What is PUG?
Some of us are detail fanatics, who lie (not lay) awake at night because somewhere someone is misspelling something on Facebook. Others will write their stories and ask a grammarphobe to correct the mistakes. Either way, we need to be aware of the importance of proper PUG in our writing.
Punctuation is a bit of a stickler, as rules change over time and differ between publishing houses. The Chicago Manual of Style is usually considered the final word.
My rule of thumb is to read my work aloud and use punctuation at pause or breath points. The aim is effective communication.
Consider these sentences without punctuation:
“Slow kids at play.” That’s a nasty attitude.
“Woman finds inspiration in cooking her dog and her family.” Dark. Very dark.
As writers, we must make sure our words communicate our intent.
My personal plea: Do not use more than one exclamation mark at a time! Ever! Instead, use strong words and appropriate action tags to add power to the sentence.
Usage: “the customary manner in which language is written or spoken.” (Dictionary.com) There are times when rules overshadow meaning. An old rule stated that a sentence should not end in a preposition (to, with, in, of, etc.). The following sentence applies the rule but sacrifices clarity: “This is a rule up with which I will not put.” (Ascribed to Churchill, but unsubstantiated.) We must be accurate and clear in our meaning.
The most important tips on word usage:
– use strong words in all parts of speech
E.g. “chartreuse” instead of “a shade halfway between green and yellow.”
We should aim to use as few adjectives and adverbs as possible, replacing them with strong nouns and verbs. E.g. “She hurried / dashed / trotted / slipped away” instead of “She walked quickly away.”
A rule of thumb is to use the simplest words to convey our meaning.
Use action beats with dialogue. E.g. “Stop!” She pointed the gun at him.
Grammar doesn’t have to be boring. We can find answers in entertaining and informative books such as these:
Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Conner
Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik
An option is to trade skills with someone who is more competent in grammar than we are.
Proper use of PUG has always been a priority in any writing contests I’ve entered or judged. Offering up our stories without attention to the details of PUG is like showing up at a party in a gorgeous outfit sporting ketchup stains. We may have a fascinating storyline, but poor grammar will reduce credibility and professionalism.
It’s all in the details.