Posted on 2013-May-16
The Rise of the Machines
BB eBooks strives to be more than just a “conversion factory,” and we’re always on the lookout for new and improved ways to help add values to our clients’ eBooks. We have some programs we wrote that ensure your eBooks are coded to our stringent HTML quality guidelines to avoid any headaches for you. During the course of writing this program we began to experiment with it to check for common grammatical mistakes. We have done about 400+ eBooks and we started to notice a few things that even the most-experienced authors and editors can occasionally miss—understandably as a typical novel is 80,000+ words. Unfortunately, nothing craters your well-deserved Amazon ranking like a bad review on grammar from a disgruntled reader.
Erroneous Use of Spaces
All spaces (two or more) are taken out automatically and converted to a single space. The two-space after the period is a holdover from the typewriter days and no longer applies, unless you are a hipster living in Williamsburg who owns one of these ancient devices. Another problem with spacing is to ensure there are no spaces before periods, commas, semi-colons, and exclamation points and one space after—unless the period or exclamation point is at the end of paragraph. There are a few exceptions (like using commas and periods in numbers) where you should not have a space after, but you usually should. This can be tough for a copyeditor to catch but it’s easy for a computer program to flag. For those non-nerds not familiar with regular expressions, you can check for spaces before periods, commas, semi-colons, and exclamation points with Word using the Find and Replace feature. Press Ctrl+H in Word and type ., ,, ;, or ! into the Find Window to help track these buggers down.
Em Dashes and Hyphens
Some people may be in the habit of typing two hyphens or sometimes three hyphens to simulate an em dash. This is not desired in an eBook and can make it look unprofessional. To track these down simply search for -- in Find and Replace window and replace the multiple hyphens with an em dash —. You can type the em dash into word by pressing Alt+0151 (type the numbers on your numeric pad on the right-hand side of the keyboard). Another problem from books that have been converted from a PDF is having words “brok- en” with a hyphen then space. We use a program to help track these down, but you can try by searching for - in the Find Window.
Fancy Quotes Gone Wild
With the exception of technical manuals discussing computer code, a print book/eBook should never have straight up and down single- or double-quotes. It screams Amateur Hour. Additionally, some eReading programs like iBooks will try to “fix” your straight up-and-down quotes with undesirable results. All dialogue and contractions should use proper curled-quotes. Here is how to manually type in the curled quotes:
- Alt+0145 for ‘
- Alt+0146 for ’
- Alt+0147 for “
- Alt+0148 for ”
The problem with the autoformatting option in Word is that it is buggy as all hell and often makes the fancy quotes point the wrong way. A quick way to check if any quotes are pointing the wrong way is as follows: “ , ”, ’ (note: this is okay if it is a contraction off the first part of a word like ’em), and ‘ . We also check if the start/end of paragraphs has a quote pointing the wrong way, but this gets a bit more advanced and can’t be done with Word.
For finalized eBooks, you should not have an ellipsis by pressing the period key three times. This may cause the three periods to be broken across two lines. A proper ellipsis (i.e. …) can be entered by pressing Alt+0133. Also, since the period is such a tiny character, they may be typed twice by mistake. Simply do a search for .. and you can track all these down (after you’ve fixed up your ellipses properly).
Recommend Hiring an Editor
If you are our client we run our program on your eBook to flag any possible grammatical snafus mentioned above and then we will copyedit them if the error is obvious. However, using computers to edit and proofread is only a quick and dirty tool to catch certain situations. It is far better to hire a professional editor to add value to your book.
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