Tag Archives: punctuation

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 gradually 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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Grammar Rules Worth Breaking? You Decide

couple_disagree_grammarA former colleague sent me a link to Grammar Rules You Should Break in Business by Steve Yastrow. I agree with some of Yastrow’s suggestions and disagree with others.

What do you think?

Where We Agree, Disagree

Yastrow begins, “A language works according to a shared set of understood rules, which change over time as language evolves.” Continue

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Common Comma Error: Conjunction ‘and’ Doesn’t Always Need One

Play and teach guitar: When do you need a comma?When you have two complete sentences — also called independent clauses — and you connect them with a conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, yet, so, for example), you need to insert a comma before the conjunction.

But if the second clause that makes up the sentence is a dependent clause (lacks a subject), no comma is necessary.

These are complete sentences / independent clauses that can stand alone. Each has a subject and verb: Continue

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Apostrophe: Descriptive or Possessive?

If you are a golfer or a fan, you probably know that the Presidents Cup was played in New Jersey from Sept. 26–Oct. 1. The United States team handily won the coveted cup.

You might wonder why there is no apostrophe in the event’s title. Why isn’t it President’s Cup or Presidents’ Cup?

Here’s the reason:

Some words that might appear to be possessive are simply descriptive. Neither the Presidents Cup as an event nor the cup as an award denotes that any president possesses or owns it. Continue

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3 Quiz Questions for National Punctuation Day

man with coffee ponders punctuationSunday, Sept. 24, 2017, is National Punctuation Day.

How will you celebrate?

I’ve thought about spending the day as founder Jeff Rubin suggested:

Sleep late. Go out for coffee and a bagel. Read a newspaper and use a red pen to circle all the punctuation errors. Visit a grocery store and make a list of all the “grocer’s apostrophes” you see (apple’s anyone?).

But I’d rather devote my time and this space to something helpful and constructive for you, my valued readers. Continue

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Periods and Commas Are Ultimate Insiders

www.RuthlessEditor.comWhen you start writing, whether an email, a blog, a report or the next chapter of your book, you don’t want to interrupt your flow by stopping to ponder punctuation. It makes sense to get out your words and thoughts first, postponing punctuation decisions until later.

As you begin to fine-tune your copy, you might get stuck trying to remember what goes inside and what goes outside quotation marks. These tips can help.

In American English, commas and periods always go inside quotation marks, even when quotation marks enclose a single word. Continue

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Punctuating With the Colon: Do’s and Don’ts

www.RuthlessEditor.comThe two little dots that make up the colon seem pretty simple, but their grammatical use isn’t exactly straightforward.

The colon comes in handy when you want to provide an example or explanation, to cite a quotation, or to introduce a list. A colon implies that what follows it is related to what precedes it.

One of the most-asked questions I get about grammar rules that relate to the colon is whether to capitalize the first word that follows it. Style guides differ, but The Associated Press Stylebook, my preferred source, suggests: Continue

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