words about words


I’m a professional writer. By that I mean that since 1995 I have made my living–paid my rent, fed my offspring–by writing. You’d think I’d have words pretty much figured out by now, wouldn’t you? But you’d be wrong. I still have a lot to learn. Here are some of the things I learned recently from my phenomenal proofreader Stacie Magelssen when she worked over my second Lexy Cooper crime novel Pwned.

All these are one word, no hyphen.

  • armpit
  • coworkers
  • debriefing
  • doormat
  • snickerdoodle
  • footprint
  • website

I also learned that the “web site” to “website” transition is FINALLY accepted by all who matter. Behold:


Stacie says, “Web site is usually one word these days–website. Also is website as per CMS (Chicago Manual of Style) and (finally) AP style.”

Did you know there is a debate raging over “than she” and “than her?” I do now! Check this shit out:


So sayeth Stacie: “Okay, so…this is actually part of a hotly contested debate over whether or not this sentence should end with “she” or “her.” The best summary of this debate I’ve seen was by GrammarGirl (one of my favorite sites). You can find it here if you want to read the whole boring debate: Anyhow, the long and short of this is that I’d highly suggest a rewrite of this sentence or just change it to “…shorter than she was.” That ends the whole conundrum. ;)”

I wasn’t about to take up arms in this battle, so I rewrote the sentence. This is what I published in the final version:

Yi followed him down a narrow hallway. At five-foot-eight, she was two inches taller than Ricky and she couldn’t tear her eyes from his hair plugs.

Capitalization after a colon. Always, right?


Wrong. “Lowercase w (as per our style guide, lowercase the first word after a colon, unless it’s a proper name or it introduces two or more sentences.” Sigh. More stuff I learned:

  • Military titles are lowercase unless they come right before a name. I.e. “When Mike Malick was a young army sergeant” “Sergeant Mike Malick” Apparently you’re not supposed to capitalize Army or Marine, but fuck that, I’m a military wife.
  • Job titles are also lowercase unless they come right before a name. I.e. “Jimmie Vath was Xenon’s chief technology officer and media darling.” “The press loved Chief Technology Officer Jimmie Vath.”

Need another hotly-contested grammar debate? Of course you do! Stacie - lay laid debate That bit in pink says: “This is one of those grammar rules that makes my brain hurt. But I do believe this should be “laid.” In present tense, it would be lay, because she is the subject and her head is the object. However, you’re telling this story in third-person past-tense narrative. All other verbs are past tense. Past tense of “lay” is “laid.” Now, since this grammar rule always hurts my brain, I’d be perfectly fine with you rewording to avoid it all together. 😉 You know, something along the lines of: She rested her head on his chest… But your call!”

In retrospect, I probably should have changed it to rested, but this was Chapter Twenty and I just changed it to “laid” even though it looks weird to me.

Then there were things I didn’t learn from my proofreader. Mistakes I just keep making, and will probably continue to make. One of the more amusing moments in this proofing process was a note from Stacie that said, “Did you omit the serial comma on purpose?” Um, yesssss, let’s go with that.  Commas are my nemesis. I either don’t use enough of them or put them in the wrong places. Sometimes my editor and proofreader disagree on when and where they are necessary or merely optional. It all makes me feel tired and I’m grateful I can hire professionals to wrangle my shit.

And so I push forward with Lexy Cooper #3. I will continue to write about sex and death, greed and video games, love and loss, and let the commas fall where they may, secure in the knowledge that Stacie will sort me out in the end.

2 thoughts on “Things my proofreader taught me

  1. ksbeth says:

    Wow, and soldier on)

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