YOU Can Have Perfect Grammar Too!

Grammar has never been my thing.

I loved diagramming sentences in middle school, but the finer details have always escaped me.

I suppose that’s par for the course as I also have a tendency to skip directions, skim long descriptions in novels, and not put the last book/cup/stray sock in its place. When I weed a garden, a bucketful of weeds usually linger beside the garden long enough to kill the grass beneath it.

I’m an idea person.

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So, the bigger grammatical elements I can handle; it’s the nitpicky stuff that trips me up.

Which is why my favorite person in the publishing process is the copy editor. The copy editor keeps me from sounding like I barely passed sixth grade English.

I recently received the proof for my book that’s coming out in August and there were over 400 marks on it. (YES, that’s a lot, even for me.)

And yes, the book had already been copyedited. The proofreader, though, seems to be a zealous person. A nit-picker of nit-pickers, which, I suppose you want in a proofreader.

Many of the nits she was picking pertained to my voice, so my editor and I decided we’d stet most of her marks, which is a fancy way of saying we’d ignore them. (stet= Latin for ‘let it stand’)

Many more of the marks were additional commas she’d added to make my overly long sentences clearer. Okay, maybe.

I’ve spent the better part of my week considering those commas. I’m only more confused, but at least Frankie has finally realized I’m not talking to him as I read sentence after sentence out loud with and without a comma. He no longer jumps off the futon in hopes of a treat each time he hears my voice.

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The marks that pushed me over the edge, though, are the commas placed before the word ‘too.’

Everywhere the word appeared, the proofreader had inserted a comma preceding it.

For example-

I spent the entire day learning about commas, too.

Until a month ago, I had always put a comma before the word too, too.

But during the copy editing process, the copy editor had removed all my commas proceeding the word too at the end of a sentence. When I saw that, I thought—wait, wait, I don’t know much about grammar, but I KNOW there should be a comma before the word too!

A little research turned up the cold, hard, truth – my middle school English teacher was wrong.

That. Rocked. My. World.

Do you know how many times I’ve written a comma before the word too incorrectly? Do you know how many times that incorrect comma has been published?

Now, here was this proofreader reinserting every comma the copy editor had removed.

AGH! Who to trust? I posed the question to my editor and she said, The copy editor.

To prevent you from ever losing sleep over the use of a comma before the word too, let me set the record straight:

From no less than Grammarly, my go-to and permanently installed editor (which is a FREE Chrome extension- YOU should download it now!):

When using the word too, you only need to use a comma before it for emphasis. According to The Chicago Manual of Style, a comma before too should be used only to note an abrupt shift in thought. When too comes in the middle of a sentence, emphasis is almost always intended since it interrupts the natural flow of the sentence.

I, too, like bananas.

When a too comes at the end of a sentence, however, a comma is almost never needed.

I like bananas too.

So, now you know.

Always trust the copyeditor.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

COMING AUGUST 2018 FROM Pegasus Books (available for preorder now):

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Baby, You Can Drive My Car (or not)

Now that two of my children have acquired driver’s licenses, I find myself scrambling for a car on many occasions. Yes, the cars belong to my husband and I, but I’ve fully embraced my retirement from taxi service and I handover the keys willingly.

Still, last summer’s daily negotiation over who would get the cars and who would beg for rides, firmed my resolve to buy a car this year. My car.

The last car I owned was a racy, little Geo Storm in electric blue. It handled like a sports car and had an awesome stereo and whenever I drove it, I felt cool. That was twenty years ago. Before kids.

Ever since I set off on my quest to become a published novelist, I’ve had the goal of making enough money to 1) buy my own car and 2) hire a cleaning person. I’m well aware that very few people make big money at writing these days, but I didn’t feel my dreams were unreasonable.

And so I have saved my pennies – from teaching creative writing and healthy cooking, honorariums I’ve received for speaking gigs, payment for articles, and of course, my royalties for my books.

Finally, I felt I had a sum that could afford me a vehicle. Not a new one, but a nice one. So I began my search.

I didn’t want a practical car that got good gas mileage and had plenty of room for a Costco run. And I was not looking for a four-wheel drive vehicle that could handle our hilly driveway, as more and more I don’t mind being snowed in. I knew I would buy a manual transmission; I grew up driving stick and when I got my first automatic car, it felt less like driving and more like simply steering. The added bonus of having a manual transmission would be that none of my kids know how to drive stick so no one would be asking to borrow my car! Bottom line: I wanted a car that was cool, or at least made me feel cool.

The more I thought about what I wanted, the more my heart became set on a convertible.

Why not? I’m fifty years old. If not now, when?

I’m finally beyond worrying about what other people will think. I’m old enough to stop making excuses, and it’s become less and less necessary to explain myself. I’m not having a mid-life crisis, I’m having a mid-life claiming. I’m claiming this time—I’m going after what I want. Life is too damn short.

So I combed the internet. I set up a very specific search and the moment my car appeared, I knew. It was a merlot colored BMW Z4 convertible. Powerful. Perfect. Exactly the car of my dreams.

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My husband made me go drive another more practical convertible (a cute little navy blue Miata which “has great ‘resale value,’ gets better gas mileage, and is less expensive to have serviced”). He thought I shouldn’t just buy the first car I saw. I should have some basis for comparison. But really, I knew which car I was buying, even as I nodded and agreed to the handful on our list as we set out on a beautiful, sunny, convertible-driving kind of day.

We called ahead to be sure my car hadn’t been purchased right out from under me while I was busy driving the more practical cars. But it was there, waiting.

Although it is thirteen years old, it only has 11,000 miles on it. It is in perfect condition, having never spent a night outside in its life. Leather interior, a kick-ass stereo, and most importantly – manual transmission. Perfect. Mine. I took it for a spin, a grin splitting my face, while Nick fiddled with the stereo and laughed at my excitement.

When we got back to the dealership, we sat down with the salesman (and his treeing walker coonhound – talk about a sign!). We agreed on a price, and I wrote the check that would zero out my checking account before I happily zipped home with the top down.

It’s not practical, my car; it’s presumptuous and auspicious and it makes a bold statement. It is the coolest car I’ve ever driven. And the most powerful. This baby can go. I’ve never driven anything that handled and shifted and purred like this car. I am completely, utterly in love with my car.

When I took my youngest son for a ride, he said he could never drive a car like mine. I asked him why. He said it’s too fancy, too rich.

“Maybe,” I told him, “But someday I hope you think you deserve a car like this.”

It took me fifty years, but I do think I deserve this. Think whatever you like. I earned it.

And here’s my words of wisdom to the rest of you –

You deserve the desires of your heart, but the ones that come too easy are nowhere near as satisfying as the ones you work for.

Go for it, friends. Life is too short.

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Kindle Convert

I’m not a fan of kindle. Or at least I wasn’t. The main problem was that I’m terrible about recharging all my electronics and consequently the kindle is always dying at the most inopportune moments. Plus, it’s heavy and my wrist gets tired of holding it. (Yes, I’m a whiner.)

My other complaint is that I can never remember the name of the book or the writer I’m currently reading because I never see it.

“Oh, I’m reading this awesome book right now.”

“Really? What’s it called?”

“Uh, Um, I think it’s….actually I can’t remember, but I’m at, like, 68%!”

I just turn on the kindle and it opens to the page I’m reading, super convenient, no bookmark needed, but because there isn’t that daily imprint of seeing the cover art and the author’s name, I can’t seem to retain that information. (I’ve decided my memory is at capacity, but that’s the subject of another post.)

This morning I had a minute and I scooted over to goodreads to review the book I just finished last night (which I loved). I wanted to leave a good review and send a message to the writer thanking her for her story., but I couldn’t remember the name of the book or the author. My kindle was still on my nightstand (its battery slowly dying). The only way to get to my bedroom from my office requires that I pass by the puppy room (where all 12 of my foster pups were sleeping and quiet after a morning of poop games and three major cleanups).

There is no way to sneak by that room. There is always at least one pup still up, pressed against the fence closest to the door, standing sentry.

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