do they own?)

This example number six is probably the most misused form of the apostrophe. I see so many signs and announcements with apostrophes used when the word should be only the plural.

7.   Right: Mary said you’re going to church with me. (You’re stands for “you are.”)

      Wrong: Mary said your going with me.

8.   Right: Robert Burns’s poems are famous. (In some quarters, Burns’ is acceptable too)

      Wrong: Robert Burnses poems are famous. 

9.   Right:  The children’s recess period ended at ten. (Always write the plural first, then add the apostrophe at the end.)

      Wrong:  The childrens’ recess period ended at ten.

10. Right:   The writers’ conference was held in July. (Also acceptable is “writers conference” with no apostrophe)

     Wrong:  The writer’s conference was held in July. (There was only one writer in attendance?)

And just for clarity’s sake, let me share a few more tricky words that sometimes do and sometimes don’t get apostrophes:

          CDs              DVDs      dos and don’ts            no ifs, ands, or buts

          ABCs           VIPs            the 1970s          

         the Joneses (Plural, not possessive)

        two Toms, three Dicks, four Harrys  

        moose’s (the same for singular + plural)

There are lots of other examples of how the poor apostrophe is misused, but these that I’ve mentioned are the blatant ones.

If you’re having problems with apostrophes, feel free to print this info and use it when you’re in a pickle, wondering what you should do. It’s a good thing to master if you’re into writing.

Next time, we’ll look at the proper use of the semicolon.

Happy writing!


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On Writing: How to Handle Rejection

To see more sunsets, go to PHOTOS on my website:marshahubler.com


Dear Sir/Madam:

            We have reviewed your proposal and have found that it does not meet our editorial needs at this time.

            Good luck as you search for the one lone publishing company in the world that is looking for an Amish horror paranormal romance.

                                                                                    Yours truly,

                                                                                    The Mean Old Editor



How many times have you received a letter from a publishing company that read so much like this one? Did you want to take your precious manuscript, draw it to your bosom, and then go jump off a bridge? Or did you want to start a bonfire in your back yard using your five hundred pages of blood, sweat, and tears you just pumped into your best-selling novel for the last year that can’t get any editor’s second look?

If you’ve been there, then join the rest of us odd ducks (http://oddducksociety.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/are-you-stretching-yourself/ ), who constantly receive rejection letters. And I’m talking about us who have been widely published too.

It’s really tough when you get that letter that feels like the editor just stabbed your new-born baby or slapped you in the face. But take heart. It’s not personal; it’s business. And take a second good hard look at your manuscript and the market. It’s a word jungle out there, and sometimes it takes years to find a publisher who is willing to pay you for your work. I’m sure that’s the reason so many authors I know are self publishing today. Of course, the only problem with that scenario is that you’re putting your own money up front, and if you don’t have thousands of dollars for a good edit and a reliable, reputable vanity press, you could get the shaft of your life along with a product of which you will not be proud. You also are the sole marketer of your book with no support from a publishing company. And promotion takes A LOT of time and money,  which most authors don’t have!

Here are several tips to remember as you prepare to send that query letter or proposal out again to royalty publishing companies. And remember that, if your writing is well done, there is a market for you—somewhere. The key is to find the company that wants your work.

Tips to Handle Rejection 

  1. Go online to find publishers’ guidelines or buy the Writers’ and Illustrators’ Market Guide to make sure you’re submitting to companies who publish your genre.
  2. Don’t let your manuscript die in a file cabinet. Keep sending your query or proposal out as soon as you get a rejection.
  3. Keep a record of your rejections and the dates. Editors become irritated if they see the same query or proposal five times over a year’s time.
  4. Revise! Revise! Revise! Just like a painting, our writing is never done to perfection. Make sure that critique group reviews important sections of your work.
  5. If you’ve written short stories or articles, change the titles and names of the characters and/or rewrite the main plot or theme of the works and send them all out at the same time to different companies.
  6. Read! Read! Read! Read the genre of which you are writing. Learn from those who are already published. Compare your work to those who already have their byline. Be willing to change your work and write clearer and cleaner.
  7. Attend writers’ conferences to make that personal connection with editors of publishing companies or agents. Of the book contracts I’ve received, I acquired all but one by meeting editors and/or agents at writers’ conferences.
  8. And this is so important, I’ll mention it again: Go online or buy the Writers’ and Illustrators’ Market Guide to make sure you’re submitting to companies who publish your genre. I’ve heard editors state that the number one reason they reject a manuscript is because it really doesn’t “meet their editorial needs.” Wrong genre? No sale.

 We all become discouraged over time, but the thing to remember is that you are working at a highly-skilled craft with thousands of other writers trying to win an editor’s heart. Keep on writing and revising. Never give up, and one day you’ll see your byline under that article title or your name on the cover of that book.

Next time we’ll discuss some grammar. How about that nasty little apostrophe that most people use incorrectly?

Keep on writing!










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