CSMS Magazine Staff writersBecause of so many letters we have received from prospective writers, last week we decided to begin a rubric on “tips for writers.” This week we start with common mistakes that authors usually make in creative writing.TipsThe ability to recognize a clause and to know when it is capable of acting as an independent unit is an essential feature of correct writing. As a discrete sentence, an independent clause can stand by itself and when it does so — separate from other clauses — it is usually referred to as a sentence, not a clauseSentence FragmentsA sentence fragment is unable to be a sentence and cannot stand by itself if it does not contain at least one independent clause with a proper subject and verb relationship. To illustrate why a group of words may appear to be a sentence yet are not, in fact, expressing a coherent thought, see the following examples:Independent ClausesExample 1:In Japan, during the last war and just before the armistice. This sentence fragment tells the reader a great deal in terms of time and place but there is no subject and no verb.Example 2:Working far into the night in an effort to salvage her little boat.In this example the sentence fragment is describing something but there is no relationship between the subject and the verb. The reader is yet to be told the real subject of the sentence, which is very probably who was working so hard and why.Additional TipsMisused WordsIts/it’s, there/their, your/you’re, to/too/two,are/our, here/hear, effect/affect . . .Quotation marks in the wrong placeEven though you may sometimes see commas and periods outside quotation marks in printed material, the best style guides maintain an ironclad rule:a. Periods and commas go inside quotation marks.b. Colons and semicolons go outside.c. Question marks and exclamation marks go inside or outside, depending on whether they belong to the quotation.Ten Best First Lines to Novels1 On that hot summer night in Miami in 1986, inside the small chapel where Alicia lay, everyone was inconsolable. The room was packed. Her brother, her children, her estranged husband, old friends, and many other relatives were present. They all came to pay their last respect. (Ardain Isma in “Alicia Maldonado: A Mother Lost” 2004 )2 It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. (Jane Austen in “Pride and Prejudice” 1813)3 A screaming comes across the sky. (Thomas Pynchon in “Gravity’s Rainbow” 1973)4 Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. (Gabriel García Márquez (trans. Gregory Rabassa) in “One Hundred Years of Solitude” 1967)5 Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. (Vladimir Nabokov in “Lolita” 1955)6 Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Leo Tolstoy (trans. Constance Garnett) Anna Karenina 18777 Riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. (James Joyce in “Finnegans Wake” 1939)8 It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (George Orwell 1984 1949)9 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. (Charles Dickens in “A Tale of Two Cities” 1859)10 I am an invisible man. (Ralph Ellison in “Invisible Man”)Note: Prospective authors can check our publishing department to see the services that we offer.