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I've written these short articles to help writers with some tricky aspects of punctuation and grammar. If there's something else you'd like me to cover, let me know.

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Photo: Cristina Gottardi

'I'm talking to you, comma.'

Punctuation with dialogue can be a challenge. I'm going to look at one aspect here, and that's using a comma when the person being addressed is mentioned by name. Read more

Are your characters lying or laying in your script?

When I’m proofreading screenplays, I often find scene descriptions where writers have mixed up the verbs ‘to lie’ and ‘to lay’. And they are easy to mix up, especially when you’re writing in a variety of tenses. I’m going to focus on using these verbs in the present tense in scene descriptions. Read more

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Mum/mum and Dad/dad

It can be tricky to remember when to use a capital letter for terms expressing family relationships. But there is a convention you can follow. Read more

Photo: Daniel Cheung

It's versus Its

If you find it difficult to use it's and its correctly, you're not helped by the fact they're used incorrectly all over the place. Maybe one day its will disappear, but that time hasn't arrived yet. Read more

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Photo: Francis MacDonald

Recognise restrictive and non-restricture clauses

Even though I enjoy learning about language and grammar, my brain grinds to a halt after too much exposure to linguistic terminology. However, there are times when understanding the nuts and bolts of sentence structure helps you to remove ambiguity from your writing. Read more

'What the—? Could that be ...?'

Dash and ellipsis in dialogue

Dialogue in fiction doesn't normally replicate the meandering, poorly constructed sentences that most of us produce in real life. If it did, it would soon get pretty tiresome. Read more

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Who's versus Whose

Who's and whose (like their equally confusable cousins it's and its) are words that sound the same but do very different jobs in writing. Read more

Photo: Quinn Buffing

'Strictly between you and me ... (or you and I?)'

I often watch TV drama with the subtitles on, even though my hearing is fine, because it helps me focus on dialogue. When I was watching Neighbours recently, one of the characters –  Sheila –  said this: Read more

Photo: Neil Harvey

Character names ending in s or z

One of the joys of creative writing is naming your characters. I’ve recently proofread a script and a novel where the majority of characters had surnames ending in an s. If you’re attracted to names ending in s or z, it’s worth reminding yourself how to write those names when you make them possessive or plural. Read more

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