Due to the large amount of editing I sometimes find myself doing of submissions to this site, I thought I would make a set of submission guidelines so that those of you submitting stories to this site know what I want and what I will edit if I feel it necessary.
I spend a lot of time editing spelling, grammar, and punctuation. While spell check doesn’t catch everything—especially not words that are misused, like their, they’re, and there, or then and than, or college and collage, it will catch a lot of misspellings and typos. There are spell checkers available online, so if you don’t have a program with spell check on your computer, try one of these links.
In addition, sites like FanFiction.net offer software that you can download that can help with spelling and grammar. Since many of you have accounts there, you can easily take advantage of this material.
For grammar, some programs with spell checking features (like Microsoft Word), also offer grammar checking. This feature is of mixed value, as it will often tell you that your dialogue is grammatically incorrect (and depending on the character speaking, you may not want proper grammar), and sometimes picks up on grammar that is actually correct. However, it can help you pick up on grammar that might be confusing to the reader (or make me sit there going EDIT EDIT EDIT). Reading your story word by word to yourself can also help. So can enlisting the services of a beta reader (someone who critiques your story and tells you what works and what doesn’t). Since I read over and edit EVERYTHING anyway, I would be more than happy to serve as a beta reader for your story—I’ll read it, edit it, and send you both the original and the edited document and an explanation of why I made the changes I did.
For punctuation, spell check will often pick up on misuse of apostrophes and hyphens…but not always. Grammar check will often pick up on misuse of periods, question marks, commas, and quotation marks, but again…not always. Some things to remember:
“I love you, Rose,” he said. (correct)
“I love you Rose.” He said. (incorrect)
As misuse of periods and commas in dialogue is the most common punctuation error I encounter, I am offering this advice. A period ends a sentence. It does not end a quotation unless the end of the quotation is also the end of the sentence. He said…or She said…is not a sentence, and it should be remembered that, in most dialects, you only capitalize he or she at the beginning of the sentence or if the individual in question is God, Jesus, or someone of a similar nature. (I don’t care how much you worship Leonardo DiCaprio—he is not God). She can be capitalized under such circumstances, as some people believe God to be female—I am not getting into any sort theological debate regarding this. I have no specific opinion myself, and this is an American-run website—you can believe in anything you want.
This is actually my biggest peeve, but as it is not as common as errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, I put it at #2. I INSIST UPON HISTORICAL ACCURACY UNLESS THERE IS A GOOD REASON FOR THE STORY TO BE ANOTHER WAY. I have no problem with stories about the Titanic not sinking, though, or what if stories about someone who died on the Titanic (or who wasn’t present in the first place) surviving the wreck—but you need to say why the ship didn’t sink or why the character(s) lived or died.
I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO EDIT FOR HISTORICAL, MEDICAL, AND SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY UNLESS YOU GIVE ME A GOOD REASON WHY I SHOULDN’T. THERE ARE PLENTY OF RESOURCES OUT THERE TO RESEARCH EVERY IMAGINABLE SUBJECT, SO THERE IS NO REASON TO SUBMIT A STORY THAT IS NOT HISTORICALLY AND/OR SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE. IF YOU DON’T WANT ME EDITING YOUR STORY, EITHER DO THE RESEARCH OR DON’T SUBMIT IT HERE.
That said, here are some historical details covering some of the most cringe-worthy errors I have come across.
A. The worst errors I have found actually apply to men’s clothing, rather than women’s, but I will address both. For clothing for both genders, I have seen stories where clothing has zippers long before zippers were invented (the first zipper of the kind we now use was invented in 1913, but did not come into use in clothing until the 1920’s and 1930’s—and then mostly for men’s trousers and children’s clothing). The biggest error I have found for men’s clothing regards undergarments—men generally wore long underwear in the early 20th century, and definitely not boxers or briefs. Undershirts were considered necessary well into the 1930’s, and are still worn today, though not as commonly. Pants (also called trousers) were fastened with buttons and held up with suspenders or a belt (though in the film Titanic, all the men appear to be wearing suspenders, no matter what their social class). Men did wear jeans, but these were most common on farms and in the west, where denim’s ability to hold up under rugged circumstances made them highly practical. Men’s shirts generally had buttons (t-shirts did not come about until World War I, and were not generally worn as outer shirts until the 1940’s. For women’s attire, again, undergarments seem to be a major point of inaccuracy—women generally wore slips under their dresses, made of cotton, silk, or other natural fibers (nylon was not invented until 1935, and was not used in garments until 1940—and then only stockings and ponchos, and rayon did not come into use until after World War I). Women did not wear panties or thongs (thongs had not been invented yet, and even the “granny panties” of today were considered something only a loose woman would wear until the late 1920’s). Women wore bloomers for undergarments—a long-legged undergarment that could be as short as mid-thigh and as long as ankle-length. They also wore camisoles over their corsets. Corsets went out of style by the 1920’s, replaced by the brassiere, which was first mass-marketed in 1914, though earlier versions of the garment did exist. Pants were considered inappropriate for women prior to World War I (the first pantsuit designed for women came out in 1919, but pants were generally considered to be something worn for activities that were inappropriate for a skirt until the 1930’s, when they became accepted for many leisure activities, and did not generally become high-fashion items until the 1960’s). When it came to children’s clothing, babies and toddlers, regardless of gender, were clothed in dresses. According to my grandmother, this was to make it easier to access the child’s diapers (which were made of cloth and had to be washed). When the child got a little older, boys wore short pants (to just below the knee) and girls wore short skirts (of similar length, and growing longer as they grew older). Long pants and long skirts were for older adolescents and adults.
a. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. AIDS was not known to exist in humans in 1912. It was first identified in humans in 1959 in what is now the Congo in Africa. It was first identified in the United States in St. Louis in 1969. It did not become well-known in the United States until 1981, when it was first identified as a disease amongst gays, but it soon became evident that anybody could get it. Sexually transmitted diseases that did exist in 1912 include syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, and chlamydia, among others. Syphilis was often fatal in the pre-antibiotic era.
b. DNA. There were no DNA tests in the early 20th century. Although DNA was identified in the mid-19th century, it’s function in replicating genetic material was not suspected until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the DNA double-helix was not mapped until 1953. DNA profiling was not invented until 1984 and was not used until 1988—and then it was used in the criminal justice system, not to prove or disprove fatherhood.
c. Medicines. The first antibiotic was sulfa, which came into use in the 1930’s. Although penicillin was identified in 1928, it was not used until 1942, and was not mass-produced until 1944. Also, antibiotics cannot be used to treat viruses—viruses are not bacteria. Anti-depressants were not discovered until the 1950’s. Prior to that, amphetamines were used to raise the energy levels of depressed persons, but they did not actually treat the problem. The first anti-depressants were MAOI’s (monoamine oxidase inhibitors—try saying that three times fast), and were dangerous because they reacted badly with many other medicines and a number of foods, plus the line between an effective dose and a lethal dose was often slim. Later, the tricyclics were developed, which were safer but still dangerous in high doses. Drugs like Prozac were not introduced until 1988. They are known as SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, another mouthful to say), and are considerably safer than the earlier anti-depressants. Fatal overdose is possible, but a person has to work at it. (And yes, in case you wanted to know, I did do very well when I studied pharmacology).
d. Contraceptives. Birth control pills were not available until the 1960’s. Contraceptives were widely illegal in the United States in the early twentieth century, though they were used by people who knew where to get them or who had figured out their own contraceptive methods (and some doctors did prescribe them, especially when pregnancy and/or childbirth would endanger a woman’s life). Although the menstrual cycle was not widely understood until the early 20th century, some women prior to that did understand enough about their bodies to be able to use the rhythm method (I found evidence of this in a female ancestor’s journal from the 1870’s). However, family planning was difficult, abortion was illegal except for in very limited circumstances (though it did happen, often using very dangerous and unsanitary methods that sometimes killed the woman or destroyed her fertility), and the birthrate was high. People seldom planned for their next child—without contraceptives available, it was usually a matter of when, not if, another child would be born. Contraceptives that were available if a person could get them included the condom and the diaphragm. Do-it-yourself methods included coitus interruptus and the rhythm method.
e. Big Band—1930’s
f. Rock and Roll—mid- to late 1950’s
i. Rap/Hip-Hop—1970’s to 1980’s
j. Punk—1970’s to 1980’s
l. Protest Music—1910’s (Unions), 1930’s – 1940’s (Woody Guthrie, the Weavers), 1950’s – 1960’s (Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul, and Mary), 1970’s – Present (Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellencamp, many different artists since the Iraq war began); each built on the music written by earlier people (if you can’t tell, I love protest music)
B. Commercial radio broadcasting did not come about until after World War I, so people did not sit and listen to the radio in 1912. Radio and telegraphy was used to send messages, but mass broadcast of voices and music was a post-World War I phenomenon (the first news program came about in 1920, and the first regular entertainment broadcasts in 1922). While there was experimentation in the broadcast of voice and music as early as 1906, it was not widespread, and ownership of radios was not widespread until after the advent of commercial radio broadcasting. Radios were powered by vacuum tubes prior to the invention of the transistor radio in 1960, meaning that they were relatively large in size and burned out easily. They could be transported, but not as easily as the pocket-sized radio invented in 1960.
A. There were no airports in 1912, nor were there any jets (the first jet engine was patented in 1930, but did not come into use until 1939, and was not used commercially until 1949). Airplanes of that time could hold two or three people at most. Navigation was tricky, requiring a compass and the ability to see the ground. Very high altitudes were difficult to attain and maintain, due to planes being open and the human operator requiring air to breathe (the air gets pretty thin above 14,000 feet). The first solo trans-Atlantic flight was not completed until 1927. Group transportation by air did not begin until 1930, and traveling by air was an iffy prospect—the planes sometimes couldn’t get the altitude to fly over mountains when everyone was aboard, so they would have to land and let people off before continuing over the mountain. The planes were poorly sealed, thus causing vulnerable individuals to suffer from altitude sickness due to the lack of oxygen. These were also small planes (capacity under 20 people), with all the bouncing and turbulence common to them—and anyone whose ever gotten airsick can tell you that that is unpleasant, to say the least. Large-scale air transportation did not come about until 1952.
Traveling by ship was the ONLY way to cross large bodies of water, unless one was a sailboat enthusiast and could actually make the trip by sailboat without killing themselves. Shorter distances (rivers, lakes, local islands, even the English Channel) could be traveled by various kinds of boats, but trans-oceanic journeys were accomplished by ship. Icebergs were mainly a problem in three regions—the North Atlantic, the Arctic, and the region near Antarctica. No one has ever hit an iceberg in the Caribbean (unlike one story I’ve seen). You will also not find icebergs around Santa Monica in winter (or even snow, for that matter).
One last note: Mary Sues. These are characters, usually original but sometimes canon or real life, who are too wonderful and perfect to be believed. When these characters are female, they are known as Mary Sues, when they are male, they are Gary Stus, Marty Stus, etc. It all means the same thing. These characters are usually good at everything, loved by everyone except the bad guys, and are often the author’s stand-in. While these characters are most often original and female, I have also seen canon characters twisted in this way (this is called canon rape). On occasion, I have also seen real-life figures in stories who were far too good and virtuous to be real, especially when the historical record does not support this assertion. If you have created an original character who is an important character in your story (especially if he/she marries, falls in love with, or is fallen in love with by a canon character, I encourage you to take the Mary Sue Litmus Test (the link follows). This is especially important if you love this character so much that you get angry if someone doesn’t feel the same way about them as you do (yes, this includes canon characters, especially if you think your version is the defining version of the character, and also of real people). I will post Mary Sues/Gary Stus, but I’ll be laughing/gagging/wincing the whole time (as will many readers), and these stories will be the first to go if you piss me off or if I run short of space on my website.