Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Insightful and Amazing 5-Star Review for BREAKABLE!

Hey guys, today my review dreams came true when Jen Strand over at the YA book blog Fictitious Delicious gave Breakable five stars and wrote the review I always wanted to receive. (And I didn't even bribe her!)

Among other things, Jen said:

"...The dialogue, the pace, and the emotion conveyed through this story are some of the best I've read.  There is no doubt that Aimee Salter loves to write. Shelve any of your self pubbed hesitations right now..."

If you want to read the whole thing, check it out here.

As for me...For today at least, I am full of fabulous...


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WIN a Character Named After YOU!

Hey guys! It's only FIVE DAYS until Breakable is released (excuse me while I throw up a vital organ). There's lots of fun stuff happening right now, but the best part for me is that I've been able to kick off my reader site!

That site includes a three-question "survey" on what my next project should be. So whether you want to read Breakable or not, I'd love your thoughts. The survey includes brief descriptions of three different books, each with an opportunity to tell me how much they appeal / don't appeal to you. Then you can enter your email address or twitter handle in the final textbox to enter to win a character named after you!

So, head on over to the Reader Survey on my reader website (you're welcome to poke around the site too, obviously - though if you plan on reading Breakable, beware of Spoilers).

Thanks for all your support, guys! From my end, things are going as well as they can at this point. I'm excited to share Breakable with you and the rest of the world (hopefully) on Monday.

See you on the other side!!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Self-Editing #10 - Self-Editing for Commentary

Author commentary.  AKA: Common ways authors scream at the reader I WANT YOU TO NOTICE THIS.

You don't want author commentary.  It reads as implausible, dilutes tension, pushes readers out of the story, and will drive any writer-reader absolutely mental.

So, are you guilty?  Check out these five common-taries...

1. Statement 'o' Obvious

Essentially a product of telling when you should be showing (or telling something you've already shown in order to make sure the reader 'got it'), Statement 'o' Obvious usually looks something like:

- One FBI Agent character tells another FBI Agent character "With the Chief cutting costs everywhere, it's going to be that much harder to hunt down our multi-billionaire, jet-setting suspect..."

- Frequent use of dialogue akin to: "I know you already know this, but...", "As you know...", "Like I said last time..."

- In a romance titled Don't Leave Me that centers on the middleaged cop named Frank whose wife left him last year and whose best friend just got shot:  "Frank was frightened of spending the rest of his life alone."

2. Info Dumpado

Hello.  My name is Aimee.  I'm an Info Dumpado Aficionado.  It's been three chapters since my last backstory download...

- Info Dumpado is the scene where seventeen pages are dedicated to a blow-by-blow of the history of bad-blood between the warring brothers currently ruling two factions of your fantasy world.

- In a "touching" scene between your protagonist and her hero, three years of backstory is covered wherein he explains every girlfriend who ever dumped him, how he felt about it, and why it still haunts him to this day.

- It's dialogue punctuated by frequent use of "[Character] did [ghastly action] and then [other character] responded with [equally ghastly action].  Then we all..." etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

3. Character Wonderment

You know that moment, when something important happens, but it's subtle?  Just a look, or a single sentence of dialogue that you - the author - know is IMPORTANT, but the reader might not catch it?  Character Wonderment is the unnecessary pause in action when the POV character thinks...

- "...That other character just looked as me as if she was angry.  But I have no reason to believe she's angry with me.  I'd better file away that GUT INSTINCT that tells me she's angry just in case something happens later that would lead me to believe someone might have a murderous rage boiling in their veins against me."

- "...if I hadn't known better, I would have thought he was lying to me."

- "...While scrubbing himself in the shower, Gus considered Tracey's words the night before.  Had she been flirting with him?  And why did she frown and refuse the drink her Nasty Boss Nathan offered?  Hmmm....  Maybe Gus would keep an eye on him."

4.  Preaching to the Choir

When an author has a message, sometimes the message supercedes the story.  And the people who came along for the ride get lashings of Fire and Brimstone when they're really looking for angels:

- It's the moment the green-loving environmentalist author creates a Serious And Educated Park Ranger in Murder in Yellowstone who proceeds to spend two pages 'telling the hero' about the environmental effects of littering in a national park.

- It's the closet spiritualist who writes a thriller-romance wherein the Pro-Tennis Playing Protagonist is 'coached' by a strangely sage-like young African woman whose step-by-step meditation program singlehandedly saves the day when normal athletic pursuits prove unsuccessful.

- It's two characters who adhere to polar-opposite ends of the political spectrum and argue economic policy for seven pages during a dinner-party.

5. Don't Hate Me 'Cos I'm a Beautiful Writer

Offenders are authors who use six-syllable words to explain a simple concept.  Or whose prose is so beautiful and skillfully crafted, the reader spends more time thinking about the words themselves, than the story they depict.  AKA:

- Progenators of prose who apply recondite idiom to elucidate an elementary supposition.

- Hark! Words fall from her pomegranate lips (whose passion is plumped, calling me) with the artiface of the heroes of olde.  The Bard could only creep in her shadow, cringing 'neath the weight of her glory, when yon branch did lie aslant the brook.

Clear as mud? Good...that's kind of the point...

Your Turn:  What author commentary mistakes do you make, or do you see in work around you?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Self-Editing #9 - Getting Specific: VERBS

So we've already talked about "Show, don't tell", and getting specific with your nouns. Today I want to talk about what I like to call 'nothing' verbs. Verbs like "came" and "went", "down" and "moved". Words that tell the reader something... but not much of anything.

To whit:

A moment later the door opened. Carl came out and went down the street.

For those words to have any meaning or impact, they'd have to be in context. As they stand here, they tell you next to nothing. Right?

A little better would be:

A moment later the glass door opened. Carl stepped out, walking down the street.

There's more certainty in that, which is a starting point. But a really firm image needs the tiny details that will make it real for the reader. Like this:

A moment later the glass door slid aside. Carl appeared, trotting down the stairs. His steps echoed off the nearby buildings as he hurried along the empty street.

Do you see what I mean?

Yes there are more words in that final image. But there's also a lot more clarity and reality.

I'd suggest to you that if your book is full of rich and succinct imagery, then you can get away with a few thousand extra words. But in truth, you won't need to. The more solidly your world is built in the little moments of description, the fewer words it will take to convince your reader your story is really happening.

Although you can't do a seek and destroy mission on these words, start developing an eye for them. They're the verbs that tell the reader your character did something, but don't tell them how.

Wherever possible, turn your 'went' into 'walked', exchange the likes of 'came' for 'hurried', and replace 'moved' with 'shuffled' and his equally vivid friends.

Then, just like with specifc nouns, when you've got some specific verbs in place, choose a minimum of adjectives to color in the gaps.

Enough said?

Your Turn: What generic words spring to mind when you read this? What kind of words would you use to replace them?

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Self Publishing Journey: Setting the Price

I hadn't done a self-pub post in a while, and since right now I'm deep in the details of setting up book format files and all the nitty-gritty that goes along with that, I thought I'd shed some light on the part of the process which scared me the most: setting the price.

To be honest, I thought this would be the easiest part. As a reader who's also got a background in branding and so forth, I'm hyper-aware of buying behavior. I'm always observing myself making choices, and comparing that with how I hear my friends going through the same decisions.

For that reason, I thought walking into this that I knew where I wanted to set my price, and that would be that.


Okay, so the digital side of things started pretty straight forward. In order to pin my price at what I believe to be the best cross-section of credibility, risk-aversion, and profitability, I went with my gut on a kindle price of $2.99. No sweat.

Then I discovered that Barnes and Noble's Nook was going to take an extra 25% (retail! So that's 33% net) of my profit margin, and I wasn't allowed to set the price differently than it was available in e-book anywhere else.

After a lot of grumbling, vacillating, and general cursing, I decided to just take it on the nose - and ask everyone to buy the kindle version if they could.

Then I started on the paperback. *Straps in*

First I discovered that my original price-preference ($8.99) would leave me paying people to buy my book. (Cue gnashing of teeth).

Then I found out that even though there was a lot more time and expense involved in setting up the paperback, even if I went to the outer-limits of what I felt I could justifiably charge, I was going to earn less off every paperback than I did off each e-book. (Insert howls of frustration).

Then I learned that I couldn't even trial-and-error it. Because I wanted to work with my own ISBN numbers and set my book up as close to the manner in which a traditional publisher would as I could. So I had to choose (and nail down!) my price on my paperback before I'd sold a single copy. Why?

Because if I want my paperback to have any chance of ever being picked up by a store, it has to have a barcode. And a barcode has to have the pricing already programmed in.

This meant, (cue further wailing) if I ever want to change the price of my paperback, I have to pay $25 for another barcode, re-assign it to the ISBN, and have my cover designer create a new image OF THE ENTIRE FRONT-BACK-AND-SIDEWAYS COVER for me to insert into the formatting file. Which means that I then have to go through the proofing process again to make sure the printing process hasn't suddenly stopped working the same way, and so on and so forth.

Cue a great deal of wailing and big-girl panty twisting.

The end result? Cross my fingers and pray.

My paperback will be selling for $10.99. I will make less money from every paperback sold but this is made up for in part by gaining more personal satisfaction from each sale (I'm not sure why, but I do feel that way). The digital books will all sell at $2.99.

The gates will open soon and then we'll find out if I made the right decisions...

Your Turn: Do you buy e-books or paperback? Do you have "budgets" for each kind of book - and are your budgets different for self-published books than for traditionally published? Share your buying behavior with me!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Self-Editing #8 - Getting Specific: NOUNS

This self-editing tip is another that's going to take some time and some intentional re-reading. But it's also a great philosophy to adopt in drafting:

A good writer uses specific nouns to offer clarity in minimal wordcount. They paint a detailed picture - not to complicate or exaggerate, but to be clear and succinct.

To whit:

"The noun rhinoceros flashes a sharper, more meaningful picture to your reader than does the noun animal. But animal is sharper and more meaningful than creature. In the same way, consider bungalow versus house versus building... starlet versus girl versus female... Colt versus revolver versus firearm..."

-Dwight V. Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer

The fewer words you can use to communicate the idea, the easier the reader will follow - and the broader the world built in their head in the shortest time. In other words: You'll write more efficiently.

So scour your manuscript for nouns and ask yourself: Is that the very best and clearest word for this person-place-or-thing?

Then let the nouns speak for themselves.

Why am I talking about nouns instead of verbs or adjectives? Well, primarily because we're covering verbs in the next post. But since you brought adjectives up (yes, you did), I'll make one brief point:
If you let your nouns speak for themselves wherever possible, adjectives will be less necessary. And where they do crop up, more effective.

But don't mix up being specific with over-stating. Say one thing clearly - not impressively. What's the difference? Here's a quote from C. S. Lewis:

"Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."

I'd add to that, don't say 'wonderful' for something that is merely 'sweet'. And never use 'devastated' when your character is simply 'sad'.

Good writing is simple, clear and leaves no room for confusion or distraction. (It also doesn't get impressed with it's own ability to synonymise). Good writing is also specific. It doesn't exaggerate or over-state because that creates melodrama in the minds-eye of the reader.

If the reader is spending time thinking about how beautifully you phrased something, or how impressive your vocabulary is, they aren't deep in the story. They may admire your prose, but be unable to tell their friends what the story was about.

So, what's your goal? For me, I want my words to be invisible, disappearing behind the clear and fascinating picture they paint.

Your Turn: Does this advice / approach apply only to commercial fiction, or to literary fiction also? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cover Reveal Giveaway Winners!

Thanks so much for your support guys. I've had literally hundreds of sign-ups on my various sites,
which is awesome.

But as always, there can only be one (or in this case, three) winners.

*Drum roll please*

SIGNED PAPERBACK: Goodreads entry from "Nicole" (I sent you a friend request and a message)

Ebook #1: Facebook entry from Fred LeBaron

Ebook #2: Twitter entry from Susanna Leonard Hill

(Fred and Susanna, let me know what format you prefer for your e-book!)

If you're still interested in winning, there's a giveaway run by Goodreads (the link is in the sidebar on the right). Just click to be in to win!

As for me, I'm disappearing back into my file-formatting cave... *Sigh*

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Was a Victim of Bullying... (My Story for Bullying Prevention Month)

Dear Bullied Teen,

I just found out it's Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. And because I want you to know you aren't alone, I'm going to tell my story for the first time:

I was a victim of bullying. Though it's been twenty years since I left high school, I remember.

I remember...

...when guys in my class laughed and pointed because I tripped over a mat and fell on the cement with my skirt flipped up over my back.

...when the popular girls passed me in the halls, whispering to each other while they looked at me, laughing and calling names over their shoulders.

...the guy who would mutter "I hate you," every time he saw me. Every. Time.

...the friends who'd sink into the crowd when I got cornered in the hallway by a group of girls determined to make me understand how ugly, useless and stupid I was.

...the two guys in woodshop pulling me aside and asking me what color my pubic hair was. Then, when I wouldn't answer, they laughed and ran around the class telling everyone a lie.

...a girl leaning out the window of a classroom as I passed, reciting the contents of a note she'd found when searching my school bag. (She'd photocopied my "love letter" and distributed it among the freshmen and sophomore classes).

...the more popular girls in my class wishing me a happy 15th birthday. When I smiled, they cracked an egg in my hair.

...the friend who denied being my friend when our classmates taunted her about knowing me.

...the teacher who affirmed my classmates taunting, just to get a laugh.

...the time I returned from PE to find my clothes soaking wet.

...the guy who liked me, but told me he couldn't date me because others would make fun of him.

...the guy who asked me to dance, then when I said yes, laughed in my face and called a bunch of his friends over to tell them he'd asked me and I'd said yes. "Like I'd ever want to touch her..."

...being backed up against the wall of the woodshop classroom, completely surrounded by a dozen male classmates, all of them hurling words like "slut" and "virgin" (in the same sentence, mind), "ugly", "fat", and accusing me of having sex with my father. Among other things.

...the girl who followed me home from school, hurling insults and threats, and eventually (because I completely ignored her) hit me over the head with an umbrella. Hard.

...hearing words like "ugly", "slut", "hate you", "go home", "fat", "dog", and more and more and more, every single day.

And more. And more. And more...

My heart rate still goes up, every time I talk about this stuff because of all the things I experienced, the memory of fear is the most acute. When I cast my mind back to those days, my body returns to the state I lived in back then.

It's a battlefield.

I remember dragging my clothes on for the day ahead, walking reluctantly onto campus, head down, pulse raised, body sweating, wary of what might be coming from behind, braced for impact from what I could see ahead.

At fifteen, walking down a school hallway felt akin to approaching a firing squad.

No one should have to live that way. No one. Including you.

I want you to know that it can change. It doesn't always have to be this way. But it won't be easy. Through no fault of your own, you've been handed a mountain to climb. And I know how hard and painful that trek is.

I want you to know it's worth it.

In the years since I found emotional freedom from my past I've come across a lot of bullies. Ironically, they're scared of me now. Because they don't sense weakness in me anymore. Now they sense strength. I've had friends, colleagues, acquaintances take shelter behind my metaphorical bulk, because they can sense it too:

I'm not scared anymore.

Can you imagine how wonderful that feels? Probably not. I ache knowing you're still experiencing that pain and fear every day.

If I could tattoo anything on your heart it would be: "You have value. You are loveable. They are wrong." I would follow you around repeating those words and more - how important you are, how critical you are, how necessary. That the world would be less if you weren't here. But as a former victim myself, I know those words, while they hold hope, are hard to believe when you're in the bunkers, rallying strength for the next altercation.

So, I wrote a book. Among other things, it's about a girl who's bullied relentlessly at school - and those around her don't quite realize how bad it is. It's called Breakable because you and I both know that people aren't impenetrable. There are weights that are too heavy. There are blows that are too hard. We are fragile.

We can break.

I didn't write Stacy's character to retell my story. She has a story of her own. And I didn't write her to tie up a bullying story in a nice little ribbon - because you've probably already figured out, our stories don't end that way.

I wrote her story so that you know that I remember how it feels. And I know that it's wrong. I wrote it because I want you to see that even though I don't know you, I love you. I feel for you. I hurt with you.

No matter what anyone else tells you, the truth is: Those bullies in your life are wrong.

The day will come that you'll be strong. You won't feel isolated or afraid. You'll know with certainty that they are wrong. Then they'll lose their power, and you'll lose your fear.

But until then, know that I haven't forgotten, and I know how hard it is. And I'm not the only adult you'll meet who understands. You aren't alone. It won't always feel this way.

I was a victim of bullying, but not anymore. I'm strong now. I can sit in the bunker with you until you're ready. Then I'll remind you: I'm walking proof: You can find your way out of that hellhole. So don't give up. Please, don't give up.

They're wrong.

If you or someone you know is being bullied you can get help. Start with a school counselor, or a parent or family friend who had similar experiences. If they don't get it, keep looking: Sports coaches, teachers, aunts and uncles, older kids whose lives have already changed... just keep looking. You need help. You deserve help.

You can also get in touch with others who've been in your shoes, and the adults who can help on sites like, and (check out the BRAVE line contact details on the right).

Don't stop looking for help. Don't give up!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Self-Editing #7 – WHEN to show / WHEN to tell.

We're returning to our normally schedule viewing here at STWL, but don't forget: The competition to win one of three copies of BREAKABLE ends tonight at midnight. So go add it to your Goodreads shelf, like my author page on facebook, or tweet a link to the cover reveal and include the hashtag #BreakableBook for your chance to win a signed, inscribed paperback!
Today's tip is a little more involved, but I'd encourage you, once you've finished a draft, to undertake a revision with this purely in mind:

The irony of being a fiction writer is that our goal, as authors, is to remain utterly invisible. The best way to keep the reader engaged and completely unaware of the author, is to predominantly show rather than tell.

I know we bandy that phrase around a lot, so I think it's time to demonstrate.


"We're just friends," Dani said.

Carl was sure Dani was lying to him. He imagined all the reasons she had for hiding her true feelings and felt cold.


"We're just friends," Dani said. Her eyes drifted across the room to Adam, slouched in a chair in the corner.

Carl kept his face blank, his fingers curled to fists in his pockets. Would she be honest, knowing how he felt about Adam? Or did she think he'd stop helping her if she was dating that loser?

An ice-cube of doubt settled in his stomach.

"But that uses more words!" the writers scream. Yes. It does. But which would you rather read? Which gives you a stronger sense of the characters and scene?

As a reader I'm going to contend that if your words keep me enthralled, I don't care how many of them you use.

Of course, there are moments when telling / summary are completely legitimate forms to convey the reader from one place and time to the next. Without them, every book would be a tome.

The trick is knowing WHEN you can tell, WHEN you can summarize.

The simple answer is this. Always default to show UNLESS what you're conveying doesn't change, a) the protagonists's state of mind, or, b) the protagonists state of affairs.

(Insert reader “Huh?” here).

Okay, here’s the basics of what you need to know. (I'd highly recommend reading Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer for more on this):


If your POV character went to sleep feeling anxious, spent two days in anticipation of a meeting with the Principal feeling anxious, and woke on the morning of said meeting feeling anxious, the state of mind has remained unchanged. As long as nothing has occurred to change that or the story's forward motion in that time, then merely tell the reader that time has passed.

Summarize time and emotion: "Those two days of waiting were hell, walking around with my stomach in my mouth, trying to pretend I didn't care."

CONVERSELY, if during those two days Mom or Dad asked the protagonist why they were acting weird and tried to talk about the 'issues' they'd been having at school, that's a scene that needs to be SHOWN because the protagonist's state of mind will be affected by the fear Mom or Dad is onto them.



The FBI Agent protagonist gets a call from the evidentiary team - they've found DNA. But DNA takes days to analyze, and all other leads are exhausted.

Certain his prime suspect is the man, FBI Agent sends the DNA sample for analysis, and waits. During that time he does paperwork, answers the phone, eats, sleeps, poops... but in terms of the plot development, nothing is happening. The State of Affairs remains unchanged. So tell.

Summarize time and events: "Agent Fielding slunk through the next three days dodging visits from the victim's mother, and conveniently forgetting to return his boss's calls. Roger Fandango was the murderer. He just needed those results to prove it."

CONVERSELY, if during those three days the victim's mother has a conversation with Fandago's defense lawyer who offers potential 'proof' Fandango isn't the man - show it in scene. The State of Affairs has changed.

So, are we clear not only about how to show, but also when? If, at any time, your protagonist's state of mind or the state of affairs changes, you must SHOW it. When neither of these elements is affected, feel free to tell.

Also, vividness outranks brevity. But do your best to be as brief as you can. Using specific nouns will help with that, so we’ll be covering those in the next post.

Your Turn: Have you seen effective exceptions to this rule? How did the author handle it? Why do you think it worked?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dance and Flail! It's Time for a COVER REVEAL - and a BREAKABLE GIVEAWAY!

Want to see the wonderful overview from my first 5-star review reader? Check out:

It's here! You know, that day I've been dreaming about for...oh, I don't know... four years, five months and twelve days, give or take an hour? (Not to mention, the rest of my lifetime). So for me today feels like this:

Don't worry, I'm not going to put you through all the dancing (or weepy nostalgia). I am going to say that my cover designer** is A-MAZE-ING.

You can see for yourself here, but be sure to check out those links on the sidebar for other bloggers who were kind enough to host me today and over the next few days.

The official blurb, and how to enter the competition are outlined below:

 Yes, that is an original artwork *Swoon*

When seventeen-year-old Stacy looks in the mirror she can see and talk to her future self. “Older Me” has been Stacy's secret support through the ongoing battle with their neurotic mother, relentless bullying at school, and dealing with her hopeless love for her best friend, Mark.

Then Stacy discovers Older Me is a liar.

Reeling from that betrayal, Stacy buries herself in her art. But even that is taken from her when her most persistent tormentor uses her own work to humiliate her - and threaten her last chance with Mark.

Stacy’s reached breaking point.


Sound interesting? Great! You can read the first chapter here, join the blog tour for Breakable's release in November, or enter to win a signed, inscribed paperback copy, or a free e-book of Breakable!

There are three ways to win:

- Add Breakable to your Goodreads to-read list. (Don't worry, if you've already added it you've already got an entry!)

- Like my author page on Facebook. (Again, if you already have, you're already entered!)

- Tweet a link to this post (or another Breakable cover reveal post) this week on Twitter and include the hashtag #BreakableBook (I've even included some easy-tweetables at the bottom of this post that you can copy and paste into your twitter update).

1. One winner will be drawn from each social media outlet, then a winner of the paperback drawn from those three.
2. Readers are welcome to enter on all three sites.
3. Entries are counted between Monday at 4:30am PST, and Thursday at 11:59pm PST.
4. Every tweet or share gains an entry, though an individual can only win once.

Okay, so that's enough from me. Let's go back to staring at that gorgeous cover, shall we?

*Happy sigh*

Your Turn: Add Breakable on Goodreads, like my author page on facebook, or tweet links to this post and include the hashtag #BreakableBook (tweet your own words, or use the tweetables below)

I can't wait to read #BreakableBook by @AimeeLSalter. Check out this cover: #yareads #amreading
I just entered to win a signed paperback of #BreakableBook by @AimeeLSalter. Cool cover: #amreading #yalitchat
The cover reveal of @AimeeLSalter's book BREAKABLE is here: #breakablebook #yareads #yabooks

**My cover designer's name is Kelly Geister. She's based in Portland, Oregon. Her schedule's pretty full, but if you're really eager to talk to her, drop me a line. I'll give her your details.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Self-Editing #6 - Clean Up Crew: Punctuation

Just a quick note before we continue the self-editing series: On Monday I'm revealing the cover of BREAKABLE! I'd love it if you could stop by, tweet or facebook a link to the post, or generally give it a shout out to whoever you know that loves YA. If you're a reviewer or blogger who'd like to get involved, it's not too late to sign up. Click this link and add your email to the appropriate box! (If you're not sure, you can read a preview of the first chapter here). And now, back to our previously scheduled viewing...
How embarrassed was I to find out I had bad grammar and punctuation?!

I never studied English after high school, so maybe I can blame that. Or maybe it's because I'm an American who grew up in New Zealand: I read books written in both American and British English (and yes, the spelling, grammar and some punctuation are different).

But I've been writing for business for over ten years. And I'm good at it. It's just that fiction has its own rules and I didn't know a lot of them. And after doing a little research I've discovered I'm not alone.

So... I've accumulated some information and quotes from other sources for you to double check against your usage (NOTE: These are all in the American standard. If you're writing in the Queen's English, please double check):


When a character says something, the words are enclosed in quotes with a period at the end:

“Hi. It’s good to see you.”

When you attribute the speech, the final sentence of the dialogue ends in a comma:

“Hi. It’s good to see you,” Carl said.

EXCEPT when the attribution isn’t direct:

“Hi. It’s good to see you.” Carl smiled and held out his hand.

(If you aren’t sure, the litmus test is: can the attribution stand alone as a sentence? If so, the speech should end in a period).

In dialogue, when a character’s name is used, there is always a comma preceding.

“What’s your problem, Frank?”


“I told you, Frank, I’m not going to do that.”

When a character’s dialogue extends beyond one paragraph, the first paragraph(s) are open ended. Only the final paragraph has end-quotes. 

     “Yadda yadda yadda. Blah, blah blah blah. Yadda, yadda. Yadda yadda yadda. Blah, blah blah blah. Yadda, yadda.
     “Blah blah blah blah, yadda. Yadda blah, yaddah. Blah blah blah blah, yadda. Yadda blah, yaddah. Blah blah blah blah, yadda. Yadda blah, yaddah.
     “Yadda blah, yadda yadda. Blah. Yaddah.”

In broken dialogue only capitalize a new quote after a period.

“Hey there,” said Carl, “it’s good to see you."


“Hey there,” said Carl. “I didn't expect to see you here.”


Its, your and their are possessive (i.e. owned or held by the person they refer to).

It’s, you’re and they’re are contractions (i.e. two words condensed into one: It is, you are and they are)

Titles like ‘Dad’ and ‘Uncle’ are capitalized when used in place of the name, not when speaking in the possessive:

CORRECT: Dad told me he never kissed anyone before Mom.


CORRECT: My dad told me he never kissed anyone before my mom.

(Again the litmus test is, could "Dad" or "Mom" or "Grandpa" be replaced with a name without changing anything else? If so, it should be capitalized).


The correct use of a dash in manuscript format for submission to traditional publishing is to use the dash twice.

Carl took me to his car -- the ‘little’ SUV, not the truck -- and opened the door for me.

(NOTE: MS Word and others not specifically designed for writers may automatically condense the dashes into one long dash - called an "em-dash" or empirical dash. Try changing your 'autocorrect' settings.)

The semicolon is a continuation: It must be followed by a complete sentence. It is NOT for use in a side thought – something that breaks a sentence – where you should use an em-dash.

These are some of the most common punctuation issues I've had or come across. For more extensive lists and detailed analysis, check out Natalie Fischer's Cheat-Sheet post.

Your Turn: Are there particular grammar, punctuation or spelling questions you have? Note them in the comments and I'll see what I can do. (Or, if you have tips on common problems, please share!)