Important Grammar & Punctuation Rules to Improve Your Story

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Important Grammar & Punctuation Rules to Improve Your Story

Postby Doctor Keith » Tue May 29, 2018 3:46 pm

I'm a published author, with about a dozen books published under my name or pen names. I'm a big fan of this site and the talented writers who contribute to it. Over many months, I've read almost every story here, except the TG stories which aren't my thing. That said, I can totally appreciate the audience for them. When I joined this site, one kind, long-term member said she/he was looking forward to how I might contribute as a "professional" author. I think I have some advice to share. This is contributed with all the affection I have for Changing Mirror authors, which is considerable. Agree with me or not, I'm only offering this as a reader, and as an author who wants to convey his story to readers without strange text, structure or punctuation getting in the way. I hope this helps some of you:

1. Use capitals at the beginning of sentences. When the narrator refers to herself/himself, “I” must be capitalized. Capitalize proper names, etc. If you don’t, you risk the reader not understanding what you’re trying to say. This isn’t “cute.” The reader sees it as confusing the message you’re trying to convey.

2. Always use (“) or (‘) for quotations. (“) is most common, and always used in the US. (‘) is sometimes used in the UK. We all forgive (‘) for quotations since English is their language, after all. But think about how many published novels you’ve seen with (’) to delineate quotes, versus, (“). Yeah, use (“). BTW, neither (") nor (') end a sentence. SENTENCES MUST END WITH A (.), (?), OR (!). If the sentence is a quote, it must end with (."), (?"), OR (!").

3. Break up your prose into reasonable paragraphs. Most paragraphs have 5 or fewer sentences. Long, long paragraphs are very difficult for a reader. YOU WILL LOOSE READERS IF YOU HAVE LONG PARAGRAPHS.

4. Two speakers are never quoted in the same paragraph. When the speaker changes, ALWAYS start a new paragraph, before or after any sentence identifying the new speaker, if there is an identifying sentence.

5. (?) ends a questioning sentence. (!) ends an exclamatory sentence. (???) or (!!!) is no better than (?) or (!), and is usually viewed as something an inexperienced writer would do. In addition, ending a sentence with (?!) or (!?) is equally incorrect. Decide if it's more important that the thought is a question or an exclamation. Then choose either (?) or (!). Clarify with prose, all caps, or italics - but use sparingly! You can use all caps or italics for emphasis, but rarely. If you feel a need to use more than one “?” or “!” or both, you haven’t adequately explained what’s happening. To get the message to the reader, add prose, or redo what you wrote. THE READER CAN’T READ YOUR MIND, AND WEIRD PUNCTUATION DOESN'T TELL THE READER WHAT YOU’RE THINKING, even if you believe it makes the point. MAKE THE POINT IN YOUR TEXT. For example, "What do you want me to do?!" Is amateurish. Instead, try, "WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?" Or simply write, "What do you want me to do!" (if the exclamation is more important than the question). Alternatively, write something like, "I have no idea what you want! How do you want me to handle this?" (Meaning elaborate with prose).

6. The ellipsis is 3 dots: … Most style guides say that it should have a space before and after it (but, at least, always after it), unless it ends a quote (with a “ or ‘). More than 3 dots IS NO BETTER THAN 3. USE THIS SPARINGLY! A FEW TIMES IN A CHAPTER AT MOST. SPARINGLY! The same applies to the “-“ character, when used to separate clauses. USE IT INFREQUENTLY.

7. “Of” IS NEVER A VERB! IT IS A PREPOSITION! “Would of …” is incorrect. The correct form is “would’ve” or “would have.” Or should’ve (should have), or could’ve (could have), etc.

8. Avoid trap words which add nothing to what you’re saying. The biggest offenders are words like “just”, “again”, “really”, “actually”, “finally”, "softly", "gently." We all use them. They’re called your “darlings.” As Stephen King said, “Kill your darlings.” That means go through your text and take 80% of them out.

9. If you end a quote, the (“) mark comes after the (.) (?) or (!). The next word after a (.”) (?”) or (!”) must be capitalized. The next word after a (,”) isn’t capitalized unless it’s a proper noun.

10. Take the time to read and edit your manuscript thoroughly before you upload it, even if you're sick and tired of it! Preferably, do this on some other medium than where you wrote it, because you’ll catch more problems that way. For example, if you wrote it on a laptop with MS Word, convert it to a .mobi file (with the free Calibre software, for example), upload it to your Kindle, and read it there, making notes where you see errors.

11. “There” means a place – like “over there.” “Their” means it belongs to them – like that is “their home.” “They’re” means they are – like they’re living in their big house over there. Mixing them up makes the reader think you’re unworthy to be an author. No admonishment, just fact.

12. Understand the difference between "then" and "than." The use of "then" refers to time. "Then" means: this happened, then that happened. "Than" refers to preference: I'd rather have this than that. Example 1: Amy cast a spell on Suzie, then Suzie became a short, plump brunette. Example 2: Suzie would rather be a blond than a brunette. Note: If you write: Suzie would rather be a blond, then a brunette, it has a totally different meaning. Than indicates preference (Suzie would rather be blond). Then indicates she wants to be a blond, and a brunette afterward.
Last edited by Doctor Keith on Mon Jun 04, 2018 4:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Doctor Keith
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Re: Important Grammar & Punctuation Rules to Improve Your St

Postby blurmy » Tue May 29, 2018 4:30 pm

Thanks for taking the effort to put this together.
You can find all of my stories and commission me at

And check out my clips at
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Re: Important Grammar & Punctuation Rules to Improve Your St

Postby itsme » Sat Jun 09, 2018 9:21 am

You are right, but most of what you are talking about are a bit picayune. This is a site that deals with amatures (almost exclusively) writing sex stories. Cut them a little slack. They aren't being paid and they don't have editors. Dissuading them from writing because they fear it might not be good enough technically isn't in anyone's best interest. If an author's work is unreadable then stop reading it.

Hopefully people will write well, but what are we to do. Run-on sentences and run-on paragraphs should be avoided more than anything else, the rest of the stuff; well "The Oxford Guide To Writing" I still have from college is over 800 pages long (at least my version.) There are 100s of rules. We'll have to live with the small mistakes.

The only thing I'm concerned with is FINISH THE STORY. It drives me nuts a person writes a chapter or two and then stops. I can get over someone who has 5 periods instead of 3, who used 'there' when they meant 'their', forgot an occasion quote or capitalization. But a story that isn't finished that is something different.
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Re: Important Grammar & Punctuation Rules to Improve Your St

Postby Alara » Mon Jun 25, 2018 12:15 pm

This is a site that deals with amatures (almost exclusively) writing sex stories. Cut them a little slack. They aren't being paid and they don't have editors.

There's nothing wrong with being an amateur, but when you submit your creative work to a public (which is what a forum like this is) there's a certain expectation that you'll try to refine what you have to offer to the best of your abilities. If I baked cookies for everybody and they tasted horrible, "I'm just an amateur baker" isn't going to cut it with the people who're eating my work. Yes, not everybody can have professional level formatting, and to expect that as the norm would be silly, but the idea that there shouldn't be standards just because most of the stories here are sexual in nature (why should there be a different standard in quality for erotica?) in my experience leads to a kind of toxic mediocrity, where nobody tries to improve themselves and eventually the better writers are driven away or, after a certain point, don't even bother showing up.

I see writing communities as a kind of workout club where all the members try to keep each other accountable and help each other work towards improvement. Nobody's saying "we should purge stories that don't achieve a literary standard". OP is just trying to help writers produce better versions of what they already create. Cultivating quality is how you avoid what's become of places like and where the gems are almost impossible to find in a sea of endlessly proliferating tossed-off badly-formatted pieces. More is not always better, and if you're trying to foster a virtuous circle, then encouraging writers to take a little more time refining their works is in everybody's best interest.

The only thing I'm concerned with is FINISH THE STORY.

This we can agree on ^_^

Anyway, super post, OP!
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