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Punctuation Matters

Why a line-by-line check of your manuscript is essential.

Correct punctuation is crucial when you’re submitting a manuscript. It tells your reader exactly what you’re trying to say and stops them from having to guess. It shows an agent or publisher that you care about every aspect of your writing and that you take it seriously.

You will have spent months, normally years, working on your story: fine-tuning plots and character arcs, coming up with thrilling plot twists and surprises, and describing settings in such perfect detail readers can immediately picture themselves there. Think about all the effort and time you put into writing one book and shudder at how easily it could be put to one side because of a lack of correct punctuation.

It’s not easy getting someone in publishing to read an unsolicited manuscript. Don’t give them an excuse to pass on yours. Maybe you’re thinking that a few misplaced speech marks and question marks won’t really matter in a brilliantly written story. Perhaps not. But is it worth the risk?

The minute you’ve lost a reader who, for example, is struggling to work out which character is speaking due to errors with speech marks, or who, due to wrongly placed apostrophes, can’t understand how many boys and bags went missing in a murder mystery, you’re giving a busy agent or publisher a reason to put your work to one side. Who knows if they’ll pick it back up?

If your punctuation is rusty, or if you’ve never been taught how to use colons or commas, dashes or hyphens, then sign up for one of my one-hour punctuation refresher workshops.

As well as going over the basics, we look at punctuation in dialogue which often trips people up, and how to correctly format a page of prose and speech.


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