Tag Archives: punctuation

When Does a Compound Modifier Need a Hyphen?

woman ponders compound modifiersModifiers are words that provide additional information about or limit the meaning of a word or phrase.

Adjectives modify nouns (person, place, thing). They often are called “describing words,” because they provide more details about a noun.

  • She has a pleasant home.
  • There are three boys sitting on the fence.
  • He’s riding the white horse.

Adverbs modify verbs (action), adjectives, and even other adverbs. They answer questions such as when, where, how, and to what extent.

  • when: She travels to Chicago weekly.
  • where: He dropped the shovel there.
  • how: She pedals her bike furiously.
  • to what extent: He mostly agrees with me.

When a single modifier won’t do the job, a hyphen links the elements to form a compound modifier:

  • She holds a full-time job.
  • He is a good-looking man.

The Associated Press Stylebook, my primary grammar reference, has issued new recommendations for how to hyphenate compound modifiers. Continue

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What Is a Style Guide, and Why Do You Need One?

Whether for a person, a product, a service or an organization, creating a distinct, consistent brand is key to success.

Your brand sets you apart. You achieve a unique brand through images (your logo and product photos), through website content (descriptions of products and services), and through whatever additional forms of marketing and advertising you use.

Behind the scenes, your brand is supported by how you communicate with and serve your customers. Continue

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How to Use Apostrophes to Show Possession

apostrophe with possessivesConfused about where to place the apostrophe when you’re creating possessives?

So am I — especially when a noun (person, place or thing) or proper noun (specific person, place or thing) ends in the letter s or ss.

Consider these examples and how you would pronounce them: Continue

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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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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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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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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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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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