7 Cheat Sheets to Cut Editing Costs Giveaway

7 Cheat Sheets to Cut Editing Costs front coverIt’s launch day for 7 Cheat Sheets to Cut Editing Costs. I’m celebrating by having a giveaway. But first a word about commas.

If there is any one element of punctuation that gives writers more trouble, I believe it is the comma. That’s why I included a cheat sheet on punctuation in 7 Cheat Sheets.

One piece of advice I didn’t include in the book and probably should have is about the comma used between two or more consecutive adjectives before a noun. Stuff like the old gray mare she ain’t what she used to be.

Grammar books make the distinction between coordinate adjectives and cumulative adjectives on whether or not a comma is needed. It’s easier to remember the two tips to figure out what kind of adjectives you have rather than the rules.

If and can be inserted between the adjectives (must be two or more) and the sentence sounds natural, then use a comma (coordinating adjectives). However, if the sentence sounds awkward or unnatural, no comma is required (cumulative adjectives).

If the position of the adjectives is reversed and the sentence still sounds natural, then use a comma (coordinating adj.). If the sentence sounds awkward or unnatural, no comma needed (cumulative adj.)

Here are a few examples:

  • her long white hair (cumulative adj)
  • his red Harley-Davidson motorcycle  (cumulative adj.)
  • the high-strung, ferocious dog (coordinating adj.)
  • an unflappable, comedic emcee (coordinating adj.)

Say the phrase out loud to gain the best results on how it sounds.

For more on commas here’s a book excerpt

Comma or No Comma?

There are those of you who prefer to let editors or proofreaders worry about commas, but if you’re hiring a freelancer, learning some punctuation basics will save you money because the editor will spend less time fixing incorrect commas in your manuscript.

I’ll be the first to say the rules governing the English language are confusing. I’ve often wondered why there seems to be an exception to every rule—sometimes two or three.

I reference my Chicago Manual of Style regularly. I also spend time in my Grammar Desk Reference learning the whys and wherefores of grammar so I can correctly punctuate a sentence.

Here are some guidelines for commas I see most misused. Don’t worry, I’ll make it easy by avoiding all the impossible-to-remember grammatical terms.

Should I write…

Her ex-husband Bert lives in Florida.

Her ex-husband, Bert, lives in Florida.

The sentence without the commas tells us this woman has more than one ex-husband. Bert is essential to the sentence so we know which one is being discussed.

If the woman in your story only has one ex-hubby, then include the commas. The name Bert isn’t essential for us to know who the ex is, but offers us additional info about the one and only ex-husband.

Here are two more examples:

My twin sister, Dot, lives in Kansas.

The name Dot is not essential to the sentence—I can have only one twin.

My brother Mark lives in the land of fruits and nuts.

Mark is essential to the sentence because I have more than one brother.

Ask yourself whether that extra bit of info is essential for the reader to know exactly who you’re talking about. If it is, then no commas are needed.


The word then, when used at the beginning of a sentence, is rarely set off with a comma (did I mention there are always exceptions?).

Incorrect: Then, I sat down with a thud.

Correct: Then I sat down with a thud.

And, but, yet, or, nor, for

These words are most often used as conjunctions—sorry, can’t avoid the grammatical term on this one.

Sally cried all night, and Max laughed for having scared her.

When you use and, but, yet, or, nor, or for at the beginning of a sentence, do not use a comma.

Sally cried all night. And Max laughed for having scared her.

By the way, it’s perfectly alright to begin a sentence with these words.

When I’m in a hurry and don’t want to dig through my grammar reference or style manual, I visit Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty, over at QuickandDirtyTips.com

7 Cheats Sheets to Cut Editing Costs is available today at Amazon.


I am giving away 3 signed copies of 7 Cheat Sheets to Cut Editing Cost, (retail value $7). Winners to be drawn randomly via Rafflecopter. Contest runs from April 25 to April 30. You can come back everyday to tweet about the contest for additional entries. Winners will be drawn on Monday, May 1, and will be notified by email.

Terms and Conditions of Giveaway

  • Must be US resident to enter
  • No purchase necessary
  • Winners will be notified by email
  • Entrant’s personal information needed solely in order to contact winners.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What reviewers are saying about 7 Cheat Sheets:

Butterfield tackles the questions that haunt would-be and seasoned writers in every genre. Humorous, yet direct, she doesn’t clutter the pages … with needless information and gets right to the heart of what writers need to know and what publishers are looking for. ~ Catherine B.

A wonderful resource for writers to have on their shelf! ~ Jean W.

I’m in the process of writing a new book, and you can bet her book is going to be my constant companion. ~ Kim S.


Want to get published but don’t know where to start?

Maybe you have a finished manuscript or just an idea stuck in your head. Email me today at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com, and let's discuss how I can help you reach your dream of publication.


  1. julielcasey says:

    Great blog post! I find that people tend to overuse commas rather than underuse them. It’s like they just want to be sure they get them all in. Since I began editing other people’s writing, I believe my writing has become better as I am more aware of the reasons behind punctuation. I love the way you described the reasons for using commas in a logical manner without relying on the often-confusing rules and grammatical terms. I look forward to reading your book!

    • Julie, glad you enjoyed the post. Where commas are concerned, I was tempted to use the adage “when it doubt, throw it out,” but I thought that might be too drastic. 🙂

  2. It’s strange that most people willingly learn the rules for math and science, but many are clueless that using correct grammar and punctuation means knowing some rules. Your book is a must have for those who never learned the rules and for those of us who learned them long ago, and some have changed.

    • What a great point about the rules for math and science. I don’t use math every day, but we all use English every day. What a great perspective on learning the basics. I think it’s the fact that most English rules have exceptions, and that makes learning the rules less agreeable to most.

  3. This sounds very helpful.

    • Heidi, I certainly hope it will be. Helping others learn without making all the same mistakes I’ve made is at the heart of everything I do.

  4. Hi Debra,
    Great idea! I’ve shared it far and wide.
    Do you plan to make the checklist available in PDF format?

    And did you complete all the steps in the Audience Business Masterclass?
    (I haven’t.)

    • Rohi, thank for you sharing the post. Yes, I plan to make it available in PDF. I hope to have it available before the week is over. No I have never completed ABM, but still want to.

      • Same here. It’s a pity Danny discontinued ABM.

        My focus this year is to set up my freelance health writing business. One step at a time.

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