Tag Archives: punctuation

Happy National Grammar Day! (Yes, grammar still matters)

www.RuthlessEditor.comI’m a shameless grammar geek!

I love writing, rewriting, and rewriting a sentence or paragraph until it says exactly what I want it to say in the manner I want to say it — commas, em dashes, capital letters, italics and all.

It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone.

In celebration of March 4 National Grammar Day 2017, I offer this selection of thoughts by like-minded people who agree: Yes, grammar still matters.

 

“Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.”
— Jeffrey Gitomer, American author and business trainer

In Advertising and Marketing, Does Grammar Matter?

“The rise of texting, social media, and website comment sections mean there’s more language being written than ever before. Along with impulsive typing on small devices, our grammar has collectively gotten worse. Brevity is frequently appreciated, but it’s amazingly easy to hit “send” before really examining what we’re sending. And relying on spell-check is basically a condom — highly effective but not foolproof.

“I can tell you one thing for certain: The fine print of any brand contest, the terms and conditions of any cell phone contract you sign, and the privacy clauses of any app you download have been proofread many times over. Lawyers know how to do that pretty well.

“Perhaps we could take a lesson from them, and write as if we’d get sued for our grammatical mistakes. We’d certainly be more careful.”

Good Grammar: Does It Even Matter Anymore?

“Today’s use of digital platforms and social media has changed our appetite for news and certainly how we consume it. It is no longer acceptable to get today’s breaking stories on the late night news or in tomorrow morning’s newspaper. We require a constant digital feeding tube of new news and the latest, subsequent updates. We also want it as free as possible. At the same time, reduced advertising revenues add less to a media outlet’s bottom line, straining staff resources.

“Has our demand for immediate delivery and a churn of updates destroyed the writing and editing process? Has the prevalence of social media, full of all kinds of shortcuts and abbreviations – along with the preference for immediacy outweighing carefulness – made us turn a blind eye to proper grammar in professional writing? Can we trust a news article’s factual accuracy if it’s full of other obvious errors?

“A well written, properly spelled and grammatically correct article demonstrates a level of conscientiousness that can reflect the overall quality in the writing of the actual report. I am more likely to have faith in the reporting, fact-gathering and editing if I am not tripping over other errors. Yes, good grammar still very much matters.”

Do Commas Still Matter?

“It [grammar] matters because good grammar conveys a great deal about a person.

“Quality is in the details — and attention to commas, semicolons, dangling participles, gerunds and the proper placement of quotation marks says to the reader that this person is careful, considerate (because bad grammar is painful to the discerning eye), and (there’s that Oxford comma) competent.”

” ‘Grammar is credibility.’ says Amanda Sturgill, an associate professor of communications at Elon University, where I recently spoke. ‘If you’re not taking care of the small things, people assume you’re not taking care of the big things.’ ”

Why Grammar Still Matters in Today’s Digital Age

Credibility and Reputation

“We all seek to create an online persona that is respected by the community. To find success in that endeavor, we must build a reputation for accuracy and credibility. Unfortunately, poor grammar and spelling errors are not trademarks of a credible writer.

“These types of issues reflect ignorance and carelessness and suggest the writer didn’t truly care about the quality of the post. In short, mistakes reflect poorly on your brand. If you want the respect and adoration of your readers, provide them with high-quality and polished content free of grammatical errors.”

Does Grammar Matter?

And for the hard-core grammarians — or those of you who are tired of reading and need some visual and auditory stimulation — this video explains the difference between prescriptivists and descriptivists.

Again, may your day … your week … your month … your year be the most grammatical yet!

Warm regards,

Kathy
The Ruthless Editor

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Comma Confusion Clarified

Grammar encompasses the words we use as well as how we string them together and punctuate them. Confusion about comma use abounds.

My book, Grammar for People Who Hate Rules, addresses four scenarios of this often used — and often misused — punctuation mark: with Latin abbreviations (chapter 29), with academic degrees (chapter 30), with conjunctions (chapter 41), and with but (chapter 42).

This post focuses on commas when they are used to separate clauses, both independent and dependent.

An independent clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb and that expresses a complete thought. I often refer to an independent clause as a complete sentence.

We decided to go to a movie.
Susan is a gifted artist.
The employee handbook defines our corporate dress code.

When you connect two independent clauses, use a conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet) and a comma to separate them:

We decided to go to a movie. The bus stops a block from the theater.
We decided to go to a movie, and the bus stops a block from the theater.

Susan is a gifted artist. Her prices are too high for my budget.
Susan is a gifted artist, but her prices are too high for my budget.

The employee handbook defines our corporate dress code. Few people follow its dictates.
The employee handbook defines our corporate dress code, yet few people follow its dictates.

If you use a comma but no conjunction to separate the clauses, you get what is known as a run-on sentence:

We decided to go to a movie, the bus stops a block away from the theater.
Susan is a gifted artist, her prices are too high for my budget.
The employee handbook defines our corporate dress code, few people follow its dictates.

Note: A semicolon where there is a comma also would convert each example above to an acceptable construction.

A dependent clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb but does not express a complete thought.

When we decided to go to a movie …
Although Susan is an artist …
Because the handbook defines our corporate dress code …

When you combine a dependent clause with an independent clause, use a comma to connect them.

When we decided to go to a movie, we checked the bus schedule.
Although Susan is a gifted artist, her prices are too high for my budget.
Because the employee handbook defines our corporate dress code, you shouldn’t have problems deciding what to wear to work.

In American English, commas always go inside quotation marks:

“Let’s go to a movie,” she said.
The art critic described Susan’s paintings as “exquisite,” and I agree.
You might call our dress code “arcane,” but it is not open for debate.  

Final note: A comma indicates a pause. Read your full sentence aloud or in your head to help you decide if you need a comma to make your meaning clear.

Grammar puzzles pop up every day. Let me know what you read or hear that sounds wrong. We’ll learn together!

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As Language Evolves, Should You Follow The Trends?

dictionary_new_wordsLanguage continually evolves. At this time of year in particular, we consider words that have emerged to describe new fields, new products or new phenomena.

The Oxford English Dictionary listed 1,346 new words as of September 2016. Yikes!

nws.merriam-webster.com has introduced new words and slang from 2016. Submitted by the public, some are clever and useful, others are simply silly, and some are grammatically unsound.
Continue

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Email Salutations: Formal or Informal? Comma or Colon?

man_sending-emailEmail continues to be the predominant form of business communication, yet many business climates are becoming even more casual. What’s the best way to start a message? How formal or informal should your salutation be?

The best answer: It depends.

An email opening consists of a greeting and a name. It can set a formal, respectful tone or an informal, friendly tone.

Dear Mr. Lee:
Good morning, Brad.
Hi Brad!

A reader questioned whether to include a comma between an informal greeting and the person’s name: Continue

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Exclamation Points Convey Excitement, But Use Them With Care

exclamation_point_cautionWow!!! Have you noticed how often exclamation points are overused?!! It’s over the top!!!!

A reader weighed in on exclamation points in my recent blog on pet peeves:

“The exclamation point is overused to the point it has lost its intent in the communication I read.”

What is the intent of an exclamation point? Continue

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Got Grammar Pet Peeves? You’re Not Alone

annoyed_grammar_pet_peevesI invited those of you on my email list to share your grammar pet peeves, and the results are in!

First: What is grammar? Grammar encompasses the words we choose and how we punctuate them — how we string them together.

Words give our sentences meaning, and punctuation marks tell us when to pause or stop, when to raise our voice or show emotion, when we’re asking a question versus making a statement.

Here are your pet peeves: ways others speak and write that you find annoying. They’re alphabetized so you can skim and select what interests or resonates with you. I’ve commented here and there and added examples. Continue

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