The Daily Journal, Friday, April 12

In today’s Journal

▪ Thanks
▪ Trad pubs?
▪ Topic: Consistency Is Key
▪ A new icon for PWW
▪ Daily diary
▪ Of Interest (a LOT of links)
▪ The numbers

I read over yesterday’s post again last night, and wow did it sound needy. (grin)

Anyway, thanks to all of you who commented on the post or in private emails to let me know the Journal matters to you. I appreciate it.

I kind of figured it mattered to some of you, but I admit it’s nice to hear. If a particular edition of the Journal strikes you or is helpful, please consider visiting the website and leaving a comment.

Is anyone out there still pursuing a traditional publishing contract? If so, from time to time (like today), I’ll put an item in “Of Interest” for you.

Please let me know either in a comment or via email at I don’t want to encourage you to do something I wouldn’t normally recommend, but neither do I want to snub anyone who does things differently than I do.

Topic: Consistency Is Key

First, credit where credit is due. The catalyst for this topic was Terry Odell’s excellent post on “Tips for Using Apostrophes” (see “Of Interest”).

Say you have a character whose name ends in S, for example Thomas. At issue is whether to add another S after using the apostrophe at the end of the character’s name.

I never do. In the same manuscript, I’ll write “I went to Thomas’ house before I went to John’s house and then on to Bill and Susan’s house.”

I would never write “Thomas’s house” because to me the added S sounds awkward. But that’s just me. Writing it either way is correct.

The key is to be consistent within the story (of any length). If you write “Thomas’ house” once, omit the extra S from after the apostrophe on any other character names that end with S.

(Yes, I note the LACK of consistency in not adding the S after “Thomas’” but adding it after names that do not end in S (“John’s”) but I don’t care. The focus of my consistent pattern is narrower in this case.

There’s also a “rule” to never use an apostrophe to indicate a plural. Yet one exception is to write “Billy got two A’s, three B’s and two C’s on his report card.” Or to write “Always cross your T’s and dot your I’s.”

Using the apostrophe after the A and the I avoids reader confusion (with the words As and Is, respectively). But because you use an apostrophe after the A and I, for consistency you have to also use one after B, C, and T.

There’s an ongoing argument among people who care and think they can change other people’s minds regarding the “Oxford” comma, the third comma in a series, generally coming before the “and.”

Some use it, some don’t. I most often don’t. But again, be consistent. If you use it, use it throughout a single work (or series). If you don’t, don’t. Just be consistent.

And hyphen use…

A couple of days ago in a review of one of my nonfiction books, a reader took exception to my personal rule of writing “A three year old boy was standing in the yard” vs. the Chicago Manual of Style’s rule to write it like this: “A three-year-old boy was standing in the yard” or “A three year-old boy was standing in the yard.”

I don’t omit the hyphens to be contrary. I omit them because I use the area directly above my neck for something other than a place to rest my hat. I am frequently a practitioner of an Original Thought Process. Which basically means I take responsibility for my writing. I, the writer—not some other person who contributed to a “style” manual—determine whether a piece of punctuation is necessary for clarity in my work. If it isn’t, I omit it.

Reading “a three year old boy” is clean, and I’ve never heard of anyone becoming confused as a result of the missing (and to me, unnecessary) hyphens.

The hyphen has only one effect: it forces the reader to read two or three words as if they are one word. Hence, I sometimes sit in the back seat of a car, where occasionally I am a back-seat driver. I occasionally go into the back yard of my home, where we used to have a back-yard swingset for the children.

Today, of course, the hyphen has been dropped, so those single words are now “backseat” and “backyard,” which has had the effect of confusing some writers. “Backseat” and “backyard” are adjectives, not nouns. They describe something that is located in them. They are not a place to go. To this day, I cringe whenever I read that a character got into the “backseat” of a car or went into the “backyard.”

Punctuation is a tool you use to direct the reading of your work. As such, it is something that should be used as necessary, but only when necessary and always with a thought in mind as to how it will directly affect the reader.

In my nonfiction book Punctuation for Writers, I didn’t regurgitate the rules of punctuation. I suppose if I had, the reviewer I mentioned above wouldn’t have had a problem with it.

Instead, I based my advice on scientific principles of how those tiny black marks directly affect the reader. And they do affect all readers in exactly the same way.

Some punctuation forces the reader to take a long pause. Those marks are the period, the colon, the exclamation point and the question mark. Some force the reader to take a medium pause. Those are the semicolon and the em dash.

Remember in school the teacher said to use a colon after a complete thought to introduce a list that follows the thought? That’s why, because the colon forces a long pause to ready the reader to receive the list.

But if the list comes before the complete thought, you use an em dash. The medium pause gives the reader a break, but rushes him sooner to the “important” information that explains the significance of the list.

And one bit of punctuation, the comma, forces a short pause.

None of the other punctuation marks (parens, en dash, apostrophe, quotation marks) create a pause at all. For lack of a better term, I call those “spelling” punctuation.

If you have trouble with punctuation, or if you think of it as a necessary evil rather than a tool to use to direct the reading of your work, I encourage you to give my Punctuation for Writers a try. You can find it wherever ebooks are sold. If you ask nicely, I might even send you one free.

The point is, whether you choose to use or not use the possessive apostrophe after a name that ends in S or to use or not use the Oxford comma or to use the hyphen as intended (or blindly follow someone else’s “style” guide), do so consistently.

Consistency is the key to less-confusing writing.

Awhile back my friend Robert sent me a mockup of a coffee cup with the PWW logo on it.

This morning I changed the icon (the little pic that appears alongside the URL) to that mockup. (grin)

Here’s the photo in case you want to see it:

Had a rough night and rolled out at 4 this morning. To the Hovel where I followed my usual routine, then to the house at 6 for a break.

Back to the Hovel at a little after 7 where I was pleased to find PWW posted on schedule. I did a lot of other work (the topic above, posting to the big blog, etc.) then returned to the house to see my wife off.

Back to the Hovel and the novel (finally) at 9:30. Today should be a good writing day.

And it was. And I’m still on the verge of the action scene. (grin)

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Challenge Questions” at

See “Tips for Using Apostrophes” at

Via see “Text Publishing” (a small tradpub house) at

Fiction Words: 4190
Nonfiction Words: 1350 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 5540

Writing of Blackwell Ops 6: Charlie Task (novel)

Day 1…… 2774 words. Total words to date…… 2774
Day 2…… 1776 words. Total words to date…… 4550
Day 3…… 4190 words. Total words to date…… 8740

Total fiction words for the month……… 18778
Total fiction words for the year………… 236579
Total nonfiction words for the month… 14670
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 91740
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 328319

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 5
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 42
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 193
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

6 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Friday, April 12”

  1. I saw a rule some writer had made up about never using names that end in S to avoid the apostrophe. As a person with a last name that ends in S, I thought that was an entirely silly rule. 😀

    • Yup. It just isn’t that hard to remember to put the apostrophe after the base word, whether that word is singular or plural.

  2. Heya Harvey,

    Dropping by to say thanks and respond to your comment on my blog.

    I’m glad you got to see your boys and spend some quality time with them! Time is a precious thing. My brother and his wife have been in town from Germany, so we’ve enjoyed some days together and also spent time with our parents, along with everything else going on. It’s definitely been a time for shifting priorities, but things are starting to take on a slightly calmer pace for the moment.

    I’ve also been getting the writing bug back in my system, though slowly. I’m back to a page a day this week. And I have a short story that was just assigned by Dean for the Mystery Study-Along workshop that’s due on Sunday, so that’ll be a real kick in the pants. 🙂

    Honestly, the things you’ve been writing about lately and the posts on the PWW blog have been unbelievably timely. I was getting so wrapped up in applying all of the workshop and studying stuff last month that I was starting to lose the “fun” in the writing. The discussions you’ve all had about letting the characters tell the story have been very helpful in reminding me that the writing should be as fun as reading a new story, and that what I’ve learned needs to just be there for my creative mind to grab onto when its needed. That’s helped tremendously.

    So thanks for continuing to crank out your daily journal. I hope to have an update on my blog by Monday!


    • Thanks, Phillip. It’s nice to know some of this silliness helps occasionally. (grin) I knew you weren’t off writing altogether. (You can’t take as many courses as you’re taking lately and be off it.) But I’m glad to hear you’re getting back into the zone.

      Yep, learn with your conscious mind, and then don’t worry about it. What you need will seep into your subconscious and your characters will use it as necessary. I look forward to your next post.

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