Fine-tuning and Formatting #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #blog #WednesdayWisdom #writerscommunity #amwriting

This summer I signed with my incredible literary agent Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency!


Besides jumping for joy, the weeks that followed involved some good-old-fashioned edits to my manuscript. In the process I learned about some very basic citation/formatting styles that had escaped my notice until then. See how many you already know (and use?) below!

  • APA (American Psychological Association) is used by Education, Psychology, and Sciences
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used by the Humanities
  • Chicago/Turabian style is generally used by Business, History, and the Fine Arts

Since you’re most likely keen on writing, I’ll focus on the Chicago Manual of Style here. The rabbit hole is long on writing styles, so I leave you to peruse the full contents at your leisure – just sign up for a 30-day trial, as I did.

In this post, I’m most interested in everyone’s favorite — punctuation. Despite being a huge fan of punctuation (said no one, ever) I still get stuck on rando uses of semi-colons, colons, and how and when to use additional formatting. Check out the quick cheat sheet below, drawing on the CMoS as the authority.

Italics: All punctuation marks should appear in the same font—roman or italic—as the main or surrounding text, except for punctuation that belongs to a title in a different font (usually italics).

For example: She loved reading Alice in Wonderland

or: Did they know they should run and jump?

Semi-colons: These are often used between two independent clauses to signal a closer connection between them than a period would.

For example: She writes frequently as an aspiring author; every morning is spent with her laptop open and illuminated.

Colons: I think most people are familiar with colons and their usage, so I want to highlight something a little off the beaten path:

When used within a sentence, the first word following the colon is lowercased unless it is a proper noun. For example:

Nour purchased the following items at the supermarket in Nice: two apples, one bottle of wine, and a round of Camembert. 

However, when a colon introduces two or more sentences or when it introduces speech in dialogue or a quotation or question, the first word following it is capitalized. As in:

He started by swearing under his breath: “Son of a biscuit!” 


What forms of punctuation trip you up? What about grammar? Is it too odd to ask which form of punctuation is your favorite?


This post is a part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, graciously hosted by writer extraordinaire, and my critique partner, Raimey Gallant. Check out her blog and others offering great tips here. Happy reading!

14 thoughts on “Fine-tuning and Formatting #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #blog #WednesdayWisdom #writerscommunity #amwriting

  1. *light bulb flashes in my head* Ah! I had no idea about the italics rule. Thank you, Elle! Just found your FB page, too, so I’ll go and add this to my posting schedule on there. And congrats again on your agent. I was biting my nails for the announcement. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My biggest peeve is when pronouns don’t match up with their antecedant nouns. And what’s even more irritating are the blank looks I get when when I point this out, as if I’m speaking another language.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha! I’m kind of am a big fan of punctuation. Or at least, I geek out on usage guidelines. I have to stop myself from overdoing semicolons and dashes. I love dashes. These days, I do a lot of editing, and the biggest problems I see are with punctuation of dialogue. That and one space rather than two after a period. I don’t care much about the post-period spacing, but as the Chicago Manual of Style folks say, “the industry standard [is] one space after a period,” and I find myself correcting it all the time.


  4. I must admit; I’m a grammar geek. I believe that periods belong INSIDE quotes; however, question marks and exclamation marks belong inside quotes ONLY IF the quote is the question or exclamation. I don’t think I have a favorite punctuation mark. Thanks for a great post, Elle!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations on the agent!

    I use the hard copy version of CMOS, but have recently experimented with a hack: use the online version to find what you’re looking for (e.g. is it Christmas day or Christmas Day), then look it up in the hard copy.

    I often have to look up rules like periods and quote marks because I was raised writing British English, but many of my editing clients use American English (i.e. CMOS).

    Liked by 1 person

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