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Plain-English Tips for Better Writing

• SpellingPunctuation
• Word Placement • Word Usage
• Clear, Concise Writing
• Formatting in MS Word and HTML

Good news! For your convenience, these tips have been written in plain English. You won't find fancy grammar terms here—just the occasional mention of relevant part(s) of speech. (To refresh your memory, the eight parts of speech are nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, articles, conjunctions, and prepositions.)


  • How to make most nouns plural
  • How to make first or last names plural or possessive and when to use an apostrophe


  • Placement of punctuation with ending quotation marks
  • Placement of ending punctuation inside or outside parentheses
  • Punctuation surrounding the word however
  • Use of commas or colons with such as and includes/including
  • Use of a comma before who or whom

Word Placement

  • Proper placement of not only in a sentence
  • Proper placement of only in a sentence
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Word Usage

  • Affect versus effect
  • Imply versus infer
  • It's versus its
  • That versus who or whom
  • Who versus whom; and whoever versus whomever

Clear, Concise Writing

  • Ensuring the use of parallel structure in lists
  • Avoiding the use of there is and there are
  • Commonly misused words and phrases (a myriad of, reoccur/reoccurring, more then, could care less)

Formatting in MS Word and HTML

  • Use of nonbreaking space to lock words together on same line
  • Use of nonbreaking hyphen to show entire hyphenated word on same line
  • Use of em dash (long dash) rather than a double hyphen
  • Use of en dash (medium dash) to represent to, through, or minus
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80 Common Layout Errors to Flag When Proofreading Book Interiors

layout errors   More Info

"This handbook is amazing. I am doing a great deal of formatting these days, and the words resonate with me. I have encountered many of the issues mentioned, and plan to buy the [paperback] book and keep it handy so I can help my clients by providing the best possible proofreading and formatting." —Judy Vorfeld

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