PUGS errors give an unprofessional appearance

proofreading-secretsMost acquisitions editors know a lot about proper punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. Most people on publishing committees know a lot about “PUGS” too. You don’t want them looking at your manuscript and thinking, This author has some good things to say, but she sure doesn’t know a comma from a semicolon.

Even if your manuscript has already been accepted, if your editor has to spend all her time fixing your mechanics, she won’t be able to catch the deeper, more subtle nuances of your text. Besides, you won’t be presenting a very polished, professional image to your publisher.



Do not use an apostrophe when pluralizing. Here are some words people tend to incorrectly insert apostrophes into:

  • dos and don’ts
  • no ifs, ands, or buts
  • the 1980s
  • the Joneses
  • “I had to go to three DMVs to get my license renewed.”

Exception: To avoid confusion, use an apostrophe-s to pluralize lowercase letters and abbreviations with two or more periods (or that have both capital and lowercase letters).

  • x’s and y’s
  • a’s and b’s
  • M.A.’s and PhD’s




ensure (verb) means “to assure,” “to secure,” “to make something certain or sure.”

“Molly wanted to ensure that her manuscript was received by the publisher.”

insure (verb) means to guard, protect, safeguard, or shield.

“Allstate insured the property against theft and vandalism, but not terrorism.”



among vs. between

Things are divided between two people or things, but among more than two. Thus, “The royalties will be divided equally between Megan, Becky and Connie” implies that the money is to be split into two equal portions. Megan gets half; Becky and Connie split the other half. (The missing comma between Becky and Connie also supports the claim that Megan gets half while Becky and Connie split the other half.)



all right

Most dictionaries list alright as a legitimate word, but most book publishers do not consider it acceptable. Unless you are writing for a specific publisher, and you’re certain that publisher is all right with alright, spell it as two words: all right.