Sunday, September 24 is National Punctuation Day.
What better way to celebrate than to use punctuation correctly? I have written many posts about various punctuation marks, and I will link to some of them in this post. Here are eight common punctuation mistakes:
- The overuse of dashes and the use of hyphens to stand in as dashes. Dashes are used to set off an abrupt change of thought in a sentence. There are two types of dashes: the long one is used as described in the previous sentence, and the short one is used as the minus sign and in number ranges. The hyphen is the shortie and is used between parts of compound words. Here is last week’s post that talks about dashes and hyphens.
- Confusing colons (:) and semicolons (;). I often see a semicolon used where a colon should be used. I suspect it is because many people don’t really understand semicolons. When you are going to list some things after a sentence, for example, use a colon. A colon indicates some type of list or explanation follows. Semicolons don’t do that at all.
- The comma splice is a bad thing. Please do not separate your sentences with a comma unless you also have a conjunction in there (and, but, so, for, or, nor, yet). You need to use a period, a semicolon, occasionally a colon, or a comma WITH a conjunction to separate two sentences, commas cannot separate sentences. (See????)
- British and American English differ in some ways. One of these ways is in the use of other punctuation marks with quotations marks. In American English, periods and commas ALWAYS go inside quotation marks. Colons and semicolons always go outside quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points can go either way depending on the use.
- Some people don’t like commas. They feel that they are unnecessary blemishes in their writing, so they don’t use them even when they should. Other people love commas, and they sprinkle them in their writing like salt. Every time they envision a slight pause in a sentence, they throw in a comma. Don’t. There are lots of comma rules and places to put commas. Don’t put unnecessary commas in writing, for example, between a subject and a verb: Joe and his friends, especially like horror movies, so they are going to the movie, at the new theater, this weekend. (That sentence needs only one of those commas. The rest are incorrect.)
- Oy! Apostrophes! Apostrophes are mostly used in contractions and in possessives. They are rarely used in plain old plurals. Please don’t use them in plural’s!
- I am guilty of this one. Sometimes I get carried away with punctuation at the end of my sentences!!!! Yup, it’s true. I wouldn’t put multiple punctuation marks at the end of a sentence in something like a business letter, but sometimes to make a point (or show emotion), I will double or triple up on my exclamation points. Some people like to use an exclamation point AND a question mark at the end of sentences. In formal writing, please refrain. In texts go for it!!!!!
- Fear of the semicolon. Don’t be afraid of the semicolon. It is probably the simplest of all punctuation marks except for maybe the period. Semicolons really have only two uses. The most common is to separate two sentences that are closely related for a nice change from always using a period. Besides, using semicolons makes you look smart (as you are!). If sentences are closely related, you can use a semicolon; in fact, the semicolon is my favorite punctuation mark. The other use of a semicolon is to “unconfuse” a confusing series or compound sentence where there are already commas: I will visit Boston, Massachusetts; Ithaca, New York; Lewiston, Maine; and Burlington, Vermont on my tour of New England.
There you have it. So celebrate National Punctuation day with a toast to your favorite punctuation mark.. And thank you, Jeff Rubin, for inventing this day!
Grammar Diva News
So what’s going on over here?
- I wrote a piece for my writing club’s (Redwood Writers) annual anthology. This year the theme was Sonoma County (California). I generally don’t write short pieces, but I was inspired with this theme; I wanted to write about our famous ice rink, built by Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz. My daughter skated there for 12 years—every day—until she went off to skate for Disney on Ice, where she still is, now in her 10th year. I will be reading my piece, “Santa Rosa on Ice,” at the Anthology Launch this Sunday, which coincidentally is National Punctuation Day.
- I have been busy with having my daughter and son-in-law home for a while (Yay!!!). I haven’t gotten as much work done as I should have. However, they are going on tour next week, and I will be sitting alone at my desk (alone again) working my fingers to the bone. My next projects are a self-publishing guide (yes, I know many people have already written one, but mine will be very simple for the beginner, using my self-publishing journey as a reference) and a “book set” of three of my books. I will be combining The Best Little Grammar Book Ever (second edition), The Best Little Grammar Workbook Ever, and Does Your Flamingo Flamenco? into one volume. Who says you can’t have it all? Of course, the books will still be for sale individually.
- Speaking of my books, another plea for reviews—reviews do sell books. So if any of you have any of my books hanging around, unreviewed, please consider writing a short review (of any number of stars) on Amazon or Goodreads. I know you aren’t supposed to use “thank you in advance,” but thank you in advance.
- I guess that is enough for now. Oh, if you have any suggestions for blog topics, please let me know.