Lay vs. Lie

LAY VS LIE—Should you worry about the proper use of “lay” or “lie” in your informal or creative writing? It depends on your character.

If one of your contemporary or casual characters is speaking or narrating in first person, don’t worry about being proper—be natural, but be consistent. If your narrator is in third person or one of your characters is historical or proper, that character (or narrator) probably should know the difference.

Difference between LAY and LIE
Lay needs an object, a noun that is being positioned. Look at the verb and ask, What is getting positioned? By whom?

Lie has no object, but often has some direction. Look at the verb and ask, In what manner? Or, How? Where? With what?

Lay: What is getting positioned?
Lie: In what manner is the subject resting?

The words get confused because the past tense of lie is lay.

These are the present tense, past tense, past participle, and present participle of each:

  • Lay, laid, laid, laying
  • Lie, lay, lain, lying

(A participle needs a “be” helping verb: be, is, am, are, has, have, was, were, had)

Here are a few phrases to help you remember:

  • People can lie all by themselves. (Q: Lie . . . how? In what manner? A: All by themselves.)
  • Lie down. (Q: Lie . . . where? In what manner? A: Down.)
  • She lay with a book in her hand. (Q: In what manner? A: With a book.)
  • Lay down your head. (Q: Lay . . . what? A: Your head.)
  • Lay it on me. Lay it again, Sam. (Q: Lay . . . what? A: It, whatever it is)
  • I got laid. (Q: Laid . . . by whom? A: The narrator hasn’t told us)

Nobody says “Lie it on me” or “I got lain.”

If you see a “lay” in your manuscript and aren’t sure if it’s correct or not, see whether it’s in the right tense (past tense or present tense) and ask the questions above.

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May 7th on 7th


For 7th on 7th, I take a blog subscriber’s seventh page and show you how I’d improve it for the upcoming #pg70pit contest. See the #70pit16 contest schedule here.

7th on 7th


– his musculature hugging them. He could be a model for the cover of GQ or Men’s Health. I felt my eyelashes fluttering involuntarily – was I batting my eyes flirtatiously, or just trying to focus? And then our eyes met…and locked. I could have sworn his eyes changed colors like a mood ring. It felt like we had gone through eternity together. I felt the strongest connection between this stranger (and yet not a stranger) and me. Then he lowered his eyes quickly and stated, “Walking and texting can kill you. I apologize. It’s just dangerous…you could’ve run into that door,” he smirked.

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Using Spreadsheets to Track Your Revision

I use spreadsheets to track my editing progress as I work my way through a manuscript. It shows me very clearly how much progress I’ve made and how much left I still have to do.

I tweaked the spreadsheet I created for myself to make it into a template anyone can use (in theory—let me know if you’re unable to save a copy for yourself!).

Here’s the spreadsheet in Google Sheets. Go to File > Save a Copy to save and modify your own.


(The Google Sheets version also has formulae if you don’t want to work chronologically!)

Spreadsheet tracking revision or editing progress

If that doesn’t work, I’ll walk you through the steps to make your own.

First open up a new spreadsheet and include the column headers (Project, Project Name) and row headers (Total Pages, # Complete, Section 1, 2, etc.) as seen above. If you have more than one project, create more rows for that.

Each project is three columns, with its first two rows each merged into one cell, which is why Project Name and the number of total pages are both centered. So merge B1+C1+D1 into one cell and repeat for B2+C2+D2.

Then in B2, enter the total number of pages for your project. In this example, I’ll use 300 since it’s a nice round number.

total number of pages to revise or edit

I filled B3 with a dark gray and turned the text white to remind me that when this template is all set up, that’s the only cell I need to update. I also set C3 and D3 with bold text and a very light gray fill, to set that progress apart as the total progress.

Decide how many sections you want to divide your project into. We’ll do three for this example, but you can add as many as you’d like.

Find the page number that Section 1 ends on. That’s the number you’ll put into B4. For example, if Section 2 starts on page 109, then Section 1 ends on 108, so enter 108 here.

Repeat for the remaining sections. Your last section (Section 3, or B6 here) should have the same number as your total pages (B2).

The total percentage completed (C3) is easy enough: it’s the number complete divided by the total number of pages. So in C3, enter


This is where the formulae get a little tricky. We want to make sure that the numbers in column C stay between 0% and 100%.

The percentage finished in section 1 (C4) is the number of pages complete divided by the total pages, maxing out at 100%. So in C4, enter


The percentage finished in section 2 (C5) is the number of pages complete (B3), minus the number of pages in Section 1 (B4) divided by the total pages (B2), with a minimum of 0% and maxing out at 100%. So in C5, enter


(Yeah, I definitely had to do some digging to figure that one out!)

For C6, you can copy and paste C5. Thanks to the trick Leigh suggested in the comments (adding the $), that first cell will stay B3 even when you copy and paste.

You can continue copying and pasting, but make sure that the formulae in the percentage column always start with the total number of pages. In my template, those cells are shaded dark gray.

Now for column D, the bar graphs. This is something else I had to look up and modify to fit my needs.

All we’re doing is taking the percentages in column C and turning them into graphs, with one vertical line (shift + the key under “backspace” or “delete”). We want 1 line for each 5%.

editing or revision progress graph with spreadsheet

Start with D3:


Then copy and paste down the column. The C3 will adapt for each cell, changing to C4, C5, etc.

One last thing: quickly enter the total number of pages into B3 so you can see how much 100% is, then rescale the D column to fit. Otherwise 100% won’t look like 100% 🙂

If you save a copy of the template I created, you can copy and paste the H–J columns to create more projects.

Now that you’ve got your spreadsheet all set up, update B3 with how many pages you’ve completed, and watch the bars fill up!


xo Lara

pg70pit writing contest logo

April 7th on 7th

This is 2016’s second 7th on 7th, where I take a blog subscriber’s seventh page and show you how I’d improve it for the upcoming #pg70pit contest. See the #70pit16 contest schedule here. See more about how to enter the contest here.

Check out the first 7th on 7th, in which I talk about wordiness, breath units, and cleverness.

pg70pit writing contest logo

7th on 7th


[Adult Literary Horror]

The backpack’s been emptied every time I shop, but I go through it again, and then the sturdy dressers. Finally I pull the suitcase from underneath the bed. It’s still heavy with stuff that I apparently hadn’t unpacked. Continue reading