Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
I've always thought of grammar as the math of the writing process. I've never liked it, never been great at it, and I'm not sure I could diagram a sentence more complex than "Stephanie wrote."
When working on a recent project, I found myself baffled by ellipses. My first agent had told me to always format my ellipses ... like this. With a space, three periods together, another space, and then a word.
But then I was told that there should always be spaces between the periods . . . like this. And then that there should never be a space, and they should be formatted...like this.
To make matters even more confusing, someone threw the four-dot method at me, to be used with trailing sentences....
Or, wait. Maybe it should be like this . . . .
Chicago Manual of Style from my shelf, and found it to be lacking. Almost all the examples were for using ellipses when abbreviating a quote. But what I did find helpful is this:
"Three methods of using ellipsis points are described here: the three-dot method; the three-or-four-dot method, and a refinement of the latter, here called the rigorous method. The choice between the three is usually made by the author, sometimes by the editor."
Gasp! There isn't one right way?! There are three methods, and I have a choice?!
This is why the ellipses in my Skylar books are formatted . . . this way, and why the ones in Jill's Captives are formatted ... like this. Because our publishers made a choice.
This discovery led me on a Chicago Manual of Style tour, where I was shocked by how often I saw the words "usually," "traditionally," and "often."
"Religious events and concepts of major theological importance are often capitalized.
the Creation, the Fall, the Second Coming
Doctrines are usually lowercased.
atonement, original sin"I also found answers to questions I didn't even realize I had. Like the proper capitalization for classes, which is rather important as a YA author.
In this sentence, the class should be capitalized: I grab my bag and head toward Ballroom Dance.
In this it should not: Taking ballroom dance classes has not helped my coordination.
And I learned that even though it makes my spell check cranky, the editors of the Chicago manual of style "prefer" that I use lowercase letters for brussels sprouts, french fries, dutch ovens, and other terms that take a proper noun out of its original context.
Spending time with my grammar manuals (I have three, all of which I recommend - The Chicago Manual of Style, Garner's Modern American Usage, and The Elements of Style, which is a hybrid) usually makes me feel dumb. But this time I learned even Chicago and Webster's disagree with each other on occasion, so it's okay if my ellipses don't match everyone else's.
And that I'll probably never again be asked to diagram a sentence, so I can let go of that fear as well.