Ho Ho How Do You Punctuate That?

santa

It’s getting to be that time of year when children close their eyes and fantasize about an old, fat man breaking into their house while they sleep naïvely in false security in their bedrooms.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” the man says to himself as he places consumer goods under a tree that for some reason has been moved to their living room.

Wait. Perhaps he says “Ho ho ho!” instead. Just how many exclamation points does this slavemaster of reindeer use?

Let’s turn to the authorities. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say:

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There you have it. Three hos and one exclamation point.

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas (etc.) to you!

Erin Servais is a professional book editor who is really hoping she won’t get coal this Christmas. Learn more about how she can help you reach your publishing goals here: Dot and Dash website.

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Trick-or-Treater OR Trick or Treater?

trick or treat photo

I don’t care about your stupid mask, lady. Put the candy in the bag.

How do you spell the name of those adorable (menacing) little children (vagrants) who knock on your door asking for (demanding) candy on Halloween night? Is it “trick-or-treaters” or “trick or treaters”? Hyphens or no hyphens?

The answer is: hyphens. The correct way to spell it is “trick-or-treater.”

But what about “trick or treat,” you say? Hyphens or no hyphens there? This one is a bit more complicated.

Let’s look at the two ways you can use “trick or treat,” as a verb and as a noun.

Verb: Sally dressed up as an amoeba to trick-or-treat.

Noun: As Sally dragged her candy sack home, she thought the trick or treat was successful.

When I wrote “trick-or-treat” as a verb, I used hyphens. Hyphens are always the answer when you use it as a verb. But when written as a noun, “trick or treat” can go either way, says our friends at Merriam-Webster:

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Now go forth and eat candy, friends! A happy trick or treat to all!

Erin Servais is a book editor who specializes in young adult literature. She also has a sweet tooth. To learn more about how she can help you with your writing project, visit her website.

Woah vs. Whoa

flower cat

Well, how obviously amazing is this cat?!

Well, how obviously amazing!

That’s my mnemonic device to remember how to spell “whoa.”

Well
How
Obviously
Amazing

It works because something that is obviously amazing would make you stop and say “whoa.”

It is common to misspell this as “woah,” with the H at the end. Don’t feel bad if that’s what you used to do. I know a certain editor who writes a certain grammar blog who may or may not have also made this mistake. For years. We’re only human . . . even the editors among us (though I suspect authors sometimes think otherwise). And now you know the correct way to spell it. Well, how obviously amazing is that?

Erin Servais is a longtime book editor who is friendly and won’t make you feel dumb, even if you make a silly spelling mistake. To learn more about her services, visit her website: www.dotanddashllc.com

* Okay. Technically . . . the Oxford English Dictionary lists “woah” as a secondary spelling. However, Merriam-Webster has come out publicly against this spelling, and I have personally been dinged rather embarrassingly in public for using it, so I really suggest you stick with “whoa.”

Bring vs. Take

take

When determining whether to use bring or take, consider movement.

Use bring when moving something toward a specific place or person.

Sally brings the potato salad to Jerry.
Frieda is bringing her salsa-dancing skills to the stage.
The dog brought his human to the park.

Use take when moving something away from a specific place or person.

Dolly takes the books from the library.
Marge is taking her favorite sweater back from Nina.
Larry took advice from his boss.

Casual speech: When speaking with friends and others using informal speech, bring and take are often used interchangeably. However, it’s good to know the difference when the situation calls for formal speech or writing.

Quiz:
Choose either bring or take to fill in the blanks below.

  1. In the past, Marty always ______ his famous nacho cheese dip to the party.
  2. The dog ______ her leash to her human when she wants to go out.
  3. “I can’t stand Charles anymore,” she said. “All he does is ______ things from me!”
  4. Tracy is _______ what she learned in the classroom and is _______ it to the real world.
  5. Layla ______ her second-place trophy from the award table.

 

Answers: 1) brought 2) brings 3) take 4) taking, bringing 5) took

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.