Compound Modifiers with Words Ending in -ly

doughnuts with pink and blue accents

We’re also talking about doughnuts today because why wouldn’t we?

A compound modifier consists of two words that act together as one unit to modify a noun.

Here are some examples:

The sweet-smelling doughnut made my tummy grumble.
(Here sweet and smelling work as one unit to describe the noun doughnut.)

He had to wash his mud-covered ninja outfit.
(Mud and covered work together to explain the noun outfit.)

Their favorite wand was the glitter-speckled one.
(Glitter and speckled are one unit modifying the noun one.)

You’ll notice that in the examples above, all of the word sets are hyphenated: sweet-smelling, mud-covered, glitter-speckled. But there are times when the word sets aren’t hyphenated.

Compound Modifiers Ending in -ly
Compound modifiers that include an adverb ending in the suffix -ly do not get hyphenated. Why is this? Here is how The Chicago Manual of Style (the rulebook people use to edit books) explains it in section 7.86:

Compounds formed by an adverb ending in -ly plus an adjective or participle (such as largely irrelevant or smartly dressed) are not hyphenated either before or after a noun, since ambiguity is virtually impossible. (The -ly ending with adverbs signals to the reader that the next word will be another modifier, not a noun.)

For the non-editors reading this, what that means is the reader will know instinctually that the word coming after the -ly is working with the -ly word to describe something. So it doesn’t need the hyphen to help readers understand it is a word pair.

Now let’s look at some examples:

The cowboy sauntered into the dimly lit saloon.
(Dimly and lit both work together to explain saloon. But since dimly ends in -ly, it doesn’t use a hyphen. A reader should automatically understand lit goes with dimly.)

The professor’s terrifyingly large stack of papers to grade made him anxious.
(Here terrifyingly and large work together but do not require a hyphen to link them.)

His awkwardly long tie made people question his fashion sense.
(Awkwardly works with long and does not need a hyphen.)

Now you know when to use your trusty hyphen with compound modifiers. Go forth and hyphenate correctly!

Erin Servais has been slinging hyphens as a book editor for ten years. To learn more about her and how to hire her for your book project, go to her website: www.dotanddashllc.com.

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Is “Everyone” Singular or Plural?

crowd of people on a beach

Photo by Micaela Parente on Unsplash

When considering the word everyone, it makes sense to think of many people in a group. The natural conclusion then is to believe everyone is plural. It’s not. Everyone is singular.

One way to think about it is that everyone refers to each individual in a group.

Take this example:

Everyone who is attending the Ice Creams of the World festival likes ice cream.

It would be odd for a person who loathes ice cream to go to a festival celebrating that dessert, so it’s safe to say each individual person in that group enjoys it.

Because everyone is singular, it takes a singular verb. Look again at our example sentence above. The verb in it is “likes,” which is singular and would be used with singular pronouns, such as “he” and “she.”

Here are more examples:

Everyone dances uniformly in ballet class.
Everyone under five eats free.
Everyone needs to file the form in triplicate.

Each sentence has a singular verb because everyone is a singular pronoun.

Erin Servais is a book editor with ten years of experience in publishing. Contact her to learn how she can help you with your next project: www.dotanddashllc.com

May vs. Might

wish I may

In casual usage, people interchange may and might. However, there is a slight difference that is useful to know.

May means something is more likely to happen.
Might means something is less likely to happen.

Examples:
There may be food at the party.
There might be someone dressed in a killer whale costume at the party.

What’s a party without food? It’s very likely there would at least be hors d’oeuvres there; that’s why we use may. But, I know I have never been to a party where someone was dressed as a killer whale. It’s safe to say you’d be less likely to encounter that (unless you were going to a killer whale costume party), which is why we use might.

Think of degrees of likelihood. The closer the situation is to “will happen,” use may. The closer it is to “won’t happen,” use might.

Note that this does not apply to past tense. The past tense of may is might. Why? Because English loves to be confusing! So, if you are writing or speaking in the past tense, always use might.

Quiz:

Choose may or might for each sentence.

1) I’m feeling lucky today. I _____ win the big jackpot.
2) I _____ eat a cookie today, just as I do every day.
3) There _____ be a huge asteroid careening toward Earth that will land on my front lawn.
4) Eight hundred higher-qualified candidates applied for the job, but Clyde _____ get the position.
5) Clyde is the only person who applied for the job. He _____ just get it!

Answers:
1) might 2) may 3) might 4) might 5) may

Erin Servais is a book editor who can make your manuscript look polished and professional. To learn more about how she can help you, visit www.dotanddashllc.com.

How to Write Stuttering

stutter photo

Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

I recently edited a book in which there was a character who stuttered when he became anxious. There are guidelines about how to write stuttering and the best way to handle these characters and situations.

Here’s how you do it: write the first sound, and then repeat it one or more times, separating the sounds with a hyphen.

Example: He c-c-collected silly t-ties.

The first sound can be the first letter, as with the example above, or it can be two letters.

Example: I don’t think Holden Caulfield is a ph-phony.

Example: She dr-dr-dreaded the dance party.

Less often, stuttering happens in the middle of a word (typically with a consonant), but it follows the same rules.

Example: The cat ate the can-n-nary.

Is It a Stutter or a Pause?
If they pause and repeat a whole word, that’s not stuttering; that’s just a regular pause. In those cases, use ellipses to show the break.

Example: She said, “Wow, those khakis look so . . . so amazing on you.”

Don’t Overuse
Be sure to use stuttering sparingly so the text doesn’t get tiring (and annoying) to read. This also means limiting the number of characters who stutter. Really, any more than one can walk on the edge of overuse.

Erin Servais is a book editor who knows all the little tips and tricks that will make your manuscript look good. Learn more about how she can help you here.

New Post on Dot and Dash

Some of you may know that I run my own editing business, Dot and Dash LLC. Over at the Dot and Dash blog, I write about writing tips and industry news. I recently wrote about sensitivity reading. What is sensitivity reading, you may ask? It’s a relatively new form of manuscript evaluation that checks whether characters are portrayed with authenticity and ensures books avoid harmful stereotypes and problematic language that don’t serve a purpose in the plot. If you want to learn more about what it is, what it’s not (spoiler alert: it’s not the PC police), and whether you should hire one for your project, head on over to this link: sensitivity reading post.