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Great information. I used to write my stories as if they were the completed manuscript; double spaces, indented paragraph, and wide margins. I felt it was easier than having to change the format after the story was written and it made it easier for me to edit. Now, I've gotten lazy with all the writing for the web. Thanks for the reminder.

I really want to address one rule you referenced about run-on sentences and dangling modifiers. I have noticed a trend emerging in the past 5 years or so. It appears that these two writing no-no's are becoming more accepted by the publishing industry (in the US). Maybe the publishers have some kind of criteria they follow when allowing run-on sentences and dangling modifiers to infiltrate an otherwise well written novel. I'm not sure what that criteria might be. I realize that some rule breakers can actually add to a story but I've read too many novels with run-on sentences laced throughout the text that they became hard for me to read. One I can think of is "White Oleanders", an Oprah book pick a few years ago. It seemed that there wasn't a page that didn't have a run-on sentence and/or dangling modifier. While I found the writing style distracting, other didn't. Perhaps because they were not reading with a writers eye. Heck, no one I talked with noticed the run-on sentences until I pointed them out.

I'm just wondering if anyone else has noticed a trend toward the acceptance of these writing rule breakers?


Excellent post and very useful information! A question about formatting. When you've written a line of dialogue, of course indented, how do you begin the next line if it involves a different charachter?
For instance:
"What did she say?" asked Douglass.
Fran winced. She didn't know how to answer. She faced the mirror and proceeded to powder her nose.

Should "Fran" be indented?
I've searched my manuscript format book but can't find an answer.

Thanks again for a great post,


Yes, Fran should be indented.


Man, I wish I had this post last week before I embarassed myself with my proofreader before I submitted my essay. I'm glad she caught my irrational use (and non-use) of commas, but it shows how much I still have to learn. I'll look out for those proofreading classes that you suggest.

As for Glo's comment above: Read "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" by Terry McMillan if you want to see what "real" run-on sentences are. ;-) Yes, I would agree--these odd quirks in writing are in style now.

Crawford Kilian

Sorry I didn't get this item posted when you needed it, Teresa. But don't feel lonely. I'm reading a book on the present US-Iraq crisis by a senior Newsweek editor...and even he uses "lay" when he means "lie"!

To think I've just spent 15 weeks of my dwindling life expectancy trying to explain the difference to my legal admin assistant students...well, the ones who flunked can always get jobs in the media.


thanks, glo. and yes, i'm trying to type my manuscript the right way from the beginning...such a time saver as you say.

thanks again,

Zarina N Docken

But Crof, I don't want to get a job in the media. I better review my notes.

Jerry Race

hi there,

This article was most informative. I've been a member of an online writing workshop for the past two years. The workshop has many fiction and non-fiction classes. It also has message boards in those classes to post scenes of our story and novels. Everyone helps the other in giving feedback on edting grammar and punction. Since I graduated highschool in 1964 it had been awhile for my taking any grammar classes. Btw, this workshop includes a grammar class that I took and it was most helpfull. In case you are curious that workshop is known as Writers Villae University. Thanks again for posting this article.

Jerry Race

David Irwin

Thanks for the good essay. These little details are very important, it seems to me. I have only published a few newspaper and magazine personality profiles, but I always try to get things cleaned up as much as possible, for I have always heard that editors appreciate and remember that.

I have a bunch of usage guides and grammar books, but the most helpful ones to me have been Look It Up by Rudolf Flesch, The Elements Of Style by E.B. White, and Essentials Of English by Hopper, Gale, Foote, and Griffith. The latter is in its fourth edition and is published by Barron's, the people that do all the SAT review books, etc. I find that it is methodical and clear.

I also love the Merriam Webster English Usage, which has an enormous data base of examples. And, though I know purists frown upon it, I am very fond of the new Burchfield Fowler's Modern English Usage. It is strong on the international usages and points out the distinctions.

That said, I'm still very insecure about grammar and punctuation. I came late to writing, being a musician and techer by profession thus far. I intend to become more secure and confident in this area.

Again thanks for the blog, and for the nice essay.

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