By Katy Kauffman
I used to think books that had typos weren’t proofread enough before they were printed. Surely someone would have caught those mistakes. Now I know better.
After I self-published my first book, I found more typos than I want to admit. Mistakes happen. Our goal as authors is to catch as many mistakes as we can. First, it’s helpful to be aware of the technical aspects of grammar and punctuation and what the trends are these days. The Chicago Manual of Style acts as a safety net as we fly through the pages of our books, making sure everything is formatted properly. Second, it’s helpful to know what makes writing sparkle—lead-ins, insights, a conversational voice, great takeaway, and so forth. Reading books on the writing craft and books by authors we love, helps us to know what to shoot for in our writing.
So, if you’re a devotional or Bible study writer (or a Christian living writer), use this checklist to make sure your writing is edited as best as it can be. Following these rules will help you to feel more secure when you post something on your blog or submit something to an editor or agent.
Always cite the Bible translations you use. This is easy to forget when we’re in “listener” mode instead of “writer” mode. We don’t have to cite a translation when we’re listening to a sermon or studying God’s Word in our quiet times, but it’s a must for our writing. The same applies for creating memes. Include the translation.
Bring your commas and periods inside the “house.” As a magazine editor, I often see commas and periods standing in the wrong place in sentences. Remember, periods go inside quotation marks, not outside. Think of quotation marks as the walls of your sentence. Commas and periods need to go inside the walls of the house, not standing outside in the cold.
Know the difference in citing Scripture in running text and block quotes. Use the following example to know how to format a Scripture reference in running text: “God is love” (1 John 4:8 NKJV). Notice that the period goes on the outside of the last parenthesis, and there is no comma after 1 John 4:8. When your Bible verse or passage is longer than a few lines, make it a block quote and put the period after the words of the verse, within the quotation marks. The reference and translation are as above, but there is no period after the parenthesis.
Know the difference in how to format your endnotes and bibliography. The following are the essential ingredients you need to cite a book: author’s name, title of book, publisher’s name and city and state, and the copyright year. For your endnotes, put the page number (or location for e-books) where your quote is found.
The following is how to cite endnotes: Author’s first and last name, Book Title, (City, State: Publisher, copyright year), page number. And the following is an example of an entry for a bibliography: Last name, first name. Book Title. City, State: Publisher, copyright year.
Put your byline under your title in the body of your text. It may be an easy thing to forget, but help your potential editors, agents, and readers know who wrote your writing. Be sure to put your byline underneath the title of your work.
Check your work for what makes the content truly “wow”—a captivating lead-in, great first lines of paragraphs, memorable stories, a conversational voice, and superb takeaway. We may be perfectly correct in our grammar and punctuation, but our voice and message is the heart of our writing. Craft your writing to include so much sparkle that readers will be looking for what else you have written.
Which of the tips above do you find the most challenging to incorporate into your writing? What other tips would you suggest? Tell us in the comments below, and keep editing.
(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and digitalart.)
Craft your writing to include so much sparkle that readers will be looking for what else you have written. via @KatyKauffman28 (Click to tweet.)
Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of , and a co-founder of . Her first compilation, Breaking the Chains, won a 2018 Selah finalist award. Her second compilation, Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, released this summer. Katy’s writing can be found at CBN.com, thoughts-about-God.com, PursueMagazine.net, two blogs on writing, in online magazines, and on devotional blogs. She loves spending time with family and friends, making jewelry, and hunting for the best peanut butter cookies. Connect with her at her and on and .