Punctuating Appositives

A reader requests clarification on the punctuation of appositives: I would like to see a piece on the punctuation of appositives. Decades ago, I somehow came to believe that an appositive in which the first noun is general and the second noun is specific is not offset by commas. Conversely, if the first noun of …Read more

Apposition and Anarthrous Premodifiers

读者想知道这个句子包含名词in apposition has enough commas: As a club, we must extend our thoughts and deepest sympathies to John’s wife Hazel, and his children Matthew and Julia. Commas with appositives An appositive is a noun or noun element that follows another noun and serves to identify it further. …Read more

Some Rules about Periods

The first rule a child learns about the period (Br. “full stop”) is that it ends a sentence. Where else is this little dot used, and when is it omitted? Abbreviations Abbreviations may be written with or without periods. Whether or not to use a period with the abbreviations for honorifics, such as mister, miss, …Read more

3 Sentences in Which Semicolons Are Superfluous

Many writers—even professional ones—are wary about employing semicolons, at best because the punctuation mark carries a hint of excessive formality and at worst because users aren’t clear on the concept. However, some writers who do use them are confused, too, and are apt to include semicolons when they aren’t warranted. Unnecessary semicolons litter the following …Read more

Common Errors in Vertical Lists

Employing vertical lists, which display related sets of words, phrases, or sentences entered on separate lines and marked with bullets (dots or other symbols), numbers, or letters to clarify the organizational scheme, is a sensible strategy for presenting numerous or complex details that would otherwise clutter a sentence. (An in-line list, a sequence of such …Read more

5 Types of Case and Punctuation Problems with Quotations

下列句子展示问题的作家confront when they write sentences that incorporate quotations that are not framed with attribution (phrasing that identifies the source of the quotation, such as “he said” or “she writes”). Each example is followed by a discussion of the problem in the sentence and a solution. 1. The consultant’s answer …Read more

5 Problems with Parenthesis

Parenthesis is the strategy of setting a word, phrase, or clause off from a sentence to interject additional information into that statement. Despite the name, parenthesis can be accomplished with two commas or a pair of dashes as well as with a brace of parentheses. However, several problems can occur when writers attempt to parenthesize: …Read more

When to Use a Colon: Rules and Examples

The colon can be a tricky punctuation mark. You’ve probably grasped periods, question marks, exclamation points, and commas – but the rules surrounding colons may seem a bit trickier. There are two main ways to use colons: To introduce an item or a series of items. To replace a semi-colon between two independent clauses: the …Read more

What Does [sic] Mean?

Samm [sic] asks “What does [sic] mean?” Sic in square brackets is an editing term used with quotations or excerpts. It means “that’s really how it appears in the original.” It is used to point out a grammatical error, misspelling, misstatement of fact, or, as above, the unconventional spelling of a name. For example, you …Read more

When to Use a Comma: 10 Rules and Examples

Commas can be a particularly tricky punctuation mark. There are some cases where you know you should use a comma – such as when separating items in a list – but there are other times when you might be unsure whether or not a comma is needed. While there’s some degree of flexibility in how …Read more

Functions of the Apostrophe

This post discusses the three primary functions of the apostrophe in the English language: the marking of the possessive case in nouns, the marking of the omission of one or more letters, and the marking of plurals of individual characters. (The obsolescence of apostrophes with abbreviations is also discussed.) Marking Possessives Apostrophes are employed in …Read more

7 Examples of Incorrect Punctuation with Quotation Marks

This post points out common errors committed when reporting what has been said or written. Each example is followed by a discussion of the problem and a revision that provides a solution. 1. She pointed out that, “Speed matters — the faster an organization learns, the faster it evolves.” The quotation, in isolation, is a …Read more