by Bobbie Christmas
Q: I don’t think I’ll ever stop spacing twice after a period. Any suggestions?
A: You can quickly repair all those extra spaces, assuming you are using Microsoft Word, which has become the standard in the publishing industry. Press Ctrl + H, and you’ll get a Find and Replace dialogue box. Put the cursor in the Find What box and press the spacebar twice. In the Replace With box, press the spacebar once. Next, press the button that says Replace All. The computer will find and change every double space to a single space. You may have to tell it to do the same thing more than once, to catch all the extra spaces, but just continue the process until the computer reports that it has made 0 replacements.
Q: Explain to me this: it’s, its, and its’.
A: I always have to stop and think about it, too, because it goes against convention. We think of words that end with an apostrophe followed by an “s” as being possessive, but in this one case, the possessive does not have an apostrophe. I’ll explain in detail.
“It’s” (with the apostrophe) is the contraction for “it is.” Example: It’s okay if John comes along. (We know “it’s” is a contraction, because the sentence can be written this way: It is okay if John comes along.)
Its (without the apostrophe) indicates the possessive. Example: The seminar had its own schedule.
Its’ is always incorrect. Period.
The “its” words often get confused, because they break the rules of possessive apostrophes. If you confuse these two words, you are not alone. Here’s a helpful hint: Every time you use it’s or its, ask yourself, “Am I saying IT IS?” If so, only then do you use the apostrophe (it’s).
Q: What’s the difference between an e-zine and a newsletter?
A: All e-zines can be called newsletters, but not all newsletters can be called e-zines. An e-zine is always electronic, whereas a newsletter can be printed and mailed traditionally or it can be electronic. The content does not make the difference, only the method of distribution.
I use the two terms interchangeably for my e-zine, The Writers Network News, because it is a newsletter sent electronically. The term “e-newsletter” isn’t as well known as the term “e-zine,” so I call The Writers Network News an e-zine at times and a newsletter at other times, to avoid word repetition.
Q: I did not see anywhere in your book Write In Style that you address this point directly, but when writing internal dialogue, I take it from your book that you would never say he told himself or I told myself something. Is that correct?
A: Such a conclusion might be drawn from the fact that in my book I say “thought to himself” is redundant, because we cannot think to anyone but ourselves. We can, however, tell other people things, just as we can tell ourselves things, so I have no problem with saying he told himself, she told herself, or I told myself.
Q: I’m fifteen and really into writing. Right now I use an online site to post my stories, but I would really like to get a book out. Do you have any ideas on what I can do about this?
A: Yes, but you cannot learn in one e-mail all that you must know. Join writers groups. Write. Take classes in creative writing. Write. Join a critique circle. Write. If possible, attend conferences for writers. Write. Subscribe to and read publications for writers. Write. Volunteer for your school newspaper or yearbook. Write. Read Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Read Write In Style (my book). Read William Zinsser‘s book, On Writing Well. Write. Learn to use standard manuscript format. After all that, edit, edit, edit, revise, revise, and revise, and eventually you may have a polished manuscript. If so, read books on how to submit a manuscript. Learn how to write a professional query letter. Write an irresistible synopsis. After doing all those things, you may be ready to submit a manuscript to a publisher or agent.
No matter what your age or skill level, you will find many free reports for writers on my website (www.zebraeditor.com ) under “Tools for Writers.”
Most writers spend years polishing their craft before they produce a marketable manuscript. Never give up.
NOTE: SPAWN offers a student discount for joining. With membership, you receive the valuable SPAWN Market Update each month with lots of insider information about writing, publishing, marketing, industry news and trends.
For much more information on hundreds of subjects of vital importance to writers, order Purge Your Prose of Problems, a Book Doctor’s Desk Reference Book.
Send your questions to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Bobbie Christmas, book editor, owner of Zebra Communications, and quadruple-award-winning author of Write In Style: How to Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, will answer your questions quickly. Read more Ask the Book Doctor questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.