How to use Grammarly

https://pixabay.com/en/correcting-proof-paper-correction-1870721/

You’ve sweated out your story, lived, died, and bled with your characters, edited your work tens if not hundreds of times, published, and your first reviewer complains about the mistakes.

Tear hair out here!

Though I can’t find a scientific article to prove it, I did search “Why can’t we edit our own work” and most sites agree: it’s because we’re too invested in what we’ve written. Because we’ve read it over so many times, our brains know what we want to say, fill in the blanks, and we miss our errors. Microsoft Word does a good job of highlighting what it thinks are spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors, but even that might not be good enough.

Enter Grammarly.

Grammarly might just be the best invention since sliced bread where publishing is concerned, but it does have its faults. Grammarly is only a computer program, it’s not an editing god, and every suggestion it makes must be taken with a grain of salt  (i.e., don’t go making haphazard changes just because Grammarly–or Word, for that matter–says so).

Having published five of my own books with the sixth on the way, and about seven or so more by other authors under my EMSA Publishing imprint,  I’ve adopted Grammarly as my last ditch edit before publishing. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

 1. Canadian spellings are marked as errors.

I’ve blogged about this before. Did you know that Canada (and the UK) are the rule and the US is the exception? What I mean is that what my American friends think are “cute”, Canadian foibles are actually the norm practically everywhere else in the world. And while you can change Grammarly’s dictionary for British English, there is no Canadian option. This might pose a problem because like the UK, we have the odd double consonant rule before adding a suffix, and then there’s the whole “our” ending thing, but unlike the UK, Canadians, for example, prefer “mom” to “mum”. It is for this reason I prefer to keep my dictionary set to American English.

The bottom line is that you have a choice if you’re Canadian: write in American English, or know your Canadian spelling rules and be sure to do a Google search to check all spellings Grammarly marks as incorrect.

2. Do a search and replace.

Grammarly marks words that should be hyphenated but aren’t, or words that are hyphenated but shouldn’t be. It also marks compound words that shouldn’t be or vice versa. The trouble is that it doesn’t do this consistently. I’ve found that, in many cases, it really doesn’t matter as long as you hyphenate or compound consistently.

For example, should it be “eco-terrorist” or “ecoterrorist”? I did a Google search and discovered that Wikipedia and The Toronto Star use the hyphenated version, while the FBI and The Washington Post don’t (and though the Star is Canadian, I don’t believe this is another US-Canada dichotomy). My conclusion is that both are correct, as long as I pick one and stick to it throughout. In some cases, Grammarly picked up on this, in others it didn’t, and I had to go through my manuscript with a search and replace to make sure I was consistent throughout.

3. Know your comma rules.

Oh, those dreaded commas!

I’ve learned quite a bit about them on my editing journey, most of which can be read here, but the bottom line is that while there are rules, there are some exceptions due to style. Grammarly often told me I was missing a comma where I believed there should be none, and told me I had an incorrect comma where I believed there should absolutely be one.  The bottom line is, you have to know your comma rules.

Perhaps the biggest issue I have when using Grammarly is with the Oxford comma, the one that says you must separate all items of a list with a comma. Here’s an article on the Grammarly blog explaining what the Oxford comma is and why people care so much about it. The Oxford comma conundrum is compounded with the rule about commas and conjunctions (that unless you have two independent clauses on either side of the conjunction, no comma is necessary). Grammarly often thought I was connecting two dependent clauses with a comma before my “and” when in fact, it was an item in a list with the Oxford comma.

For example:

He tried to patch things up, went into my room, discovered I was gone, and was waiting up for me.

In this case, Grammarly marks the comma in red as being incorrect, but in my mind, it denotes the fourth item in a list with an Oxford comma. This sentence has a parallel structure, detailing four things my main character’s father did:

  • he tried to patch things up
  • he went into her room
  • he discovered she was gone
  • and he was waiting up for her when she returned.

According to the way the Oxford comma works, to separate items in a list, this is absolutely the correct place for a comma to be, yet Grammarly marked it as an error.

Here’s another example:

Not to mention the fact that I’d just broken my dad’s heart.

So first: yes, this is a sentence fragment, but stylistically so. Secondly, Grammarly suggests a comma go after “dad’s” and before “heart”. The reason: “When speaking directly to people, their names must be set off by commas. Consider adding the comma(s).”

This sentence is a part of my main character’s internal conflict. She is in her bedroom, alone, thinking to herself and not speaking to anyone, least of all her father. Grammarly was way off the mark on this one.

The takeaway? Question every change Grammarly suggests before you make it.

4. Check, check, and double-check.

Grammarly occasionally marks incorrect word use when there is none. Case in point:

“Cain broke up with me,” I bawl, barely intelligible, to myself, anyway, between the sobs.

Grammarly wondered if I didn’t mean “bowl” instead of “bawl”, as if “I bowl, barely intelligible” makes any more sense.

“My sobs have long subsided into sniffles…”

Grammarly wants to change “sobs” to “sons”, because it makes more sense in the context.

Note that I’m not bashing Grammarly here. Rather, I use these examples to explain why it is important to check everything Grammarly suggests against alternate sources, particularly if the resulting change would make little sense.

5. Is your apostrophe used to indicate a possessive or a contraction?

Knowing how and when to use an apostrophe is paramount, especially when you’re relying on an app to find your errors.

For example,

 

They made it into the news because of their less than conventional behaviour during the protest and was forgotten a few days later.

Grammarly suggests that “their” is a “confused possessive and contraction”  and goes on to tell me that “It appears that the possessive pronoun their should be a contraction instead. Consider changing it.”

My option for change is therefore:

because of they are less than conventional

rather than “their” which Google defines as  “belonging to or associated with the people or things previously mentioned or easily identified,” which seems to be the obvious choice.

The moral of the story is: Grammarly is great, but only if you know what you’re doing when you’re using it. Technology should not be used as a replacement for our learning proper spelling, punctuation, and grammatical rules. Having said that, we must recognize that we live in a revolutionary age. We have millions (if not more) web pages to suggest spelling, and punctuation and grammatical usage at our fingertips, and authors must get into the habit of looking things up before they make changes, particularly when a collection of ones and zeros–which have the capacity for neither human speech nor human creativity–tells us our instincts are incorrect.

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15 Free Book Promo Sites

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I’m on the book promo path again. Newly edited, my last book, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice will be on sale for the month of January 2017 for only $0.99. I threw a lot of money behind it for advertising in the summer when it was released, so this time I’m reluctant to put any new money into the project. To that end, I went searching online and found 15 amazing and free book promo sites. I signed up at all of them, hoping it will help my prospects, and I want to share them all with you.

Without further ado, here are 15 free book promo sites (in no particular order) you can use to help promote your book. Note that I am writing this blog post in advance of seeing my book advertised and having any sales, so I cannot vouch for some of these sites except for the fact that they allow you to upload your book for free.

1. eBookSkill

Free promotions for eBook deals and giveaways.

2. eBookLister

Free promotions for eBooks that are free and/or under $2.99.

3. Armadillo eBooks

Free promotions for eBooks priced under $2.99. There is also a paid option to submit to 25 other sites for $25.00 (of which I did not take advantage).

4. Reading Deals

Free submissions for free and bargain books, though spots are limited and posts are not guaranteed. There is a $29.00 guaranteed post available. Reading Deals will send your post out to the 40,000 people they have on their mailing list.

5. Book Hippo

Book Hippo offers free book promos priced below 3.61 pounds. They will also post something called a “Drabble”, which is a flash fiction piece of 100 words or less. I have used Book Hippo before and they do not disappoint. Note that you will have to create a login for yourself before you will be allowed to post.

6. Discount Bookman

Free promotions for books with a $19.00 option for a featured post.

7. eBooksHabit

I applied to this site even though they require 5 reviews and I only have 3, so we’ll see what happens. They don’t accept erotica and they do check your price, so be sure to have the sale price in place before you apply.

8. This Is Writing

This is Writing offers guest posts, email blasts, interviews, and excerpt postings. Though they claim to get back to you asap, I have not heard back from them yet as of the posting of this blog (almost 1 week later), but they do say that it might take up to a month for them to respond to your request.

9. BookBongo

Free post on their site and Facebook page, though the post is not guaranteed. Guaranteed posts are available for between $9.99 and $29.99.

10. BookBrag

Free book promotion for books under $5.99. Other promotional packages are available for $10.00 and $20.00. I’ve used BookBrag for book promotion before and they always come through. They add your book to their site for free. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you even make their newsletter. It’s nice to open up an email and see your own book being professionally promoted.

11. Book of the Day

Book of the Day will post your book in an “unfiltered” post for free on the day you choose. They also have paid options which allow you greater exposure and access to some of their advertising tools for $11.95. Once your book has been posted, you can pay $7.95 for a 21-day tour around their site for increased exposure.

12. Awesome Gang

Awesome Gang is truly awesome. In addition to offering advice and tools for authors, they allow you to post your books for free. There is a paid option that I’ve used in the past, $10.00 to feature your book, but I didn’t see a boost in sales (or any sales, for that matter), but that’s been the case for many paid features I’ve used at other sites, too.

13. Pretty-Hot

Like Awesome Gang, Pretty-Hot lets you post your books for free. Like BookBrag, you get a permanent listing for your book and sometimes wind up in their email blast. Also like the other sites, there is the option to feature your book for $25.00. I’ve used this site before and they’re pretty reliable as far as posting goes and I’ve made their newsletter more often than some of the other sites.

14. My Book Place

Affiliated with Pretty-Hot, My Book Place will post your books for free. There is also a $25.00 featured book post. Also like Pretty-Hot, My Book Place is reliable when it comes to posting on their site and I’ve seen my book a few times in their email blast, too.

15. Read Write Club

Similar set-up to the previous two sites, you can post your books for free and/or opt for the featured book post for $25.00.

My Marketing Plan

Also in my marketing plan for this sale is a BKKnights post (on Fivver) and boosting a Facebook post for $7. I also plan to do some posting myself in my own newsletter, on my sites, and to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The proceeds from any book sales will go into keeping the momentum going by upping the ante and paying for a few ads to see how many copies in total I can sell.

Do you know of any other sites on which you can post discount books for free? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments of this post.

Bonus sites

I’m still searching for more promotional sites for free. Here is another that I found after I published the above article:

1. Free 99 Books

Though there is no guarantee they will add your book to their newsletter, they do create a page for your book on their site.

 

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Paleo Mug Muffins – Bonus Recipe #2!

Introducing Paleo, Gluten Free, and Low Carb Mug Muffins: A Baker’s Dozen of One Minute Muffins

Sweet tooth got your tongue?

It’s happened to all of us–we want to eat healthier, but then we’re sabotaged by cravings for sugar, salty, carb-laden snacks. Rather than reach for a chocolate bar or bag of chips the next time the carb craving hits, reach for a mug muffin instead. Paleo, Gluten Free, and Low Carb Mug Muffins are a healthy-ish alternative, great for breakfast, dessert, or just because.

Paleo, Gluten Free, and Low Carb Mug Muffins will show you how to make a baker’s dozen of different mug muffins from a single base recipe. Choose from Black Forest Cherry, Blueberry Crumble, Carrot Cake, Red Velvet, and Apple Fritter…and we’re just getting started! In addition to recipes, you will learn about the health benefits of the basic building block ingredients, such as the flours, sweeteners, and fiber options used to make the best mug muffins you’ve ever tasted!

Introducing: Pumpkin Pie!

I have this amazing pumpkin pie recipe that I make year round. It has walnuts and almonds for the crust and cashews and more walnuts in the custard. I don’t care much for walnuts, so I substitute pecans. When the pie’s cooled, I cut it into slices and freeze each slice separately. If I transfer it to the fridge the night before, I have a delicious, filling breakfast, lunch, or evening snack.

Pureed pumpkin comes in a huge can, and my recipe only uses about half, so I’m usually in a mad rush on Pinterest to find pumpkin recipes to use up the leftovers before they spoil. That’s when the idea came to me: try to make a Paleo mug muffin with all of the flavours of pumpkin pie!

Here’s the recipe I came up with. Feel free to fine-tune the sweetener and/or spices as you see fit.

To find out the basic recipe, buy Paleo, Gluten Free, and Low Carb Mug Muffins: A Baker’s Dozen of One Minute Muffins.

Other bonus recipes: Snickerdoodle.

Here’s how:

https://pixabay.com/en/pumpkin-pie-autumn-holiday-baked-520655/

From the basic recipe, omit:

  • maple syrup – substitute 1 tsp molasses (optional – it works well either way, but it tastes more pumpkin pie-ey with the molasses, I think)

Add:

  • 1 Tbsp almond flour
  • 1 heaping Tbsp pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch (or two) of nutmeg (depending on how fond you are of it)
  • 4 or 5 chopped pecans
  • handful of chocolate chips

Mix and bake recipe according to instructions in the book.

Note: Pumpkin tends to be on the sweet side, but the extra sweetness of the molasses adds a unique flavour profile that I can only describe as unctuous and nothing short of delicious.

The measurements in this recipe made the muffin slightly spicy, probably as a result of upping the ginger. And while I’m not a nutmeg fan, I realize that recipes like this need a little nutmeg. I started with 1 shake from my bottle and settled on 3 shakes, which is a little more than 2 pinches. The nutmeg is still subtle, and helps to draw the connection to the pumpkin pie that inspired it.

For the basic paleo, gluten free, and low carb mug muffin recipe along with more than 13 variations on the recipe, buy Paleo, Gluten Free, and Low Carb Mug Muffins: A Baker’s Dozen of One Minute Muffins.

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Comma Gain?

Punctuation rules are confusing, particularly those surrounding commas, semi-colons, and dashes. In this post, I tackle the comma: when to use it, and how much is too much.

The Oxford Comma

The Oxford Comma refers to the comma used to separate items in a list, particularly before the “and”. The perfect example of this is

Image result for oxford comma meme

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/oxford-comma

While common sense can help to sort out problems such as this one, when the reader must pause to engage critical thinking skills to sort this out, it pulls them from the narrative and spoils the experience.

Commas and Conjunctions

Use a comma before a conjunction with two independent clauses, but not when there is only one independent clause. For example:

Two independent clauses: I want to eat, and I want to sleep. [Both clauses on either side of the conjunction can stand alone as their own sentences.]

One independent clause: I want to eat and sleep. [Only “I want to eat” can stand on its own as an independent clause.]

Semicolons vs. Commas

In a long list, where there are already commas, use semicolons to separate items in a list:

Once Upon A Time has several subplots going: Rumplestiltskin and Belle, who also double as Beauty and the Beast; Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, which serves as the segue into the Land of Untold Stories arc; and The Dr. Whale/Dr. Frankenstein connection, which may wind up saving Storybrook from evil, once again.

Semicolons are also used to separate two independent, yet related clauses (without a conjunction):

Some fans might say that Rumplestiltskin is the quintessential villain; the Evil Queen comes in a close second.

With the exception of the list rule, a semicolon should never be used in place of a comma, or a colon, for that matter. Note: see example above for proper colon use (or the start of this sentence). In general, a colon denotes a list to follow.

Commas After Conjunctions

Commas should NEVER be used after conjunctions (this is one of my pet peeves). Though we often pause after conjunctions like “and”, it is not correct to put a comma there. Consider my horrible example from above:

I want to eat and, if I can ever find the time, I want to sleep.

If you were to read this aloud, it might sound right, but it’s grammatically incorrect. Per the rule above, the comma should come before the “and”.

I want to eat, and if I can ever find the time, I want to sleep.

This is correct as the phrase “and if I can ever find the time” is an aside. See note below regarding the use of commas and asides.

Is it ever okay to break the rules?

Sometimes, in dialogue, it is okay to break the rules. For example, in I Was, Am, Will Be Alice, Pete, Alice’s boyfriend, asks:

Could I see, like, dinosaurs, or travel to see how mankind evolves a couple a thousand years from now?

Though technically, this isn’t exactly rule breaking, as it is correct to put commas around an aside in a sentence (giving additional information without which the sentence is still an independent clause), “like” is more of a speech habit than an aside, but the commas work in this context.

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