Writing Tip #26

Grammar matters. Yesterday, I spent a lovely evening at an old friend’s house, and the discussion turned to, of all things, commas and apostrophes (right up my alley). And it was all because of the Sandra Bullock movie Two Weeks Notice — a title which continues to irk me, even nine years after the movie was released.

As most writers know, there should be an apostrophe after the “s” in “weeks” for Two Weeks’ Notice. Although I bumbled my reasoning behind why last night, causing four out of six people at a dining room table to run for their smartphones/computers and google, I knew I was right. Back in 2004, when author Lynne Truss mentioned this very same fact in her book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, I nearly became giddy with validation — just another thing I told my husband I was right about, since his reasoning for two years had been that the movie producers must have known what they were doing if they spelled it that way.

Movies starring Sandra Bullock aside, the final draft of your manuscript, title included, should be clean. It doesn’t matter if your first draft is filled with punctuation errors, bad spelling and grammatical mistakes — first drafts are all about getting it all on paper any which way you can — but that final draft needs to be perfect. I read posts from agents and publishers who are critical of NaNoWriMo, complaining that every December (the month after the writing event) they’re inundated with first-draft manuscripts masquerading as final drafts. As exciting as it is to finish writing a novel (and it is!), it’s important that you go back and edit/fix all that stuff that you let go before you send it out for others’ eyes (note apostrophe).

One of the reasons that wildly successful self-publishing author Amanda Hocking gives for signing a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press has to do with the editing of her work; she says she finds it frustrating that she receives “continued complaints of errors in my books.”

Personally speaking, I know these kinds of errors can pull me out of a story as fast as you can say “comma splice.”

“Really?” my friend asked last night. “You haven’t always been like this.”

“Oh, yes she has!” answered my husband emphatically.

Yep. He’s right. At least this time. And it’s spelled R-I-G-H-T.

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4 thoughts on “Writing Tip #26

  1. Dina, I have to respectfully ask why there’d be an apostrophe after weeks. Why is it a possessive? I never thought about it until now, but after mulling it over a bit, I’m not sure if I’d put an apostrophe there. I wouldn’t put one after “two hours rest” because it’s short for “two hours of rest”. So isn’t two weeks notice just short for two weeks of notice? Hmmmm, not sure, but just asking…

    • Hey, girl! Actually, that’s where I got all tripped up last night in trying to explain to everyone why there should be an apostrophe — the possessiveness wasn’t clear to everyone, and I started doubting myself (I mean, I was battling three absolutely-sure-of-themselves men). But the correct way to give possession to time and money is with an apostrophe. I even checked with my go-to source, Grammar Girl: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/two-weeks-notice.aspx. :)

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