Home > The Editor's Corner > The Editor’s Corner Writing Tips: Most Common Mechanical Mistakes

At Dog Ear Publishing, we believe in the transformative power of editing. A talented editor can take a book from good to great, working in concert with the author to create a stronger, more cohesive manuscript that pulls in and engages readers.

Our editors work hard to perfect your manuscript, but they need your help! Before sending your book to Dog Ear Publishing, take some time to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The more polished your manuscript is, the further our editors can take it.

When you send us your best work, you spend less money and time, and you help our editors make your book the best it can possibly be!

Certain mistakes come across our editing desks time and again. In this article, we focus our attention on the top five.

Dog Ear Publishing uses the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition) and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition). According to those manuals:

  1. Only one space should follow a period.
  2. In nontechnical texts (including fiction, poetry, and most nonfiction), numbers from 1 to 99 are spelled out. Exceptions to this rule include percentages (4 percent), street numbers (3626 Drury Lane), and highway numbers (Highway 32).
  3. Thoughts are in italics, with no quotation marks.
    • Like this, she thought. I will finish my sentence.
    • Holy cow, he thought, what is that thing?
  4. Dialogue is in quotation marks, with the punctuation inside the quotation marks. (Italics are used only for emphasis within dialogue.)
    • “Like this,” she said. “I will finish my sentence.”
    • “Holy cow!” he said. “What is that thing?”
    • “I am being serious!” she insisted.
  5. Suspension points [three periods (…)] are used in the following instances.
    • To indicate “faltering or fragmented” (but not interrupted) thought or speech (CMS 13.39).
      • She wondered if she should finish her … No, best to leave it until tomorrow, she decided.
      • “But … but why would you … how could you … ,” he stammered, taken aback by her ruthlessness.
    • In a quoted passage to indicate an omission (ellipsis) of one or more words (including whole phrases, lines, or paragraphs)*.
      • If a complete sentence comes before the ellipsis or suspension points, a period should come at the end of that sentence, followed by the ellipses.
        • Original text: The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
          No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
        • Quoted and shortened text: Article I, Section II of the Constitution of the United States reads, “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year. … No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”
      • Ellipses are not used before the first word of a quotation, even if the beginning of the quoted sentence has been omitted. They are also not used after the last word of a quotation unless the quoted sentence is being left deliberately incomplete.
        • Article I, Section II of the Constitution of the United States begins, “The House of Representatives shall be composed of …”
        • She imagined what it would have been like to see JFK. “Ask not what your country can do …,” he had begun, speaking to her mother’s generation.

When you remain mindful of these common mistakes and do your best to correct them, you create a stronger, cleaner manuscript, allowing your editor to catch less-common technical mistakes while focusing on content and staying true to your writing style. It’s a win-win, and your readers will thank you for it!

*Refer to CMS 13.48–56 for details about when and how to use punctuation other than periods (including brackets) with ellipses and how to use ellipsis points when quoting poetry and verse.

Written by Stephanie Stringham, Managing Editor, and Angela Wade, Editor
Stephanie Stringham
Stephanie Stringham

As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on, and I dreamed of getting paid to read books and of helping people. With this dream, I propelled myself through college to earn bachelor’s degrees in English (minor in Writing and Publishing) and Business Administration while working as a peer tutor in the university writing lab and interning with a publishing company in college. After graduation, I stayed on with the publishing company, where I fell in love with book publishing. Editing is my avocation. I began freelancing right after college, while earning a master’s degree in Health Communication and then working as an editor for Eli Lilly and Company and for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. I have edited everything from class materials and newsletters to master’s theses, scholastic imprints, professional journals, and books in all genres. I feel my calling as an editor is not only to improve text but also to teach those with whom I work so they can constantly improve their writing. When I’m not editing books, I’m planting and growing things on a small homestead in Indiana with my husband and two children.