Sunday, November 23, 2008

Writing for Publications in a Different Country

Q: I’d like to write articles for publications in a different country. Can you offer any tips?

A: With the internet and email, it’s never been easier for a freelance writer to access new markets and pick up good commissions in other countries. This is good news for all writers but, to be successful, you need to have the right approach. Consider the following:

1. Study your target publication. Be familiar with the magazine that you hope to write for. Research a copy or look for the publication’s articles that have been printed online.

2. Ask the editor for the Writer Guidelines and make sure you adhere to every point.

3. Write for your target audience and be aware of the different style / format. If you are writing for an American magazine, you need to write for an American readership.

4. Avoid using colloquial and slang terms in your work which international readers may not be familiar with.

5. Consider the terms of any contractual agreements.

6. Gain advice from your bank about issues such as exchange rates and charges for international payments.

If you are open to submitting your writing to publications in different countries, you increase your chances of success. With attention to detail and good research, you really can have a world-wide audience for your work.

Freelance Writing: Writers Beware!

Life can be tough for the freelance writer. It takes a lot of hard work to gain contracts to earn a decent living. So, the last thing you need is to fall victim to a company or publisher who fails to pay for the commissioned writing services you’ve provided.

When you become a self-employed writer, you need to be aware that there are companies out there, some unscrupulous, who commission writers then fail to pay. At the same time, there are publications (often new ones) that hire writers to undertake work before disappearing without explanation or apology, let alone payment. It’s a sad fact that magazines and publishing ventures do fold or experience financial difficulties and, if this happens, there appears to be little a writer can do except try selling any completed material elsewhere.

Failure to be paid for commissioned work is a problem affecting beginners and established writers alike. It seems to be rife in the creative world and yet wouldn’t be tolerated in other industries. The problem is that although you could pursue payment via the legal system, it’s not often cost or time effective for us writers nor practical if the company concerned has disappeared or gone bankrupt.

As an established writer, I’ve encountered three incidents of being commissioned for work by publishers who failed to honour payment in the past year. These were all genuine publishing companies too! One involved a newsletter publisher who decided to wind down the venture without notice and failed to pay the substantial amount owed. Another concerned a national magazine publisher who commissioned a feature then changed their editorial direction. The last one happened recently. The editor of a new green magazine commissioned me to write an article then promptly disappeared!

Where the national magazine was concerned, I managed to negotiate a kill fee (50% of the agreed fee paid for commissioned work). This was duly paid. The newsletter publishing company made a token fee but didn’t honour the payment arrangement. As to the green magazine, it must have recycled itself as I’ve not heard anything since! It’s obviously infuriating when commissions fail to pay but if no resolution can be found, the writer has no choice but to move on.

To reiterate, these were all genuine publishers – not unscrupulous companies deliberately out to deceive or treat writers unfairly but publishers who were experiencing financial difficulties or a change of situation which, unfortunately, created an adverse knock-on effect. What we writers find intolerable though is when such publishers / editors fail to communicate when they can’t pay. It’s far worse, in my opinion, when we are left wondering. I would certainly be more understanding if an editor / publisher explained a problem rather than having to endure the `not knowing’. This way, writers can move-on and decide whether to re-write the work or sell elsewhere.

Safeguarding your Writing Business

The incidences of writers being treated unfairly seems to be on the rise. As writers, we need to do all we can to protect ourselves from unscrupulous dealings and safeguard our work against theft and non-payment. You may already have procedures in place but, if not, here’s what you can do:

1. When you gain a commission do some research and establish who you are working for.

2. Make sure you have the company’s full contact details. If not provided, ask for names and postal address.

3. Keep copies of any communication that has taken place such as letters of commission and offers of payment.

4. Carefully read the terms of any contracts / writers agreements. Do not accept or sign such an agreement until you understand and agree to the terms. Read the small-print. Make sure you are not giving away `all rights’ to your work (unless you want to do so in lieu perhaps of a higher payment).

5. Don’t be afraid to discuss payment. Remember, you are offering a service as a writer. You are providing your time, expertise and skill. You are also using your equipment and utilities to produce the material. Even if you are writing for sheer joy and to be published, at least cover your expenses and make sure you are paid fairly for commissioned work. You are doing yourself and other writers a great disservice if you don’t!

6. If you are undertaking a substantial amount of work for an unknown publisher / company, ask for an advance payment.

7. If payment is late, submit a professional reminder (the Freelance Writers’ Business Kit has sample letter templates which you can use).

8. If the publisher / company admit to experiencing financial difficulties, don’t get angry! Try to negotiate a settlement fee or payment arrangement.

9. More difficult is if the company who has commissioned you to produce material disappears seemingly without trace. Try to follow up using the contact information you have. If you fail to resolve, move on! Record it as a loss / bad debt in your accounts (ask your accountant for advice). Revise the material, if possible…recycle it and look for a new market.

10. If you suspect a company has published or used your work without payment or permission, the company could be in breach of copyright. You can take legal action and will need to gain professional advice.

Sometimes, a commission can fall through for reasons beyond your control. Magazines fold, editors’ move on and companies can have unexpected financial problems … that’s part of the course and you should anticipate this can happen at any stage of your writing career. Although demoralising, don’t dwell on it. After over 20 years’ in the writing business, I’ve found that the best way to deal with such situations is to quickly move on and focus on turning a negative into a positive. There are always other opportunities and more successful outcomes!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Travel Articles Writing Tips

Travel is booming. No doubt about it. It seems like everyone with a mouse and keyboard has visited Orbitz, Expedia, et al, for the best rates on trips to ... well, to everywhere. Dropping prices make travel that much more appealing to an ever-widening group of Americans.

This mini-boom in travel has had the side effect of increasing the number of travel-article markets, both on-line and off. Magazines that wouldn't have considered running travel a few years ago are clamboring to bolster their travel-related content. And why not. The travel industry is a mega-monster constantly seeking to gobble up new customers. In publishing lingo, that translates into travel-related advertising revenue. Come one, come all. It's gravy time!

You can cash in on the scramble for travel features. Just remember that, in a glutted freelance market, you're not alone. To give yourself a competitive edge over other travel writers (including those who specialize in the genre), keep these tips in mind.

Know your market

Just as not all magazines are alike, not all travel markets are the same. It's no surprise that medical magazines gear their travel pages to their readers (doctors, mostly) and where they most want to go. Environmental magazines concentrate their coverage on hands-on eco-related excursions. Cruise magazines want destinations accessible by ship.

Try selling a piece on the bars of Puerto Vallarta to Sierra and you're simply wasting your time

Do sweat the details

Some magazines have a strict taboo against fam (familiarization) trips. If you're planning on accepting anything from a travel agent, airline, cruise line, or hotel, make sure the editor knows up front and doesn't object.

Similarly, some magazines want all rights to publication (including Internet rights), some want only print rights, and some negotiate rights separately. Understand in advance what you're giving up so that no one is disappointed or disillusioned afterwards.

Don't get greedy

One of the prime tip-offs inexperienced writers give seasoned editors is something like this: "I've got a great idea for a travel piece to Miami and want to know if you pay expenses." Or this: "I'd like to write an article for you. How much do you pay?" Or one of our personal favorites: "I want to do an article for you. Can I have an assignment?"

Here's a guy the editor has never worked with before, whose credentials may or may not be accurate as presented, and who may or may not actually come through with the article that the editor requested to see and can actually use. Now he wants expenses? An assignment? A payment guarantee? Uh-huh. Sure.

In short, don't insult the editor's intelligence by trying to get him to commit to something before he's actually seen the piece and gets comfortable working with you. What this all boils down to is that you have to give any relationship time to grow--and that includes a writer-editor relationship. When the editor is convinced you're a writer who delivers what he promises, you'll know it. Then if you have an idea for an assignment, or need help with costs, or need a certain amount of money out of a piece, you can ask for it without fear of alienating him.

Slant your article

It's a simple enough concept. Your recent trip to the jungles of Peru might fly in Smithsonian or National Geographic, but with a little fine-tuning, you can also make it appealing to magazines with a greatly different subscriber base. If you're going to sell the same trip to Rolling Stone or Mother Jones, work in a human-interest element. (Remember your guide and how he introduced you to his family, all struggling financially to stay alive?)

Somebody once said there's only one story, but there are a million different slants. It's true. With the right slant, you can sell the same basic trip to dozens of different magazines.

Don't get too personal

When used properly, working yourself or people you know into the article can be effective. But unless the magazine thrives on personal reminiscences (and few do), you'll do well to keep personal intrusions to a minimum. After all, editors want to share the place with their readers, not the writer writing about it. A little "Marge and I" goes a long, long way in a travel piece.

Build a reputation

In order to capture those all-important repeat sales, you'll need to convince your editors that you're reliable, factual, and prompt, as well as a damned good writer. You can do this by following these maxims:

  • Never promise anything in a query letter that you can't deliver.
  • Never miss a deadline without a very good reason, and then alert the editor as far in advance as possible of just how late you're going to be.
  • Always fact-check your articles through diligent research at reliable sources before submitting.
Take care of this business first, and you can't help but be a successful travel writer. I guarantee it.

Overcoming "Stress"

Imagine a heavy barbell you've managed to bench-press up off your chest. Your arms are extended, but the weight remains at arm's length, exerting pressure. Now that you've been holding it up for a while, it's starting to quiver, you're beginning to sweat, and there's no one around to spot you. It's that hopeless feeling you may think of as stress: that you're running out of strength and energy, and eventually the weight is going to crush you.

Been there? There now?

As a clinical psychologist at the UCLA school of medicine for the past two decades, I've treated hundreds of men who feel the weight of jobs, families, and financial responsibilities bearing down on them. And I've helped most of them relieve the pressure by convincing them of one thing: Stress doesn't exist.

That's right. You heard me correctly. Stress will one day take its place in medical history as a disease we couldn't cure because it didn't exist. The idea of stress was first floated by Dr. Hans Selye in 1936. (Rather strange that no one noticed this "disease" before then.) Since its "discovery," we have cured polio and made progress with almost every cancer, yet by all accounts, stress remains in epidemic proportions. Those who suffer from it usually report one or more of the following symptoms: rapid heart rate, neck tension, lower-back pain, dry mouth, headache, loss of interest in sex, overeating, stomach distress, frequent urination, diarrhea, crying, insomnia, fatigue, sweating, and rapid breathing.

But these are not symptoms of that phantom disease, stress. Rather, they are symptoms of an emotion that's far more primitive. An emotion that originates in a pea-size part of the brain called the amygdala. An emotion that causes our hearts to beat faster, our muscles to tense, our mouths to dry, and our digestive systems to shut down (is this sounding familiar?) as we prepare to either fight or flee. It is the age-old emotion of fear.

When highly successful men describe the challenges of life, they seldom use the word "stress." Instead they speak like this:

"When you are running an institution, you are always scared at first. You are afraid you'll break it. People don't think about leaders this way, but it's true. Everyone who is running something goes home at night and wrestles with the same fear. Am I going to be the one who blows this place up?" --Jack Welch, former CEO, General Electric

". . . being scared to death was a condition of life in submarine warfare in the South Pacific. Being afraid is okay, if you are afraid with dignity. To a greater or lesser extent, fear is a part of the challenge." --Pat Riley, NBA coach

"Going on stage is part catharsis for me, but it is always trying to work out my own fears." --Robin Williams, comedian/actor

React Like a 3-Year-Old

Why do these successful guys use the word "fear" rather than "stress" when describing the same emotional responses we all share? Being scared is the language of children, but they're not afraid to use it. This isn't immaturity or weakness; it's honesty.

Children never say they're "anxious about the bogeyman" or "stressed about thunder." Rather, they recognize they can't control the world, and they acknowledge the resulting anxiety for what it is: fear. To learn how to handle fear better, they engage it by watching scary movies or dressing as monsters on Halloween. Rather than push the emotion out of their minds as adults often do, they learn to understand and, ultimately, handle it without being enslaved by the thing that scares them.

Successful men realize that the bigger the challenge, the more fear shows up. Like children, they accept fear as the price of being alive. Other men see fear as a disease or a sign of failure that's to be avoided at all costs. They don't think about it, talk about it, or even admit to having it. As a result, they end up depressed, angry, or fatigued, or become abusers of food, alcohol, or other people. Even worse, they may avoid pursuing their dreams just to avoid the essential emotion--fear--that they've labeled an enemy and are misinterpreting as stress.

In order to escape the symptoms of fear, you must admit to being scared. The more you desire in life, the more fear arises as the body's way of preparing itself for action. It's not a sign of weakness, but a signal of success and a call for courage. Assume that whenever you're upset or unhappy, there is fear underneath. There are only two basic fears: One is that you're not worthwhile or good enough to get the job, the woman, whatever; and the other is that you're going to lose control, such as in health or financial concerns. I'd wager that these fears underlie what many people think of as stress.

Turn Off the Alarm

But there's another facet to this. The fight-or-flight alarm system we all carry was designed to sound, create a response, and then shut down. When a deer is scared, it runs. When a lion is frightened, it attacks. But when a man is afraid, he obsesses about it and complains that he's stressed. He leaves his alarm system on, clanging. And the consequences can be deadly.

The healthy human response is, again, to do what children do. Reach to others for support. Men who do so live longer, have lower cholesterol, are more likely to endure crises without becoming ill, are more effective leaders, and have a greater chance of finding (and keeping) romance. Successful men have friends they can lean on in time of need.

Do you see the logic? The symptoms you're feeling are normal, healthful signals from a body faced with a life challenge (positive or negative). Our masculine culture values stoicism and independence, but what your body really craves is to draw strength from others.

So the next time you're feeling stressed, do two things: Identify your fear, and find people who can help you deal with it. You need emotional spotters, my friend.
Doing these two simple things will allow you to safely lower that quivering barbell and then push it back up many more times. You'll gain strength against the only enemy worth fighting: your fear.

Preparing a Writer's Resume

Call it a resume, call it a precis. Whatever you call it, make sure it helps you sell yourself to those editors who don't yet know you!

All of us have to do it from time to time ... cold-call on an editor who doesn't know us from Adam. Sure, a query letter works well when introducing our projects. But even when an idea for a book or a short story catches an editor's eye, there's always the nagging thought in the back of his mind: "Yeah, but can this writer really deliver?"

You see, editors hate taking a chance on a an unknown writer by tying up his time and resources, planning on publishing an article on the history of Amtrak, for example, only to have the writer fail to come through in the end. That's where a writing resume comes in.

A resume helps to sell an editor on you--as a reliable, trustworthy writer who deserves an assignment ... or, at least, a closer look. By reviewing your writing-related accomplishments, an editor can get a pretty good idea of whether or not you can be relied upon to deliver what your query letter or outline promises.

What's that, you say? You haven't had anything published? You're new at the freelance writing game? You haven't written much of anything before and don't have a real literary track record to follow? Well, don't be too sure.

Have you ever had a letter-to-the-editor printed in a local newspaper? Have you ever self-published anything like a book or a pamphlet? Have you published anything on a Web site or a home page?

Have you written promotional copy for a brochure? A church picnic? A service club? Have you done any book or product reviews, either for the print media or the Internet?

Have you entered any writing contests and won any awards? Do you belong to any writing groups, either amateur or professional? Have you helped anyone else out with his or her writing? Or perhaps critiqued someone's writing, either formally or otherwise?

Have you worked anywhere near a book, newspaper, or magazine publishing house? A television or radio station?

Have you ever taught English as a first or second language either at a school or at someplace less formal, either here or in another country? Have you ever shown someone how to write a more effective business letter or been asked to edit or re-write someone else's correspondence? Have you received any awards or compliments for your communications skills? And, by the way, what courses did you take in high school and college? Anything related to writing, communication, journalism, media, filmmaking, photography, etc? Were you an editor or a reporter for the school newspaper or yearbook?

If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions, you have a good head start on your writing resume. No editor wants to know that you were a member of the Skokie High School Chess Club, but someone will be interested in knowing that you helped write a brochure or a paper (call it an article, please!) on how to play better chess.

If you don't have any published material to show off, show off your unpublished stuff. If you've written seventeen short stories--but have nothing published yet--list the seventeen short stories. Most editors are more concerned about your being a quality writer who lives up to his word than a widely published one. Prove that you can do what you say you can and back it up with a writing resume that says you're both creative and industrious, and we can almost guarantee a by-line in your near future.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Writers Reveal : Why, How, Where, When

I get most of my ideas from some type of interaction with a child at any age group and any type of activity. Sometimes just floating on our flat boat on our pond with my son. While the sun glistens on the water and the dragonflies gently land on us. Also, listening to what kids are saying and "take the time."


How: That’s a toughie, but I tend to like writing with a computer in front of me. Computers are convenient because it’s nice and neat and so easy to use. But, sometimes, there’s a downside. Some people can get stuck using a computer all the time, if you’re like me that is, and most writers are at some point. In that case, whip out the good ol’ pad and pencil; sometimes there’s nothing like them. A pad and pencil help me to forget all of the technology around me, and just really think about what I’m writing. Usually, my best writing comes from my paper-entries; whenever I get stuck on my novel, or even writing an essay for school, I always turn back to my faithful Steno-pad. And it’s ok if you start over several times in a notebook, DON’T tear out the pages, until you’re completely finished: you’d be surprised how several false starts can come together to form a beautiful beginning to your project.

Where: Well, for me personally, it’s wherever I feel comfortable at the moment. Usually, however that’s at the computer desk in front of my screen, but when I use a notebook, I’ll most likely end up on the couch or in a comfortable chair with my feet up and a nice cushion to my back. Not too comfortable, or you’ll get drowsy! But, a few times in the past, I’ve ended up outside, even in the tree house with my sibling. Wherever you feel like going at the moment, go. It’s the best advice I can give; don’t fret about it, just do it. Get comfortable, and let your mind unfold.

When: For me, most times when a thought pops into my head that I think is worth remembering. I don’t really have a schedule, though I do tend to write better at night or early in the morning. But sometimes, there’s no stopping me; if the dialogue I’ve been working on suddenly falls in place, I write it down, no matter what time of day. (I even halted my sleep at 11:30 one night and wrote down an entire conversation because I knew I wouldn’t remember it the next morning). It’s ok: if you keep weird hours, you keep weird hours, don’t feel bad. Writers have imaginations, and they usually don’t stop for rest.

Why: Now that’s the big one. I write because I love it, characters and places open up to me, new worlds are born. Ideas are sorted out, conflictions are solved, and life’s questions are one step further to being answered. I also like to write because I want to give people the joy and excitement that I get every time I open a beloved book. You know that feeling you get when Tolkien describes Aragorn and Eomer standing alongside each other at Helm’s Deep? Or when the Black Knight rushes into the burning castle to save Ivanhoe and the Saxon princess? That’s why I write, because I want to give people those characters to love and cherish, and those emotions to keep whenever they read my works. Hopefully, someday that will happen. But for know, I’m writing to improve and better what I do know, and to gain experience in the world of publishing. And people’s feelings about writing change. Sometimes you start out to get famous, and end up doing it just because you love it, even though you never get recognition for it. That’s alright, too. Write just because you love it.

-- Walker

How: I put pen to page before typing anything. Maybe something about scribbling in my own script is more organic or tactile, so creativity flows better. More likely that it is just habit born of necessity…I started writing as a child and only had a typewriter for eight years, which I had saved to purchase for myself on my thirteenth birthday, and I had a limited budget for correction tape and typing paper.

When: I write three afternoons a week while my daughter is at childcare, and at night after she goes to bed. Mornings are reserved for housework, errands, or rest. I have two chronic pain conditions, so pain or sleepless nights or medication side effects can throw off the schedule, but I stick to it as much as possible.

Where: My living room is the most uncluttered room in my apartment, and I feel more creative and able to concentrate there since it is empty of distractions that call to those who work at home. Then I go to my desk in a corner of the bedroom and type. When confined to my bed or couch, I write there and type manuscripts on a laptop. I move into a house soon, instead of sharing a one-bedroom apartment with my preschooler, which will afford me an office – with a door! It will include my big, soft (but not “sleepy soft”) wingback chair, where I can curl up my legs, place a steno pad on my lap, and draft manuscripts.

Why: I could say that for ten years as a corporate writer, I wrote because I had to, but that is not entirely true. I did, but I also created additional opportunities to write within my positions. Writing is a well-fed compulsion for me. I help with resumés and editing and proofreading because a lot of people have interesting experiences and ideas but stink at presentation. I write for parents because parenting is difficult, and sometimes we are drained of ideas and solutions, and need to know we are not alone in our struggles. I write for children because I love the optimism with which they approach life. I write poetry so I don’t implode. I write ten-page letters when my fingers are itching and I can’t think of anything else to write, just so I don’t waste the moment. I write because I love to write and it is what I do best. I write because my words are a legacy, and that is the closest I may ever get to fulfilling my delusions of grandeur.


Why: Writing is the skill I am best at but, more importantly, it is part of my heart and soul. I view words like a painter views paint. A painter creates a picture of beauty or heartbreak from paint while I do the same with words. Words, if used correctly and in the context of a situation, can provide a vision for people that will motivate the individual to take action. The best writing grows fine with age, just like wine.

When: I can write anyplace that provides inspiration. That may be at night, in the morning or in the afternoon. I prefer to write at night, however. Late at night I can think about what I have seen and can take the time to find the best words to say. Through experience, I have found that late at night is my best time for me to put in the right perspective what I have done, seen, or heard that day.

How: I use the old-fashioned method of paper and pencil for the first few drafts but then use a desktop PC for the final drafts.

Where: I can write in almost any setting but I am not a people person. I suppose you have to be to be a writer but when writing, prefer places with few people or a private hideway. My two favorite places are my home office with all my research books and my van. There is great inspiration in traveling to different places and writing about the different cultures you see.


Why: I write because it has become a part of who I am. It’s like a mad addiction of which there is no escape. Writing is not just my job, it is something I truly love doing and I honestly believe that if I was ever into a position in which I couldn’t write, I would literally lose my mind!

How: Interestingly, and quite ironically, several years back I developed a repetitive motion injury. Yet, such an injury does not mean certain death to a writer. In fact, I use a speech recognition program to compose my works and such software allows me to avoid the constant strain of repetitious movement. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for modern technology!

When: I write professionally, so often times I have to write. Nonetheless, I also write because I love doing so and find that in the late night hours, when the entire house is quiet, I find my muse most active!

Where: I write wherever and whenever I can. For instance, sometimes I draft works in a journal or notebook and later convert them to text. Thus, I am free to write pretty much any where I want to. Sometimes I like writing outdoors, but most times I write in my home office. Finally, I always make sure that I either have a notebook or a mini tape recorder with me to document ideas; ideas can be slippery and I want to be sure that I get them as soon as they reveal themselves!


Why: I write because I have to. I see characters around me all day long, waiting to be used in stories. A few weeks ago there was a tiny old woman driving in front of me. She was going very slowly on the expressway, when a cop cut her off. Up ahead we both passed the cop, who had pulled someone over, on the side of the road. I watched as the old lady slowed down even more, and gave the cop the finger as she passed. She appeared to be quite a character in real life; imagine what you could do with her in a story.

When: I can write any time of day. I've gotten up at the crack of dawn to scribble down an idea I had, and I've stayed up late into the night, also.

How: I use my laptop to write. I also carry a small notebook with me to work so I can jot down ideas or snatches of conversations I overhear.

Where: I write best without a lot of people around me. This rules out coffee shops, even though I do go there sometimes. I usually end up people-watching. (But then I get some good characters out of that, so not all is lost.) I'm in my writing zone when I'm in my office with candles burning and music playing. The music can be anything from Enya to Metallica; whatever puts me in the mood.


Grammar Rules: Create First, Edit Second

The best advise I can give regarding grammar is don't let it consume you. Sit down in front of your computer or pick up a pen and writing pad and start creating. Don't worry about grammar or where to stick commas, this isn't the stage to allow yourself to be distracted. Write whatever you want, let it flow from you to the page. Then, and only then, once you've finished put down that pen or save your Word document. Get up and go make a cup of tea, or dance around the house (don't laugh, I actually have done this). Allow fifteen minutes or so to clear your head. Return to your written piece and start editing it—check your grammar and punctuation. Look up any word you're unsure of in an approved good quality dictionary for your country. Once you think the piece is at its best, give it to someone you trust to proofread. It doesn't matter if it's a family member, friend, neighbor, work colleague or professional editor. Listen to their comments regarding the content and understand they're trying to help. They are giving their points of view, perhaps covering an area you haven't considered. Pay attention to what they question. Are they questioning it because they are having trouble understanding? Perhaps it's not clear enough; if so, then consider other ways of wording it. If they point out a word or punctuation mark that seems inappropriate—look it up!

If your goal is to have your work published, then you have to be professional—that means your attitude and your work. You've probably heard this many times, but it is important. If you were applying for a job, you'd make sure your résumé was impressive before sending it anywhere. Sending your piece to a publisher works the same way. You're competing against all those other writers. Don't give up; hard work and dedication will get you there, but be prepared for the long haul. Everybody wants their dreams to come today, but the most important dreams take time. And when those dreams start to turn into reality—you'll know you are on your way. So let's cover some of those pesky grammar and punctuation queries here over time to help make your pieces stand out and scream—I'm a professional, hire me!

Let’s start with the mighty full stop (or period, or dot, or whatever you like to call them). Such a small mark and it has an important role. It tells us when to stop and when to start. In a group of three it indicates an interruption in speech. And we’d be lost if we didn’t include them in web site and email addresses.

A single full stop ends a sentence and indicates a new sentence. One space follows the full stop. Back in the typewriting days, two spaces was considered the normal rule. Now with our speedy computers that can save and retrieve pages and pages at a click of the button, the need for two spaces no longer applies.

A series of three dots, or ellipsis points, shows a word or words are missing from a quote. Let’s imagine we are listening to a speaker try to emphasize the importance of drafting and editing a manuscript:

“After you write your story, you need to rewrite it and rewrite it, edit it and edit it and edit it for it to stand a chance of publication.”

The speaker does get the message across clearly, and could quite possibly scare the audience. But we might not want to use the entire quote, or scare anyone from writing, so we might end up with something like this:

“After you write your story, you need to rewrite it … and edit it for it to stand a chance of publication.”

The point is still clear, but a little less frightening and it reads better.

It can also indicate an unfinished sentence displayed as dialogue.


“But I told you, I never …”
“You told me nothing!”

The first person has more to say but has been interrupted by the second person cutting in. Notice how there are only three dots at the end of the first line. Never add another full stop even if it is at the end. The only punctuation marks that can precede or follow an ellipsis are question marks, exclamation marks, and as seen in the first line, quotation marks.

Should a space be left on either side of an ellipsis? That depends on where you are, and where the document is intended. For example, spaces on either side of the ellipsis are omitted for publications with space restrictions such as newspapers. Check the style manual for your area or the house style of the intended publication.

That’s enough theory for now, you’re probably anxious to get back to creating your next masterpiece. Happy writing!