Latest blog articles

Mug with tea on a wooden table
07 Dec 2021

When I run courses with Publishing Scotland there are usually one or two people in each group who are starting out as freelancers. I know what that’s like: in 2014, when Margaret Aherne was the Publishing Scotland trainer, I was one of those people.

In courses that focus on the nuts and bolts of copyediting there’s little time to talk about the best way to start making your mark in the editing world. Anyone is welcome to grab me for a chat after a session, but usually, because time is limited…

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Arrow pointing right, carved into white stone
09 Mar 2020
Could we do without apostrophes?

The announcement before Christmas that the Apostrophe Protection Society (APS) had finally been defeated by, in the words of its founder John Richards, ‘the ignorance and laziness present in modern times’ prompted some discussion. Rob Drummond suggested that the apostrophe ‘is not actually necessary for…

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Doctor's Notes

Apostrophes are often put in the wrong place in people’s (of people), others’ (of others), women’s, men’s and children’s (of women, men and children). People are also reluctant to use apostrophe ‘s’ with names ending in ‘s’, like James or Chris, but modern style is James’s and Chris’s. Classical or historical names can leave out the final ‘s’ depending on style; remember to record all instances on your style sheet.

Don't include the final ‘s’ when you have made a name plural, so you would say the Kennedys’ dog rather than the Kennedys’s dog.

‘Both’ is a popular word – in fact, it's a bit too popular. In text like ‘they were both born in the same town’ the ‘both’ is unnecessary, and you don't need it every time two things are mentioned, either. ‘Both’ is at its most effective when it emphasises contrasting elements: ‘She was both strident and sensitive to others.’ Note the ‘and’ in this sentence. Often you'll hear ‘both ... but’, but ‘and’ is correct with ‘both’.

When you see ‘both’, do what I call the copyeditor’s count. In this case, look for two elements. I’ve seen ‘both’ applied to three or more items, and I’ve heard it, in the media, applied to just one.

A comma splice occurs when what follows a comma could stand as a sentence on its own. ‘Tim was an excellent surfer, he often visited the beaches in Cornwall’ is a comma splice. Instead of the comma, you have three options:

  • add a joining word or term, such as ‘and’
  • add a full stop and a capital letter
  • add a semicolon.

Your decision will partly depend on whether the connection between the first clause and the second is lost if you use a full stop to separate them. If you want to make it clear that the second clause follows in meaning from the first, expanding or explaining it, use ‘and’ or a semicolon.


If you’ve taken one of my courses, you’ll know that I use exercises and handouts written by Margaret Aherne, who took the Publishing Scotland courses until 2019. This is the latest PDF book from Margaret, released in January 2021. I include it in my resource list for Further Copyediting with Publishing Scotland because it’s based on Margaret’s Advanced Copyediting course for the Publishing Training Centre which is a little more involved than the Further course. It joins her Proofreading Practice: Exercises with Model Answers and Commentary and Copy-editing: A Guide for Proofreaders, both of which I’d also recommend.

This newest book covers the copyeditor’s brief, multi-author works, creating a table, complexities in…

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