Questions & Quandaries Blog

Online editor Brian A. Klems has been writing for Writer’s Digest since 2003. He covers the most pressing grammatical, ethical, business and writing-related questions—and often does it with a bit of humor.


Is it E-mail or Email?

Everywhere I turn I see "email" (or is it "e-mail"?) punctuated differently. Can you tell me which is correct? —Kate T. WD online guru Brian A. Klems says that punctuating "e-mail" with or without a hyphen is ...

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Should You Post Your Novel Online for Free?

Q: Is it a good idea to serialize an unpublished novel in a weekly blog? I have a completed sci-fi novel and was thinking about releasing it online, but I wasn’t sure if I should do this. Would it be good publicity for my novel, or would it make it harder to get my...

Why “Start Your Novel Is With Action” is Bad Advice

The cliché "start your novel with action" has a flaw—and it's a major one: What good is the action if it isn't grounded in context that’s important to the story or draws you to the main character? It's much, much better to start your story with tension, like a character conflict or a character...

Are Serial Commas Necessary?

Q: When writing a sentence that contains a series of something (e.g., a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker), do I need a comma before the “and” connecting the final two elements? I’ve seen it with and without. Please help. —Anonymous A: The reason you’ve seen it both ways is quite simple: Both...

Plethora Doesn’t Mean “A Lot”

Q: Can you use “plethora” to mean “a lot,” as in, I own a plethora of baseball hats? A: The misuse of “plethora” is a pet peeve of mine. The word “plethora” doesn’t mean “a lot,” it means “too many or an overabundance.” In the example, Many voters feel that there are a plethora...

Are Agents Just Looking for an Excuse to Reject Your Work?

Q: Doesn’t it seem like agents are just looking for excuses to reject work? —Anonymous A: Actually, the complete opposite is true. Agents don’t want to reject your work, they want to accept it and sell it to any publisher willing to take a chance—after all, that’s how they pay their rent. Agents may...

Is "None" Singular or Plural?

Q: The word “none” should always be singular, right? —Anonymous A: This is a major misconception. “None” can be a singular pronoun if it’s referring to “not one” or “no part,” but it also can be plural when referring to “not any.” None of the apple was eaten. Apple is a singular item, so...

9th "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest: Women's/Upmarket Fiction

Welcome to the ninth (free!) “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest on the GLA blog. This will be a recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here’s the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes—meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. So...

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Contests: The Writer’s Fairy Godmother

With the exception of shoe size and the fact that I don’t do floors, Cinderella and I are basically twins separated at birth. My stepsisters, Query and Rejection, had been hounding me for months and I was starting to lose hope, when one magical day I received a phone call from an editor—suddenly my...

Isle vs. Aisle

Q: It drives me crazy when my friends mistake “isle” for “aisle.” Can you set the record straight so I prove to them once and for all there is a difference? —Elizabeth W. A: It’s true that these two words sound alike, but you’re right—they have completely different meanings. Here’s an easy breakdown that...

Win a Free Writing Course With Holly Lisle

Chuck says: Here’s the deal. Writer Katharina Gerlach is a writer from Germany who writes fantasy and historical novels for all ages, both in English and German. She previously wrote for me on the blog. She is giving away a free scholarship to a boot camp online worth some dough. Check it out! (Update:...

Should You Give Editors Your Social Security Number?

Q: I was recently given an assignment with a local magazine and the editor asked me for my Social Security number. I’m uncomfortable handing out that type of information and wonder if it’s normal for editors to ask for it. Or am I just being paranoid? —Anonymous A: It’s not unreasonable to be wary...

Are Online Images Fair Game to Use On Your Blog?

Q: Recently someone informed me that I violated copyright [by posting] one of his cartoons on my blog. I apologized and removed the image. Now I’m worried about other images I’ve used. My blog is simply to connect with other writers and I don’t make any money from it. What are the rules for...

More Than vs. Over: Which is Correct?

Q: I have an editor that’s always changing “over” to “more than” in my articles. For example, if I write “The baseball player received an endorsement deal for over $10 million,” she changes it to “more than $10 million.” I’ve always thought both were acceptable. Am I wrong? –Anonymous A: Throughout college and my...

Winner Winner! 8th ''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest Winners Chosen

Agent judge Lindsey Clemons of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents recently wrapped up the eighth “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest on the GLA blog and has picked her three winners. The winners (listed below) receive a free year of WritersMarket.com access as well as a critique on their first 10 pages from Lindsey. Congrats to our winners!...