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Gilded Dragonfly Books

Style Sheet

Style Sheet for Gilded Dragonfly Books


               The editors at Gilded Dragonfly Books are looking for books we love. Each of us will have preferences and fall in love with different books. We will work with authors whose voices we love and whose stories “speak” to us.  We might contract a book we consider a diamond in the rough because we are willing to help the author polish it until it shines as it was meant to. 


                    We assume you will do everything in your power to make your editor love your book. One thing that will help is for you to make your book as clean as possible. There are grammar and punctuation rules we expect our authors and our editors to follow.  Please keep in mind that the contracting editor will not be the only one who will read and edit your story. We work to make certain our books look professional and we expect our authors to send us copy as clean as they can make it.


 Nancy Knight and Mary Marvella



1. Don’t use commas like salt or omit necessary ones as part of your personal style.  Your editor might be put off by the idea of making a lot of corrections if she is considering acquiring your book.



  When you join two independent clauses with the conjunctions and, or, or but, you need a comma.

            I love cake, but it doesn’t love me.

            I’ll eat the cake, but I’ll wish I hadn’t.

     You could make each of these clauses into complete sentences by omitting the conjunction.  SOMETIMES a sentence reads better without the comma, but not usually.

    Your language arts teachers probably told you not to begin sentences with and, or, or but. In fiction we sometimes allow that, but we don’t follow but with a comma UNLESS there is an interrupting phrase or clause.

         But, even though I have a headache, I will finish the project on time

         But, to be honest, I thought the dress looked ugly. (You could have omitted the words between the commas. )

    Dates require a comma. March 15, 2012. March 2012 doesn’t need a comma.

      Lately I have seen a lot of commas tossed after any adverbs at the beginnings of sentences or after even short prepositional phrases at the beginnings. Most are not needed and fit no rule.

                  In April we planted tomatoes.

                  When you begin a sentence with a long prepositional phrase or a   dependent clause, you should use a comma.

                  Because I don’t like James, he will not be invited to my party.                               Behind the old doghouse, my dog hid all day. (The comma could have been omitted.) Are you telling me the dog hid all day behind the doghouse or that the dog is behind the doghouse and hid all day?


            Speaking of comma splices.

When you have two independent clauses, either add a comma and the conjunction and, or, or but or make two sentences. Don’t use a comma to join the clauses instead of and.  Try using a subordinating conjunction like because. You could use a semicolon, but semicolons in fiction can be distancing.


2. Punctuation and Quotation Marks


If you include a quote inside a sentence, watch the locations of your punctuation marks.

       Did you read the chapter “Learn To Curse in Spanish”? When in            doubt use Italics instead.

      “Bill told me he had always ‘desired to learn the Argentine tango’. His words, not mine,” Jake explained.       

            “I don’t like ‘air kisses’,” he said.

                 Note the use of single quotes inside regular quotes.

            “What were you thinking?” he asked.


3. Italics

For ages we had to underline books, plays, and internal dialogue.(word for word thoughts.) Now we can use Italics for newspapers, magazines, books plays, TV shows, etc.

When you show the exact words of a thought, use Italics.

            Where the hell am I going now?      

            Bill wondered where he was going. 

Do not use Italics for brand names (Ford, Coke), but do capitalize the              first letter of each word.

For quoted song lyrics or lines from literature use Italics. 

For Latin scientific terms use Italics. The same applies to foreign words that are not used frequently like bonjour and for sounds pssst. Taco might as well be English.

When you include a dream, use Italics for the entire dream sequence.

For letters or diary entries, use Italics.

For communicating without actually speaking (telepathic), use Italics.

When you need to emphasize a word or phrase, for example: What were

            you thinking? (meaning you weren’t thinking), use Italics.


4. About numbers

Spell them out up to ninety-nine.

Prices I would use the numbers

Times (ditto)


5. What about hyphens, dashes, and ellipses? (Hmmm) 


            Use an ellipse to show your speaker trails off or hesitates, and use it where            the words are missing.   

     Complete sentence followed by an omission: I quit! . . . take it or leave it.

       Question trailing off: Why did I . . . ? I don’t know why.

            Spaced periods are much preferred ( . . . ).



Be sure we can tell a hyphen from a dash.  

Join two words with –

  You will use the long dash more than you will use the short ones.


                        Not to be confused with the hyphen (-), dashes come in two sizes: 1-               em and the 1-en. 

                        The 1-em dash (Microsoft Alt+d) has two uses:

                  To show a sudden break: “I’ll be a―!” (But use ellipsis points for                                        trailing off.)
                  To set off a phrase with internal commas: He gathered up his                                              gear―rod, knife, lures, creel―and left the dock. “Don’t forget,” I                                 called―“we’re having lunch.”

a.m. and p.m. When quoting time, as in 10:45 a.m. use lower case with each letter followed by a period. Do not use a.m. or p.m. when quoting times of day in anything other than numerals. IE: noon, mid-afternoon, midnight, etc. Noon is actually 12:00 p.m. Midnight is 12:00 a.m. Do not use a.m. or p.m. after o’clock. For instance, six o’clock p.m. is incorrect.


Traditionalists, we prefer all right as two words and okay as a word.

There will be lessons on all things grammar on our blog and in our newsletter.

An excellent site for rules and explanations is

This site addresses so much more than we would in one style sheet.


These are the spellings we will be using for slang, etc: hmmm, shhh, harrumph, dammit (in dialogue), y’all (contraction for you all) gonna, wanna, mama (not mamma or momma), dontcha, whadya or watcha (for what are you—be consistent within the book), helluva, ain’t, psst, ‘til (for until), ‘cause (for because), huh, duh.


Yeah, yea, yay, yep. Yeah means affirmative as does yea and yep. Yay (which used to be the same as yea) is now acceptable in the Oxford English Dictionary.


Passive writing:  When you use a helping verb (a form of to be), try to find a construction that doesn’t use that word. Sometimes this makes the sentence so long and convoluted and confusing that it isn’t worth it. But for the most part, use a concrete verb that stands alone.


Show, don’t tell: Unless you’re relating details that can be summarized without losing value, please show, don’t tell. For instance, Jane was angry. Why not say, Jane flung the bowl of peas at Mark as he entered the kitchen. Or, Jane clenched her jaw to keep from yelling. Both of these options show us Jane’s frame of mind which is undoubtedly anger.


Blond, blonde

Her parents are blond Nordics. Though her mother is a blonde, her father likes brunettes. Blonde, a noun, can refer only to females.


A while, awhile; all right, already

He took a while to do it. (While is a noun.)

He stayed awhile. (Awhile is an adverb meaning for a while.)

Alright is nonstandard for all right and should be avoided. Already is all right.

A lot, not a lot


Okay, not OK


In, into, on and onto

He ran in the house, he ran into the house. Mamas tell us NOT to run in the


He leapt on the porch. (He’s already there?) He leapt onto the porch. 



Comprise traditionally means comprehend or contain, not constitute. In other words, a zoo comprises animals — it's not comprised of them (though it is composed of them). Avoid the phrase is comprised of.



Use specific, concrete words instead of vague, general ones wherever possible: instead of “apparent significant financial gains,” use “a lot of money” or “large profits.” Instead of “Job suffers a series of unfavorable experiences,” use “Job's family is killed and his possessions are destroyed.” (THESE EXAMPLES ARE PASSIVE VOICE BUT SHOW WHAT HAPPENED) WOULD YOU PREFER “SOMEONE KILLS JOB’S FAMILY AND SOMEONE DESTROYS JOB’S POSSESSIONS”?  THE SECOND CHOICES MAKE YOUR SENTENCES ABOUT SOMEONE OTHER THAN JOB

.Choose verbs that say what you want to say:  walked (strode, sauntered, sashayed), said (screamed, whispered, blurted),  ate quickly (devoured, gobbled, wolfed) Be precise.


I have entries throughout this guide on words that are often confused. For ease of reference, though, I've collected most of them here. (To make matters simple, I've usually alphabetized them under the first word in the pair.)


Avoid clichés (Beet red), (cool as a cucumber) etc. unless used in dialogue by a character who would use words that way. Some people talk in clichés, so if this is in character, by all means use them.