Tag Archives: punctuation

When Does ‘and’ Need a Comma?

“We’re judged by the way we write and speak,” I often say.

Jeff Rubin, who founded National Punctuation Day in 2004, agrees:

“People judge us by the way we present ourselves — how we act, how we look, how we speak and how we write. When we are professional in all of these areas, we get our feet in the door for our choice of college, scholarship, job, promotion or business deal. If you’re unprofessional in any of these areas, it can cost you.”

As National Punctuation Day approaches — Monday, Sept. 24 — I’m sharing what I’ve found online about which punctuation mark is misused most often. Continue

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Are You, Like, Ready for This Blog?

Are there still Valley Girls in Southern California?

If so, and if they happen to read this blog, I apologize for any feelings I might hurt.

My message is about the still-pervasive, irritating, distracting use of like long beyond the time and far beyond the geography from which it originated. Continue

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How to Create and Punctuate Bullet Points

bullet_pointsBullet points help readers scan what you’ve written, quickly drawing attention to key issues and facts. They can tell readers what needs to be done, provide step-by-step instructions, highlight important elements, or list features.

Bullets can be round, square, triangular, diamond, or even customized or whimsical graphics. When listing steps to take, numbers can serve as bullet points to emphasize the correct sequence.

There are no fixed rules of grammar about how to use bullet points, but here are some guidelines. Continue

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Book Titles and More: Underline, Quotation Marks or Italics?

In the typewriter age, titles were set off with quotation marks or underlining:

“Charlotte’s Web”

To Kill a Mockingbird

Underlining seems ancient today. Typographer and design expert Robin Williams puts it this way:

“Never underline. Underlining is for typewriters.”

How, then, should you denote book, magazine, movie and song titles, CDs and works of art, poems and websites? What about book chapters, magazine articles, speeches and statues? Style guides differ, but here are general guidelines. Continue

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One Space or Two? Contemporary Keyboarders Rule!

A recent email from an aspiring author had two spaces at the end of each sentence. Among the suggestions I gave her about publishing was to change the double spaces to single spaces throughout her manuscript. (Microsoft Word makes this easy with the FIND and REPLACE function under the toolbar’s Edit choice.)

Seeing two spaces after a period or other closing punctuation can hint at a writer’s age. If you learned keyboarding on a computer, you most likely learned that one space at the end of a sentence is the rule. If you learned keystrokes on a typewriter, you might be dating yourself by continuing the double-space habit. Continue

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Headline Lessons: Contractions, Redundancies, Verb Forms

HeadlinesToday is a holiday in the U.S. — The Fourth of July (Independence Day) — so many of you probably are not in your office or at your computer.

But my email list is not limited to U.S. residents, so I went to my latest collection of headlines to develop a post for those of you who are toiling through this American holiday.

Headlines and the grammar lessons they teach

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Comma Quandary: Oxford Pro and Con

Oxford_comma_thumbs_up_downThe controversy rages on … or does it limp along?

What’s it going to be: The Oxford comma … or not?

Since college journalism classes, I have followed the guidelines of the Associated Press Stylebook. AP instructs there should be just one comma in a simple series of three:

The flag of the United States of America is red, white and blue.

However, those who prefer the Oxford (or serial) comma would write it as:

The flag of the United States of America is red, white, and blue.

Although I preach consistency, using AP style creates inconsistency when it notes that a second comma may be added in some circumstances to improve clarity.

Of late, I’ve found myself slowly leaning toward Oxford style, but I retain the right to use AP when I choose — a choice that depends on the client and the document or project.

You have a choice as well. I like this summary that appeared on DailyWritingTips.com, which I have permission to repost here. Continue

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Splish, Splash … How to Use the Slash

We all recognize the slash (/) as an integral part of a URL, the Uniform Resource Locater affiliated with website addresses: http://www.RuthlessEditor.com

The slash has other useful applications in personal and business writing, and it has other names: solidus, slant, diagonal, virgule, forward slash, front slash, oblique stroke, shill.

The slash generally does not require a space on either side of it. (Exception: when used to show separate lines of poetry, songs or plays.*)

Here’s how and where to use the slash appropriately. Continue

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Don’t Repeat These Grammar Errors From Recent Headlines

Headlines provide never-ending examples of incorrect grammar, whether in word choice, word order or punctuation.

Reminder: I define grammar as the words we choose, how we string them together, and how we use punctuation to give them meaning.

News stories and their headlines should be examples of excellent writing. They also should conform to Standard English, defined as the way educated people write and speak. Writing in haste is no excuse for careless errors. Continue

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Grammar: Why You Should Do This, Not That

Grammar Matters!What is grammar? It encompasses the words you choose, how you string them together, and how you punctuate them to give them meaning.

To recognize National Grammar Day, which this year falls on March 4, the following post examines 11 sentences that demonstrate why grammar matters. I point out the grammatical errors in each and offer a suggested rewrite.

Examples are the best teachers. Continue

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