That vs. Which: When to Add Commas

Comma use seems to confuse almost everyone at some point.

Equally confusing for many is when to use that and when to use which when introducing extra information in a sentence. They aren’t interchangeable: which requires a set of commas, and that does not.

This post tackles both questions. Answers are based on whether the additional information is essential or nonessential to the meaning of your sentence. Continue

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Should ‘Such As’ Be Preceded By a Comma?

comma w/such asIf you visit online grammar forums, you know that the comma is the most asked-about punctuation mark.

If you get confused about comma use with such as, you have company: me!

Let’s look at some examples and some explanations.

Nonessential such as

Consider that we often use such as when we present an example of something:

  • Please paint red flowers.
  • Please paint red flowers, such as roses, poppies and tulips.
  • We’ll spend this year’s vacation traveling to an island country.
  • We’ll spend this year’s vacation traveling to an island country, such as Australia or New Zealand.
  • To become a competent blogger, you need to understand how to use punctuation marks.
  • To become a competent blogger, you need to understand how to use punctuation marks, such as apostrophes and commas.

Continue

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Twitter Grammar: Do You Tweet Out, Tweet In, or Just Plain Tweet?

tweet_or_tweet_out?A recent online post about tweeting caught my attention:

“I understand that tweet already means to send a message, but I am hearing tweet out more frequently. Isn’t tweet out a redundancy in the category of revert back, continue onrise up and drop down?”

As a ruthless editor sensitive to redundancies, I’ve had this question, too.

We see plenty of tweet out in politics and sports: Continue

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‘Democrat’ Party vs ‘Democratic’ Party and Other Political Terms

Democrat vs RepublicanAre you as overwhelmed as I am by our early start to the 2020 U.S. presidential election?

As if it’s not enough to be bombarded by nonstop media coverage of emerging candidates, constant emails are flooding my inbox, pleading for contributions to support our way-too-long election cycle.

Here’s a small but positive step we can take: Serve as good examples of how to talk and to write about political terms. Approach politics from a ruthless editor’s grammatical perspective.

You might want to start with a refresher on politics is or politics are. Continue

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When Does a Sentence Need ‘That’?

students_at_computerWe judge writing in part by how lean it is; proficient writers, bloggers, students — and ruthless editors — strive to convey a thought using the fewest words.

In my own writing and the editing I do for others, I sometimes pause when I come to that in a sentence: Is it necessary for clarity or flow? What are guidelines for the use of that?

There aren’t many! Writers can exercise discretion about when and how to use that.

Let’s start with some examples showing how the absence of that might cause a reader to pause and reread: Continue

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Did Capt. Mark Kelly ‘Receive’ or ‘Earn’ a Degree?

Astronaut Mark KellyIt happened again … in fact, twice in one week.

First I read that Mark Kelly, retired astronaut and husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, launched his campaign to run for the U.S. Senate seat once occupied by the late John McCain. The Arizona Republic described Kelly’s background: Continue

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When to Use Apostrophes With Numbers

guy in freezing tempsFrigid winter temperatures have punished much of the United States this winter. For grammar enthusiasts, weather reports have drawn attention to when to use an apostrophe with numbers.

These guidelines will help you decide.

When you add an s to numbers to make them plural, do not add an apostrophe:

Continue

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Hawaiʻi: Only US State With 2 Official Languages

About the Hawaiian languageAs I was preparing to visit Hawaiʻi early this month, I did some research on the geography, history and language of the islands. My youngest son and his wife moved there recently, and I was eager to see them and their new surroundings.

With my interest in grammar, I was especially fascinated by the Hawiian language. A glimpse of the state’s history provides a background for understanding Hawaiian. Continue

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Baby sit, Pet sit, House sit: One Word, Two Words or Hyphenate?

pet-sitting cat & dogA Ruthless Editor blog follower noted that babysitting, which first appeared in the U.S. lexicon in 1937, is generally expressed as one word.

Yet she finds pet sitting and house sitting often expressed as two words, and in some cases they are hyphenated. Which are correct: pet sit / pet-sit / petsit or house sit / house-sit / housesit?

As I did the research, it occurred to me that some might consider this issue trivial in terms of grammar. On the other hand, these words could readily arise in news writing, fiction or blogging.

Here are some reliable sources and how they present all three: baby sit, pet sit and house sit: Continue

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Is Alright the Same As All Right?

A blog follower sent me an email questioning all right versus alright and when each should be used. The query arose at her weekly writers group gathering.

No one felt confident about the answer, so they reverted to what apparently is a common refrain when they hit a grammar roadblock: “Ask Kathy!”

Let’s begin by considering the meanings of all right. Continue

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