Posts Tagged ‘Punctuation’

Quotation marks? Commas and periods go INSIDE.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Now that fall is here, my local ladies' club newsletter is arriving in the mailbox again, and the first issue contains a number of Grammar Glitches.  Here is the first one (with names changed), in a calendar listing for the coming year:

 November   "A Musical Visit with John Doe", Artistic Director for X Theater

Whoops! The comma after John Doe's name should be INSIDE the quotation marks.  Commas and periods ALWAYS go inside the quotation marks in English in the United States.  The calendar listing should read this way:

 November "A Musical Visit with John Doe," Artistic Director for X Theater

Here is another example from the same newsletter, in a sentence about a tablescapes competition:

Other designers  included:  Jane Smith, "Welcome Back"; Betty Baker, "Autumn Leaves" and Cathy Carly, "Autumn Events" and "Lacy Leaves".

Whoops again!  Several times!  First, when INCLUDED is used in the body of a sentence, it should not be followed by a colon. 

Second, it is correct to place the semicolon after the word BACK outside the quotation marks, but for consistency, there should also be one after LEAVES. Semicolons and colons always go outside the quotation marks. The semicolon is used here (correctly) because there are commas within the items in the series. 

Third, the period at the end of the sentence should go inside the quotation marks.  This sentence should read as follows:

Other designers included Jane Smith, "Welcome Back"; Betty Baker, "Autumn Leaves"; and Cathy Carly, "Autumn Events" and "Lacy Leaves."

 PLEASE NOTE: If you would like me to do a blog post that offers a chart of where to place other punctuation marks in relationship to quotation marks, please let me know in the comment box.

Wh Other designers included: Jane Smith, "Welcome Back"; Betty Baker, "Autumn Leaves" and Cathy Carly, "Autumn Events" and "Lacy Leaves".

 Other designers included: Jane Smith, "Welcome Back"; Betty Baker, "Autumn Leaves" and Cathy Carly, "Autumn Events" and "Lacy Leaves".

 

 

 

 


Compound subject segment should not be set off by commas

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Here is a headline I came across this week in a legal advertisement:

If you, or a loved one, has developed BLADDER CANCER after taking the Type 2 Diabetes medication Actos….

If the subject of this sentence is YOU, then the verb HAS should be HAVE.  The subject is actually compound–YOU OR A LOVED ONE, and in that usage, HAS would be correct because it goes with LOVED ONE, which is closest to the verb.  The phrase OR A LOVED ONE should not be set off by commas, suggesting that it is not part of the subject.  The statement should read this way:

If you or a loved one has developed BLADDER CANCER after taking the Type 2 Diabetes medication Actos….

 

Speaking of comma misuse, here is a statement from a hearing aid advertisement that forgets about those earring commas that should appear on both ends of a phrase that is dropped into the middle of a sentence:

Now the audio from your TV, when connected to the Range transmitter will stream sound directly into your hearing aids just like headphones.

 

The dropped in phrase is WHEN CONNECTED TO THE RANGE TRANSMITTER.  There is a comma before WHEN (indicating where the dropped in phrase begins), but there should also be one after TRANSMITTER, to indicate where the dropped in phrase ends.  The sentence should read this way:

Now the audio from your TV, when connected to the Range transmitter, will stream sound directly into your hearing aids just like headphones.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

 


Another reminder about “earring” commas

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

I have written before about the need to use commas in a pair (like most earrings) when setting off a phrase or clause within another clause.  Here is a good example of this from the article, "Stretching Your Potential," in this month's 280 Living.

This knowledge, along with his superior skills in physical and athletic assessment makes him an invaluable asset to any training, correction or treatment program.

Whoops! The phrase highlighted in red above should be set off within the basic sentence.  The writer remembered the first comma (between KNOWLEDGE and ALONG) but forgot to add another comma between ASSESSMENT and MAKES.  I call these pairs of commas "earring commas" because both are needed for a well accessorized sentence.   

This sentence should be punctuated this way:

This knowledge, along with his superior skills in physical and athletic assessment, makes him an invaluable asset to any training, correction or treatment program.


How to use INCLUDE properly.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

The International Vintage Guitar Collectors Association advertisement I mentioned yesterday also contained this sentence:

The rarest guitars these collectors are looking for include: Martin, Gibson, Gretsch and Rickenbacker.

When INCLUDE is used in a sentence (as opposed to setting up a bullet list), it is not necessary to add a colon.  I also find the phrasing ARE LOOKING FOR INCLUDE a little awkward.  I would suggest rewording the sentence this way, with the colon omitted:

These collectors are seeking the rarest guitars, including Martin, Gibson, Gretsch and Rickenbacker.

Here is another point to remember about using INCLUDE–a tip from one of my favorite word references, The American Heritage Dictionary. "Include is used most appropriately before an incomplete list of components: The ingredients of the cake include butter and egg yolk. If all the components are named, it is generally clearer to write: The ingredients are…."  I like the American Heritage dictionaries because they include so many of these useful comments about usage along with the definitions.

INCLUDE was the appropriate choice for the guitar sentence because the writer wanted to convey the idea that these four brands are AMONG (but not the only) guitars collectors are seeking.


Question Marks and Quotation Marks? What goes where?

Friday, February 11th, 2011

The Final Jeopardy "answer" on last evening's broadcast of JEOPARDY! was a good one.  It had to do with the institution of Miranda rights, which were introduced in 1966.  The "question" was supposed to give the first seven words of the Miranda warning police recite to a suspect.  Here is what one of the contestants wrote:

What is "You have the right to remain silent?"

This was the correct "question," and all three contestants got it.  Pretty much anyone who has watched police shows over the past 40 years would know this, and the current champion bet enough money to win with it.  However, as written on his electronic answer pad, the punctuation was incorrect.

The rule is that a question mark only goes inside the quotation marks when what is quoted is a question.  In this case, what is inside the quotation marks is a statement.  Therefore, the question mark goes outside the quotation marks.  It should be written this way:

What is "You have the right to remain silent"?

 

 NOTE: This rule holds true for exclamation points as well as question marks.  As I have noted in other posts, the period and the comma ALWAYS go inside the quotation marks.

COMMENT: I don't make these rules, which can be confusing.  I just try to remind readers so they can use them correctly.

 


Apostrophes with letters–When? When not?

Monday, February 7th, 2011

A regular reader asked recently if it was necessary to use an apostrophe to form the plural of an academic grade letter like A or B.  For example, what if you wanted to brag to your neighbor that your daughter received an A in every subject on her recent report card?  I checked the Sixteenth Edition of The Chicago Manual of Style for a definitive answer.

In paragraph 7.60 on page 367, the Manual states that academic grade letters are usually capitalized and not italicized.  This paragraph also says, "No apostrophe is required in the plural."  Here are some good examples:

My daughter had all As on her last report card.

There are only two Cs on Paul's entire high school transcript.

If I have one B and four As for this term, what is my grade point average ? 

PLEASE NOTE: According to the Manual (paragraph 7.14 on page 353), this rule does NOT apply to lower case letters used like words in text.  An apostrophe is used to form the plural of these so references like a's will not be confused with the word as or i's with the word is.  Here are some examples:

Algebra is full of x's and y's.

Writers should mind their grammar p's and q's.

Dotting the i's and crossing the t's means paying attention to detail.


Period and Parentheses–Which Goes Where?

Monday, January 31st, 2011

My favorite investment newsletter writer still needs a proofreader.  In his January 7 message, I spotted two punctuation errors and a spelling error–a spelling error that might be considered politically incorrect (spelling the President's name wrong).  Here is the first Glitch, in a sentence about Mitt Romney's chances to become the Republican nominee for President:

Mitt Romney would likely be the strongest candidate, but he carries the "baggage" of being a Mormon.  (I am not trying to degrade his religious beliefs, I am just pointing out that some people are planning to use Mitt Romney's religion against him in the coming campaign).

Whoops!  The entire last sentence here is within the parentheses.  Therefore, the period should be INSIDE the parentheses.

 

A HYPHEN IS HALF AS LONG AS A DASH, AND NO WHITE SPACE ALLOWED WITH EITHER ONE

Many of us, including this newsletter writer, forget that there is a difference in size and purpose between a hyphen and a dash.  A hyphen should only be used to link parts of some compound words, like long-term or t-shirt.  Please note that a hyphen is HALF AS LONG AS A DASH.  The dash is used to set apart one phrase or clause in a sentence that should stand out.  In the following sentence, the newsletter writer correctly chooses the dash to set off the final part of his sentence, but unfortunately, he puts the shorter hyphen where the dash should be:

Many of the bears like to treat the budget deficit and other long-term factors as risks that are about to come crashing down on America – taking the economy and the stock market into an abyss from which they will never escape.

The newsletter writer also adds "illegal" white space on each side of the tiny hyphen.  Here is the rule:  A DASH is twice as long as a hyphen, and there should be NO white space on either side of it.  The sentence should look this way:

Many of the bears like to treat the budget deficit and other long-term factors as risks that are about to come crashing down on America–taking the economy and the stock market into an abyss from which they will never escape.

 

PRESIDENT'S NAME SHOULD BE SPELLED CORRECTLY

The final goof in this otherwise well written and informative newsletter is a rather glaring spelling error.  In two places in the first two paragraphs, the first name of the President of the United States is spelled BARRACK (as in "barracks," military accommodations) when it should be BARACK

 

 

WhWh 


Allergy’s?? Reader spots several Glitches in medical ad.

Monday, January 24th, 2011

One of my regular readers sent me an email this morning about a large advertisement for an ENT practice that appeared in this morning's The Birmingham News.  Her accompanying comment–"Hope they practice medicine better than they proof ad copy!"–emphasizes the point I've been making in my past 298 posts.

Potential clients and customers do judge competency, at least in part, on how well professionals communicate.  Here is one paragraph from this morning's ad:

 

 

WHOOPS #1: The way to create the plural of ALLERGY is to change the Y to an I and add ES.  The word should be ALLERGIES.

WHOOPS #2: The "INCLUDING" phrase should not be set off as a separate sentence.  There is no need for a colon after INCLUDING unless the writer is setting up a bullet list.  (See below.)

WHOOPS #3: The smattering of commas in the list that follows INCLUDING is illogical and does not create the divisions it should.

WHOOPS #4: How do you SPECIALIZE in "people of all ages from infants to geriatrics?  It would be better to say something like, "Our practice INCLUDES people of all ages…."

WHOOPS #5: It would be much more effective to separate the last part of the last sentence so that it stands out as an important statement.

Here is my edit of this paragraph:

At ENT Associates of Alabama, P.C., we care for ALL of your ear, nose and throat needs, including:

  • surgery of ear, nose and throat
  • head and neck cancer surgery
  • facial plastic and reconstructive surgery
  • upper respiratory infections
  • flu
  • allergies
  • voice restoration
  • Botox, fillers, laser resurfacing
  • hearing aids and much more

We treat people of all ages, from infants to geriatrics.  All of our doctors are board certified and dedicated to providing exemplary care at all locations.

 

I hope my readers agree that this wording and layout would make the ad much more effective.

POSTSCRIPT: I am happy to report that the ALLERGIES correction was made two days later.  Now all they need to do is fix the other four Glitches.


Colon? Semicolon? There IS a Difference!

Friday, January 21st, 2011

I received a "performance tips" newsletter this week that is poorly written and contains a number of punctuation errors as well as poorly worded sentences.  Because those who take my workshops often ask about colons and semicolons, I will focus on that error here. 

Consider this sentence, which has to do with emotional intelligence:

The five areas are; self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills.

Whoops!  There is NEVER  a good reason for separating a verb (ARE) from its object or, in this case the subject complement, with a semicolon.  A semicolon functions the same way a comma followed by AND would function, as in "It was almost noon; the report was due at one o'clock." What the writer of the "five areas" sentence meant to do was insert a flag (a colon) that announced an upcoming list.  However, the writer could have simply gone on with the list with no additional punctuation.  The sentence should read one of these two ways:

The five areas are: self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

The five areas are self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

 The same "Whoops!" was committed again in the next paragraph, which contains this statement :

By mastering the Sales competency called Emotional Intelligence you can improve these specific Sales Competencies; Goals, Positive Attitude, and Strong Self Confidence.

There should be a colon, not a semicolon, after COMPETENCIES.  I would also suggest that, because there is an eight-word introductory phrase before the subject of the sentence (YOU), there should be a comma before YOU.  Here is my edit:

By mastering the Sales competency called Emotional Intelligence, you can improve these specific Sales Competencies: Goals, Positive Attitude, and Strong Self Confidence.

PLEASE NOTE: The list of specific Sales Competencies in this newsletter is much longer, and it does not exhibit good parallel structure.  Check one of my later posts for a comment on proper parallel structure for a list like this one.


Period goes INSIDE the quotation marks in the US (comma, too)

Friday, January 7th, 2011

In 2011 in the USA, commas and periods go inside the quotation marks–no exceptions.  Here are two examples from that newsletter I mentioned yesterday:

Our theme is "Rhinestones and Wranglers".

Please clearly mark the envelope "XXX Luncheon".

In both of these examples, the period should be placed inside the quotation marks.  The fact that what is quoted is not a complete sentence does not affect this decision.  The sentences should appear this way:

 Our theme is "Rhinestones and Wranglers."

 

Please clearly mark the envelope "XXX Luncheon."