Millersville, by Brendan Detzner (1:57)

IOD score cardToday we see that proper manuscript editing is not optional.

What I gleaned about the story: There are (have been?) many Queens, and driving this particular queen around is a pain in the butt.

Find this book on Amazon.

WTF #1: ‘than,’ not ‘then’

Analysis: [Note: This error appears to have been corrected in the version available on the Amazon store, but I have to review the book that was submitted.]

Starting the second paragraph, I read:

It was different then what he’d seen on television before he’d met her in person.

This is a straightforward homonym error, one that primes my editing brain to expect more errors later on. I can feel my editor hat settling onto my head.

You wouldn’t like me when I’m wearing my editor hat.

WTF #2: The pluralizing apostrophe

The narration, trying to explain the book’s system of queens, says: There’d been at least three different Queens, just like there’d been three or four different Elvis’.

‘Queens’ shouldn’t be capitalized here, but we’ll get to that. Instead, note the apostrophe at the end of ‘Elvis.’ This violates the first law of the editor: if you use an apostrophe to pluralize something, your editor will hunt you down with a chainsaw. Then hand you the chainsaw. Then stand there with a disapproving look on their face while you use the chainsaw to destroy a print copy of your manuscript, bawling and begging for forgiveness the whole time.

I’m suddenly thinking really hard on the question of how to pluralize “Elvis.” While I’m partial to “Elvii” (pronounced with a hard ‘ī’), if you have another preference, sound off in the comments. It should probably be lowercase, but I’d have to ask a real editor.

WTF #3: Ranks and titles shouldn’t always be capitalized

Analysis: I’ve been noticing that ‘Queen’ is always capitalized (it shouldn’t be), but it felt like a nitpicky issue for a while. Then came, The Queen was now the Queen…

You can see how this raises the problem above the WTF threshold. The rule is that titles and ranks only get capitalized when they’re attached to a person’s name or used as direct replacements for the name. Even throwing a ‘the’ or a ‘my’ into the mix decapitalizes the title, because then the speaker is specifying which of the many (uncapitalized) “queens” or “lords” is being referred to.

Correct: C’mon, Senator, your bill is dead in the water.

Correct: Come, my lord, let us flee.

Correct: Though Queen Beatrice had other ideas.

Correct: He’s your senator, not my senator.

Incorrect: Come, My Lord…

Incorrect: Though the Queen had other ideas.

Confession: my first book had a character whose name-and-rank was ‘the Queen.’ The first edition violated these rules over and over. I was young and foolish then.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.

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