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It's National Punctuation Day on Sept 24th

abstract:You laugh and say, "Hah! What are they going to think of to celebrate next?" But the standards for everyday punctuation among the masses has eroded further than you think. It is reaching catastrophic proportions. I am in a state of apoplexy every other day, and I am not even a hardcore grammarian. It isn't just our email-ease, SMS semaphore or rampant use of smiley faces (to hedge against ambiguous rhetoric) that has replaced the proper use and understanding of punctuation. Indeed, for a while the prevailing thinking in education was that creative writing was being stifled by fussy teachers who insisted upon that nasty triad: correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. The red ink marks on papers disappeared and little star stickers were replaced, "Good job," they said. Students were told just to write, and worry about details later. Now look where it has got us. However, there is hope in site. Enclosed is a list of websites you can browse, bookmark and refer to - even take a quiz to test your knowledge or play games. We've included a short list of books you should keep beside your laptop, or better yet, beside your bed at night. Can you think of anything better for insomnia? And here are some of the most common errors we see in everyday writing. Happy Punctuation Day! Oh, here is the chap who started it all.


September 23, 2010
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  • Apostrophe Use: the most common misuse of this is it's vs. its. The first is always used when you are contracting "it is". The second is only used when you are denoting possession, "The dog carried its bowel." THERE IS NO APOSTROPHE FOR POSSESSION. Sounds simple, but people seem to get mixed up when they are using a plural possessive. Then you would think almost anything goes! Sometimes they try and be sneaky and put the apostrophe after like this, its'. WRONG: The group took it's turn registering to vote. RIGHT: The group took its turn. If you don't want to look like a dolt, then remember that the apostrophe goes where something is missing - as in dates: summer of '67 (to replace 19), but don't use it in decades, which are expressed without: She was a flower child of the 70s.

  • Quotations and Punctuation: When you are writing dialogue the quotations go around the words being said with the punctuation inside. Bob said, "I'd be happy to do that." A comma always precedes the introduction of dialogue. People mix up the quotes that encase non-dialogue like this:Today was supposed to be a "punctuation day" and so we all read Lynn Truss's book.

  • Commas: Use them to indicate a pause, in between items in a list, before a conjunction (like but or and) that joins two independent clauses, to set off parenthetical elements in a sentence, when a city and its state or province is mentioned place a comma in between them, and before dialogue. Decide whether you are the type who uses them before "and" or not. (That's called a "serial" comma, or "Oxford" comma.) Often this is abandoned for websites as it clutters the page. Some people can't live without it though: I bought carrots, potatoes, onions, and parsley at the store. Lynne Truss is famous now for her runaway bestseller Eats, Shoots And Leaves which has the picture of a panda erasing the comma and another panda walking off with a gun. You see if you remove the comma you get a completely different meaning.

    Essential Books

    The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition: I think they may have figured things out in 50 years, don't you?

    Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation: In the new and used category you can pick up this book for $3.15 (If you want to laugh your head off, read this one. That's why it became a bestseller.)

    The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed: This book is only $8 brand spanking new. Surely each of us fits into one of these categories?

    Websites to Bookmark Fun games and quizzes if you are serious about writing, get a subscription to this reference source. It's like having an editor lean over your shoulder.

    Last but not least, why not sign up for a free subscription to Grammar Girl hosted by Mignon Fogarty. (What a name, by the way!)



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