Monday: Tidbit

Grammar Tidbit

There is no absolute rule in English, and this is the only absolute rule. Did I just blow your mind? Well stay tuned, ‘cos I’m about to do it again: you can use apostrophes to pluralize some things!

I can tell by your expression that you think I am pulling your leg. Nope. That’s not me.

Use apostrophe-s’s to pluralize lowercase letters. For example: Use apostrophe-s’s to pluralize lowercase letters.

Use apostrophe-s’s to pluralize abbreviations. For example: Make sure all the etc.’s have a period attached.

I said in this post to never pluralize nouns with an apostrophe-s. Please note that this is incomplete. I’m sorry for misinforming anyone.

Do you have a grammar tidbit you’d like others to know? Do you have a question about grammar you’d like answered simply and concisely? Send an email to!

Friday: Writing Rules

Writing Rules

1. Dialogue should be brief.

2. It should add to the reader’s present knowledge.

3. It should eliminate the routine exchanges of ordinary conversation.

4. It should convey a sense of spontaneity but eliminate the repetitiveness of real talk.

5. It should keep the story moving forward.

6. It should be revelatory of the speaker’s character, both directly and indirectly.

7. It should show the relationships among people.

Elizabeth Bowen

What are your writing rules? Do they fit under Cicero Grade‘s Rule One?

Wednesday: The Grade

The GradeWelcome to the newest installment of Cicero Grade’s editing contest: The Grade! Even the best writers produce some cringe-worthy lines. The measure of a writer lies in what he or she does about it. This contest challenges our following writers to fix these offending lines. To participate, simply post a “before” line and an “after” line from your writing. If you’d rather not show your personal growth, just work on the lines provided below. The follower with the best rewrite will win an edit of their work for up to 1000 words!

This week’s line comes to us courtesy of my new favorite thing, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest:

It wasn’t sour grapes – Clementine knew that her parents just plum disapproved of her Kiwi lover; try as she might to explain that the love between the pair was all peachy, she might as well have been comparing apples to oranges, so although she was bananas for him, and the ring was certainly no lemon, she was forced to reply to his “Honey, do you?” with a mournful “You know I just can’t elope.”

-Kevin Hogg

I don’t know if I like this one because it’s full of clichés, or if I’m just stoked ‘cos I understand all the puns. Post your entries in the comments below!

Monday: Find the Typo

Find the Typo

If you were born in March, you might spot this one pretty easily.

The correct spelling is Buenos Aires, as in “air.” The spelling on the window refers to astrological sign Aries. So Buenos Aries would be a good name for some sort of astrologers’ retreat. Is that a thing?

Is each letter its own sticker, or each word? Is this misspelled at every franchise? Go to your local Friday’s and post your findings below!

Have a Typo photo you’d like to share? Please send them to!

Friday: Showcase


DuoTrope‘s great, but what happens when the free trial runs out? It’s okay. No one will call you the hipster word, here. Well anyway, if you can’t afford a subscription, you might want to consider The Grinder. They update their markets daily and help writers keep track of where their submissions have gone. If you’re writing to publish, this is a great link to have!

What links, as a writer, do you use or recommend? Do you prefer DuoTrope or The Grinder? Let us know in the comments below!

Wednesday: A Call to Edit

Call To Edit

Often, mid-edit, I’ll pick up on a pattern of overuse or misuse. I’ll have to go back through the story and edit all of the instances of overuse or misuse that I’m newly aware of. Today, we’re talking about misuse with Tyler Vendetti‘s list of commonly misused words!

One word I’m particularly embarrassed about misusing is when I used “pour” for “pore,” as in, “He poured over ancient tomes.” As soon as I learned I was wrong, I corrected it: He pored over ancient tomes.

I’m sure we’ve all misused one of these. I’m a little confused about 3, but I guess that happens. Oh, and my aunt is particularly fond of using 7. Ahem. Click on the picture to see this words list on Hello Giggles!

Friday: Cicero Grade Testimonial


I’m always up for a new challenge, so if you have writing that needs proofread, critiqued, or edited, please click over to my business website, Cicero Grade Editing. Enjoy this testimonial from K. Wall:

Lisa was a valuable member of the team at Shadows Express [Magazine], and the two issues she worked on with me were much better for her input. 

She helped authors realize the full potential of their stories, often creating the proverbial silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

While Shadows Express is no longer publishing, I expect that Lisa will continue to help authors succeed in the future. I anticipate seeing great things from her and her clients.

Would you like to hire me [Lisa] to edit your writing? Check out my Submission page!

Wednesday: Before Editing and After

Before Editing and After

Before Editing and After highlights writing that may not be bad originally, but that has improved after Cicero Grade’s suggestions. Sometimes we stumble upon writing somewhere on the Internet and offer a few suggestions to the author privately. The piece is available to the public (at least at the time of publication here), and we never post more than a few lines. If the authors change the availability of their piece, or they ask we take down their writing here, we will do so. It is meant as a learning tool.

We thank Anonymous for sharing a bit of her prologue.


Sniffing, I could smell the sweet perfume she wore. Glancing around the corner, she appeared into my line of vision. A pretty girl, with sun-blonde hair pulled tightly back. She stared over her shoulder, as if something was lurking in the shadows. A hint of fear spread in her eyes.
And fear was what I enjoyed the most.


I could smell her sweet perfume. She didn’t see me when she glanced around the corner, and she walked on, peeking over her shoulder. She was pretty–young and blonde–but that wasn’t why I chose her; it was in her eyes, spreading to her beating heart, to her clutching hands, to her quick steps.

It was fear.

How would you have rewritten it? Put your answers in the comments below!

Would you like a free paragraph-edit? To be featured in Before Editing and After, send your passage of up to 150 words (along with your name and a link to your webspace) to Thanks!

Monday: Tidbit

Grammar Tidbit

Does your writing tend to be more formal than conversational? Even if it’s on the casual end of the style spectrum, don’t you aim to keep everything grammatically sound enough to clearly convey your messages?

Sometimes we write the way we speak, whether that’s intentional or just the product of writing on a roll. When this happens, we can say something we don’t quite realize is confusing. Take the word “only,” for example:

I only have 100 updates because I just restored this computer.

That’s a bunch of updates! This line is almost nonsensical; it helps that there is no comma, which points us in the right direction, but in effect, the speaker is coming across as nonchalant about the number of updates. What do you mean only a hundred updates? That isn’t the message he means to convey at all!  What he means is this:

I have 100 updates only because I just restored this computer.

Now we’re understanding! See how the placement of “only” made us misconstrue the line? While this can be fine in dialogue (it is, after all, the way people speak), narrative has to be cleaner. Make sure you position “only” right where it needs to be to modify the correct idea. Otherwise, readers could make many bizarre interpretations of a very simple thought!

Have a grammar peeve you’d like others to finally learn? Send your tidbit, name, and web-space to!