Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Copyediting Challenges - 6

Another clever Facebook post on Grammar

A bit of nostalgia, courtesy of Facebook - the grandgirls, 2012

A new wrinkle - Trick or Treating via U-Haul, 2015

Bear Update:
The great Florida bear hunt ended after two days (out of a proposed week) with 298 bears dead, the Florida Panhandle exceeding its quota of 40 three times over, and Central Florida exceeding its quota of 100 bears by more than a third. North Florida and South Florida did not meet their allowed quotas. The controversy continues. The weight minimum was 200 pounds, and one bear was brought in at 40 pounds, another at 70. There was even a fruitless search instigated for cubs that might have been left motherless, although the Florida Wildlife Commission alleges that spring cubs are well old enough to fend for themselves. There is already talk of another hunt next year. Only time will tell if culling the bears was the right move. Most people I know found the hunt appalling, yet hunters refer to us as "city folk." Frankly, I have no idea which side is right.

Copyediting Challenges - Part 6

 1.  Variety of dashes.
 The most common dash is an "M" dash, called that because it equals the width of the letter M.
Also used is the "N" dash, the width of the letter N.
When writing this blog, I often use: space hyphen space, a form of dash that works well in non-fiction but not in fiction, as it looks really weird when used at the end of an interrupted sentence.

Grace note: Do not use a single hyphen in place of a dash. That's a real no-no.

Grace note 2: Do not use a double hyphen as a dash. This dates back to the days of typewriters and is no longer necessary now that we can write a dash the same way typesetters do.

 2.  Where to find M and N dashes.
Most word processing programs offer these dashes in their symbols menu. Microsoft Word under "General Punctuation" symbols, Word Perfect from the "Typographic Symbols" menu. (Both are sub-headings under Insert - Symbols. I have an older version of Word, but you will definitely find them if you search around a bit.) I've also heard that some versions of Microsoft Word provide an automatic M-dash if you type 3 hyphens in a row. (My older program does not.) HOWEVER, I don't bother with the Insert menu. I simply use the old ASCII codes that have been built into computers since before PCs. (Many people have no idea they are there.)  

To write an M-dash: use Alt + 0151 on your keypad. (It won't work with the numbers at the top of your QWERTY keys.) Num Lock must be off.

To write an N-dash:  Alt + 0150 

All but one of the examples below are taken from my current Work in Progress, The Welshman's Bride, expected out some time in December.

The M-dash (often written em-dash):

3.  The Dash in place of a Colon or Semi-Colon.
Colons and semi-colons are seldom used in Fiction, particularly the lighter fiction represented by the Romance, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Paranormal & SyFy markets. As far as I can tell, they are considered "too academic." Not that I don't use both on occasion, but in general these punctuation marks are rare in Fiction.  In most manuscripts these days, you will find both replaced by either a period or an M-dash.


She was a strikingly lovely woman—Hugh never would have ignored her, not after Rhys had put her aside. 

4.  Dash to indicate an Interruption.
Any time a person's words, or thoughts, are interrupted, you indicate this by using a dash.

Grace Note:  To get the correct quotation mark at the end of the M-dash, type the quotation mark twice, then delete the "open quote" symbol. (Something I can't demonstrate here, as Blogger uses san-serif quote marks. A copy from my manuscript reproduces well, however. See example below.)

Grace Note 2:  If a bit of dialogue, or a thought, trails away without interruption, then you use an ellipsis. [Scroll down to last week's Mosaic Moments.] A dash is used only when an actual interruption occurs.


“We will agree to nothing,” Rhys said, “until we have had more time to examine the situation.”
“Carys!” I cried . . .

5Dash used for an insertion.
Sometimes you want to insert a phrase in the middle of a sentence, perhaps a "comment" that simply won't work if only set off by commas. In that case, set off the phrase with an M-dash on each side.


Though what I am to say to Mama—let alone what I am going to do with her—I cannot even imagine.”

Shortly after I finished my daily meeting with Mrs. Blevins, Matty, Tegan, Alice, and I— feeling like conspirators in spite of my newly altered status—glided through the tapestry room and into the ancient castle. 

6.  Dash used for clarity.
In a manner similar to #5 above - If you have written a sentence with several clauses needing commas, you can frequently make it easier to read by setting off one of the phrases with an M-dash on each side. (On occasion, only a single dash is needed.)


Gruffydd and Olwenna Blevins stood before me, boasting nearly identical expressions—that of prisoners poised on the gallows, defiant to the end, waiting for the hangman to thrust their heads through the noose. 

7.  The dash used to avoid Dialogue Heresy.
As I've stated before in Mosaic Moments, you absolutely, positively cannot use a full sentence as a dialogue tag. You can, however, avoid this disaster by setting off that full-sentence tag with M-dashes on either side.


 “No, I do not regret it,” he added, “but if I had known”—a gargoyle grimace passed over his face—“I never would have subjected you to what you have encountered here.”

8.  The dash as an ever-useful tool:


 A pyrrhic victory—wasn’t that the name for a victory won at too high a cost?  

Now that I had matters more firmly in hand, perhaps a diversion was called for—something I had longed to do but could not manage until I had the ordering of the household.  

The N-dash (often written en-dash):

The Chicago Manual of Style basically advises the use of the N-dash in place of a hyphen. Which, frankly, surprised me. (I admit to not looking at "en-dash" rules until writing this blog.) They recommend the N-dash for between numbers, such as 1923–1940, or: The Miami–New York train goes through Orlando every day at 2:00 p.m.

To demonstrate the same with a hyphen:  1923-1940; Miami-New York.

I personally like to use the N-dash for "stuttered" dialogue. It's just enough longer than a hyphen to emphasize that a person is having trouble getting his/her words out. Yet I find the M-dash a bit too much. This is a personal choice, however; the CMS recommends the M-dash for just about everything except replacing a hyphen in typography. 

Example of an N-dash:

“I–I needed to be up and about,” I added rather obscurely.

The M-dash is ubiquitous, being used for myriad purposes, not just the ones mentioned above. The N-dash is less used; in fact, not at all if you prefer to stick to the hyphen for every dash not requiring an M-dash.  Do not, however, use "space hyphen space" for a dash when you are writing Fiction.  

Suggestions for the other ways to use the dash - and examples - are most welcome. 

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Copyediting Challenges - 5

My daughter shared this on Facebook - no idea where it originated, but it's certainly found the right home on Mosaic Moments. (I would suggest that the sentiments expressed are indicative of the type of people who failed to acquire good manners as well as good English while in school.)

For my foreign readers who might be having trouble interpreting the above. The all-too-common mistakes are on the left. The correct use of "your" and "you're" (you are) is in blue on the right.

Alligator Update.
Visitors to Florida - whether from "up north," "out west," or international - seldom have any concept of Florida other than our beaches and themed attractions in Orlando. Which is why I try to keep my readers updated on happenings that show just how wild so much of Florida still is. The veneer of civilization is truly thin. (Anyone who has read my "Golden Beach" books knows it is a less than 10-mile strip along the edges of our peninsula, with a few inland cities, like Orlando, thrown in for good measure.) I lived 25 years on Florida's Gulf Coast, where we had so many alligators no one would even consider swimming in fresh water. (Two children, an adult male, and innumerable pets were lost to gators in our area during my time on the Gulf Coast.) 

When I moved to Orlando, I was astounded to discover people actually ventured into lakes they knew they were sharing with gators. And, as you've seen on Mosaic Moments, this can lead to trouble. On Sunday a 61-year-old man, a swimmer highly experienced in the waters of Blue Springs Park about 30 miles northwest of Longwood/Orlando, was pulled under by a gator and drowned. The first alligator fatality since 2007. The 12-foot gator was later shot and killed. 

The newspaper reported 22 fatal alligator attacks since 1948, 338 alligator bites (which would include the woman who lost her arm within a couple of miles from my house earlier this year). And by the way, when we ate lunch this weekend at Snook Haven on the Myakka River (10 miles east of Venice on the Gulf Coast), there were large signs saying, "Beware of venomous snakes." (When I moved to Venice in 1982, rattlers regularly sunned themselves on some of our less-traveled roads.)

The moral of the story: when you venture off the beach or out of a well-manicured theme park, take care. Gators, bears, rattlers, moccasins, oh my! They're not figments of Walt Disney's imagination. (We have a lot of deer, raccoon, and possum, too, but we don't consider them a menace. Unless you feed them, that is. In East Orlando - in a typical modest suburban community - a possum regularly entered my house through the cat door and helped himself to the cat's kibble. I finally had to seal the cat door.)

Bear Update.
Today, Saturday, October 24, is the first day of Florida's first bear hunt since 1972. Against vociferous protests, even from those who live in active bear country, the Florida Wildlife Commission's answer to three bear attacks on women last year is a hunt that most say will do nothing to keep bears from searching for food in trash cans the government refuses to replace with sturdier "bear proof" cans. If anything, I suspect it may drive more bears out of the deep woods and into people's backyards. The situation, as the hunt opens, is so controversial that the FWC has assigned monitors out in the field and law enforcement officers at tag stations where protesters are allowed to gather. (Hunters are required to bring their kill to a tag station. Overall quota for the hunt: 320.) FWC has even e-mailed every permitted hunter to advise them to be respectful of each other and of the protesters. If confronted, hunters are told to, "put your best foot forward and avoid engaging with them." More on the bear hunt as it develops.

Ha! Told you Florida wasn't all beaches, condos, and theme parks! 

Sat. Night Addendum - from the 11:00 p.m. news:
207 bears were killed across the state today. Central Florida met its quota of 99 bears and FWC has closed hunting in our area. Also in the Florida Panhandle. North and South Florida zones remain open for hunting until the overall quota of 320 bears is met. Hunters keep insisting the bears needed culling, but frankly, the sight of bears being brought in stretched out in the flatbeds of trucks was pretty sickening.

Copyediting Challenges - 5

The "modern" compression of the ellipsis is one of my pet peeves. I like to use an ellipsis in my writing to indicate a pause - in dialogue or simply in a person's thoughts. When the classic ellipsis is reduced to three periods, one right next to the other, the significant pause becomes more like a hiccup. It simply does not serve the function for which it was intended. And yet, just because Microsoft made a code for the wrong way to write an ellipsis (Ctrl+Alt+.), everyone seems to think that is how it should be done. I've even heard the excuse that the three periods close together work better in e-books. Don't believe it. Those wide spaces between words are going to happen, no matter which way you write the ellipsis. In summary, all I can say is, Please God, don't let programmers at Microscoft, who did not major in English, tell us how to write. 

Grace note:  If you absolutely, positively must use those squeezed periods, please put a space on either side so it at least looks close to a pause instead of a typo from someone's fingers left too long on the "period" key. Or nothing at all because the eye skips right over those teeny little squeezed-together periods.

1.  Ellipsis - how to write it.

 A correct ellipsis has a space before, between, and after each period.

Example from The Welshman's Bride:
“Everyone says . . . well, missus, they say Gruffydd would do anything for Mrs. Gwendolyn." 

2.  Ellipsis - used as a pause. See example above. 

3.  Ellipsis -used  to indicate a voice or thought trailing into silence, or into another thought

Example from The Welshman's Bride:
The carriage accident, stranding Hugh . . . Oh dear God. Hugh. 

Grace note: In non-fiction writing, the ellipsis is used to indicate portions of a quote that have been omitted, and there are occasions when the ellipsis is followed by a fourth period without a space between. Since my Writing & Editing posts are primarily intended for fiction authors, I am not going to confuse you by getting into this use of the ellipsis. Just keep in mind that in Fiction ellipses are three periods, plus spaces. Forget the four.

~ * ~

As I began to scribble down the different ways to use a dash, I realized the ubiquitous dash should wait for its own blog. So we'll leave it for another day.

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Open air Altar - ready for the Blessing of the Animals
Church of the Resurrection, Longwood, Florida, October 11, 2015

Dog & hamster (?) ready to be blessed
Other participants, besides almost every kind of dog imaginable, included a cat (uncaged) and a parrot. 
Also . . .

Father Paul with a corn snake

Speaking of snakes . . .


I heard this story on the news last night, but reading the details in The Orlando Sentinel this morning was enough to make my hair stand on end. Nearly everyone in a single family home or condo in the U.S. has a washer and dryer. For many of us in Florida, that means both appliances in the garage. (Where mine is.) Just this week I was freaked by a 12" baby black snake slithering under the wall behind my hot water heater. But a deadly cobra? Here is a portion of the tale of the discovery of the snake that escaped its cage on September 1st.

Article by Stephanie Allen and David Harris in The Orlando Sentinel, October 9, 2015:

Jenifer Porter and her two fellow animal-control officers were corralling the venomous king cobra after it came out from underneath a dryer in a Ocoee-area garage. Suddenly, the snake, named Elvis, escaped their grasp. He extended his body, becoming as tall as the 5-foot 6-inch Porter.

"I was pretty much looking him in the eye," she said, adding he was about 2 feet away which was "definitely within striking distance." 

Porter backed away, and animal officer Kirsten Smith stepped on the snake's tail. Using snake tongs, officer Billy Ledford grabbed Elvis' head. When a box normally used to contain captured snakes proved too small, officers put Elvis in a cat cage.

. . . . Cynthia Mullvain found the snake under her dryer Wednesday while she was doing laundry. She heard hissing and called police. "I didn't see it; I heard it," she told Orlando Sentinel partner Fox 35. "It's a big snake. It only hissed when I put something in the dryer."

As Orange County Animal Services spokewoman Diane Summers put it, "It's not a call the officers involved will soon forget."

The article points out that although a great deal of time and effort was spent hunting for the snake, it had gone only a short distance - Ms Mullvain is a neighbor of Dragon Ranch where the cobra was caged. The article goes on to say, the Florida Wildlife Commission has not yet determined if the snake's owner will be billed for the cost of the hunt. And then . . .

It's also not clear how long the snake was under the dryer, where it had been before that or what it ate to survive. It likely chose the dryer because it was a warm place. . . . At the end of the article, Ms Porter is quoted as saying, "We did what we have to do to keep the community safe."

All I can say is, "Yikes!" I'm going to have a few qualms the next time I go out to the garage to do my laundry.

Addendum, Saturday, October 10:
The Florida Wildlife Commission is revoking Dragon Ranch's permit to keep exotic animals. (A ruling that will likely be appealed.)

~ * ~

A "pretty please" reminder to my readers that I would very much appreciate your going to the link below, clicking on "KindleScout," and reading the excerpt from my SyFy venture, Rebel Princess. Serious literature it's not, but I hope you'll find it enjoyable enough to nominate it for publication by Scout, a program that actually provides its authors with "upfront" money, as well as royalties. Thank you, merci beaucoup, muchas gracious, blagadaryoo vas!

Link to Kindle Scout

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Copyediting Challenges - 4

A Special Request from Grace:
I uploaded the first book of a SyFy (Futuristic Paranormal) series to Amazon's new Kindle Scout publishing program, not realizing I was supposed to use social media to request "nominations" for my book to be published. Definitely one of life's embarrassing moments, as that's just not my style, BUT the Scout program actually offers advance payments to authors, as well as royalties (something that's been lacking in e-publishing), so I'm gritting my teeth and asking my blog readers to go to the link below, read the first 5000 words of Rebel Princess, and - unless you hate it - nominate it for publication by Kindle Scout. Thank you, thank you!
Link to Excerpt 

~ * ~

Gator-bite update: The woman in the photo below is the professor at Rollins College (earlier reported as UCF), who lost her arm to an alligator here in Longwood last month. She is planning to return to the classroom in January. 
Photo is scanned from The Orlando Sentinel, September 26, 2015. Good luck to a brave lady!

Orlando fall sunset, courtesy of Susie Reale

Copyediting Challenges - Part 4

Although this week's Copyediting Challenges can be confusing, they are not as open to interpretation as some of the previous examples. Most of these are cases of "right" and "wrong," with little wiggle room for subjective decisions. But you'll see from my notes that few rules are truly cut in stone. 

1.  That vs. Which. 

I personally find the choice between "that" and "which" one of the most difficult choices to explain, even to myself.  But before I even try, please remember this:  Many times the word "that" simply gets in the way.  If you can eliminate "that" and your sentence still makes sense, then get rid of that pesky four-letter word. 

Example from The Chicago Manual of Style:
The book I have just finished is due back tomorrow.

Use "that" - if necessary - when the "that" clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

Example from CMS:
The report that the committee submitted was well documented.

Grace note: Personally, I'd eliminate the "that" in the above sentence. It's not needed, as is often the case. Check all your "that" clauses, asking yourself if "that" is really necessary. 


"Which" is used when the clause can be left out without changing the meaning of the sentence. 
Examples from CMS:

The report, which was well documented, was submitted to the committee.
The book, which I finished last night, is due back tomorrow.

You've written a sentence where the "which" clause is essential to the meaning. Ah-hah! Take another look. Maybe it should be a "that" clause. 

Grace Note:  As a good example of just how tricky "that/which" can be, the last example above could also be written as: The book I finished last night is due back tomorrow. Thus eliminating both "that" and "which." It might not be "literary" English, but it's perfectly acceptable in both fiction and non-fiction - except perhaps to the most persnickety English professors and authors with aspirations toward writing "literature" far above the tastes of the most of the general public.

2. That vs. Who.
While we're on the subject of "that," I have to bring up one of my own pet peeves, even though it seems to be a lost cause, with even newspapers and TV reporters using "that" when it should be "who."

"That" refers to places and things.

"Who" is used when referring to people.

Bill is the person who had the best idea for the new building.
NOT Bill is the person that had the best idea for the new building.

3.  Not, Not only.

To use a comma or not? This seems to be a truly subjective decision based on whether or not you, as the writer, feel a pause or not.  The general rule, however, is that if you use one comma, you need to use two - enclosing the clause on either side. [Please note the use of "that" in the previous sentence. This is a case where the sentence would not read right if "that" is eliminated.]

 Examples from CMS:
We hoped the mayor herself, not her assistant, would attend the meeting.
They marched to Washington, not only armed with petitions and determined to get their senators' attention, but also hoping to demonstrate their solidarity with one another.


They were armed not only with petitions but also with evidence.
She decided not to march but merely to collect signatures.

  4.  More, Less, etc.

A comma should be used between clauses using these words but not between really short phrases.

Examples from CMS
The more I read about Winterbottom, the more I liked her.
The less you eat, the better you'll feel.


The more the merrier.
The sooner the better.

 5.  Apposition.

Quote from The Chicago Manual of Style:  "A word, abbreviation, phrase, or clause that is in apposition to a noun is set off by commas if it is nonrestrictive." In other words, if it can be omitted and the sentence still retain its meaning.

Examples from CMS:
The committee chair, Gloria Ruffolo, called for a resolution.
Stanley Groat, president of the corporation, spoke first.
My older sister, Betty, taught me the alphabet.


My sister Enid lets me hold her doll.

And sometimes the appositive contains a conjunction. Example from CMS, 15th ed.: 

The steward, or farm manager, was an important functionary in medieval life. 

~ * ~

More challenges to come, although sometime soon I hope to get my trip pictures downloaded and will begin sharing those.

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.