Tag Archives: spelling

Today’s Writing Tip: Question Marks In the Middle of a Sentence

sig2010Punctuating question marks in the middle of a sentence confuses the best of us. Our instinct is often to capitalize the word that follows the question mark, but usually that’s wrong. Here’s an example:

When I asked my teacher, Mr. Cotton, “What is the purpose of life?” this is the answer I received.

Note two things about that sentence. One, the word that proceeds the question and the question mark is lowercased. That’s because the phrase “What is the purpose of life?” is still part of a larger sentence, even though it is a complete sentence and can stand on its own normally, but in this instance it is only half of the sentence.

“This is the answer I received” is the other half and we need it to make our point. Two, there is no comma after the question mark. A version of our example which includes the comma is wrong, e.g., When I asked my teacher, Mr. Cotton, “What is the purpose of life?,” this is the answer I received.

Fortunately, your spellcheck will probably pick up the second issue and flag it as a problem; however, spellcheck may incorrectly tell you that you want to capitalize any word after a question mark. Don’t do it automatically; do so only if it is not part of a larger sentence and that includes dialogue. (“Is the purpose of life to love and be loved?” she asked. No caps for the pronoun and no comma after the question mark.)

Sigrid Macdonald is an author and an editor. You can find her at http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com/ 

Today’s Writing Tip: American versus Canadian and British Spelling

sig2010Most people who grow up in the US and use American English are not prone to misspelling a word by using the Canadian variant; however, Canadian and British folks often use their own language consistently in a document and then suddenly spell one or two words the American way. How can they avoid doing that? Here are the basic things to look for that differentiate American spelling from British or Canadian.

One. Words like honor, favor, and color all require a “u” in the British or Canadian versions. For example, honour, favour, and colour.

Two. Words that end in “er” such as center, fiber, or somber are spelled with an “re” in British and Canadian English. For example, centre, fibre, or sombre.

Three. Participles that end in “ling” often necessitate an additional “l.” Think of dialing, traveling, and reveling (dialling, travelling, and revelling).

Four. British English spells words like memorized, baptized, or recognized with an “s” – memorised, baptised, or recognised. Collins Gage Canadian Dictionary advises Canadians not to do this but many Canadians who submit manuscripts to me throw in that “s.”

Are these all the differences between the three languages? Not by a long shot but these are some of the big ones and if you can master them, you are well on your way to ensuring that your blog, article, essay or novel is consistent in terms of spelling.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor http://tinyurl.com/7wnk5se and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released “The Pink Triangle,” a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr

Mispelling Or Misspelling?



by Catherine L. Tully

How’s your spelling? While it’s true that these days we have spellcheck, there is really no substitute for knowing how to spell things correctly the first time. It is more efficient, and you don’t have to worry about catching things later. For those who struggle with certain words–you are not alone. Here is a list of the 100 Most Often Misspelled Words that you can work through at your leisure.

I have to confess that as I browsed the list, I found quite a few that I could work on!

We All Do It

wordsIt’s tough enough to sell your writing skills without tripping yourself up with bad spelling, clumsy sentences, and atrocious grammar. We all have a blind spot when it comes to our own spelling, and even the old tried-and-true “read it aloud” trick doesn’t always work the way it should.

On every page of a well-established content supplier, you’ll read: “Let’s discuss your content needs formulate a content marketing proposal.”

On another site that wants to sell you writing services:”A technical writing company with a specialty in Internet, telecommunications, and software development topics.”

And most infamously, in a crucial political race on the east coast, an advertisement for Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s senatorial campaign misspelled the name of the state. According to LegalNewsline.com, “After a three-person debate Monday night, an attack ad on Republican state Sen. Scott Brown paid for by the state’s Democratic Party spelled it ‘Massachusettes.’ The ad was ‘authorized by Martha Coakley for Senate and approved by Martha Coakley.” Continue reading We All Do It

Confuse Your Words No More


by Catherine L. Tully

If you confuse words such as affect and effect or desert and dessert, this resource is for you. Brush up on your wording with AskOxford. This page is a great one, but there are other resources here as well. Check out the list of abbreviations for electronic communication (think brb or lol) or test yourself on the “i before e” words. Great for a refresher. Everyone can use that from time to time.