Just a few quick comments before I settle down to the long haul of the remaining punctuation symbols.
Someone asked a question that I have been asked by many writers in the past: 'should I concentrate on editing what I have already written, or writing what is left?'
In almost every case, you are best to keep writing. This is because there are only two tricks to writing a book: having an idea, and finishing it. Once you start getting that idea down, you should keep going. You can edit it later, Or someone like me can do it for you. But no one else can write it for you.
There are three exceptions to this rule:
1. When you have Writer's Block of Doom and cannot create another word even with a gun to your temple. It can be handy to go back and remember why you loved this book at the beginning, and doing some editing is a good excuse for a read-through.
2. You are posting it chapter-by-chapter on the internet as it is being written.
3. You suddenly realise that you would rather write it from a different POV or other such major change. Because this can change major sections of your novel, you should at the very least go back and mark up the changes you will need to make to each chapter, especially any parts of your narrative that will need to be cut or shifted elsewhere.
Thanks to everyone who has brought an "I was taught X" discussion to the comments on the previous post, they're fascinating, and a lot of fun. While in some cases I am answering with something on the lines of Y is correct, and better than X because … in most cases the replies are along the lines of, actually, X and Y have both been acceptable, and this one may be currently stronger, because …
This is not a cop-out. As blindmouse
says, it's depressing how much of grammar all boils down to being a matter of style. Style changes across countries and through time. For example, Mr. Draco Malfoy, Esq. is perfectly acceptable 17th century usage, but not acceptable in formal 20th century usage (and just barmy in 21st). But it's better in a snarky sense than D. Malfoy, Esq, regardless of when you say it.
Similarly, "Hi Ron, hi Hermione, hi Remus." may cause conniptions in those who insist on "Hi, Hermione", and so on, but I would rather they froth than construct a sentence with five commas and six words. This is why I can't submit to that archive that insists all speech be perfectly granmmatical. It's not. It never has been, never will be. We talk in fragments, are discursive, lose track, faff ... Even Jane Austen used ungrammatical speech at times. (Shakespeare would be dying of laughter at this whole discussion. "Just make it up!" he would say. "I do that all the time!")
There are editors and subeditors out there who would be horrified to hear me say that. They are members of this league
. They are possibly moderating an archive or modding a fest near you. Treat them gently. They have terrible
frown lines and are not happy people.
Above all, don't panic. I am writing this series so that when you have one of those three in the morning moments, when you cannot recall if the punctuation should go inside or outside the brackets, you have a handy, free reference that is shorter than 40 pages and covers most common mistakes (because I am familiar with most of them).
You do not
need to punctuate perfectly. All you need to do is convey the meaning that you intend. If your punctuation is clear and does not change the meaning of what you want to say, then it's fine. Even if the National League of Pedants would frown. Back to apostrophes, I may be some time.