English can be a confusing language. Letters combine to make sounds that are sometimes indistinguishable from other combinations of letters. Of course, the tendency to not enunciate does not make matters any clearer. And let’s not forget to blame texting and the Internet, where grammar and spelling are barely even afterthoughts. One of the errors I am seeing lately is the use of the word “of” when what is meant is the contracted form of “have”. Example: “I could of eaten that whole pizza by myself.” As written, this sentence makes no sense, even though it sounds like the correct “I could’ve eaten that whole pizza by myself.” The “could’ve” means “could have”, as in, “I could have eaten that whole pizza by myself.” It bothers me when I make mistakes in my writing. Mistakes make us look unprofessional. And even though it probably should not affect me so profoundly, I … Keep reading!
The exclamation point seems to be one of the most overused pieces of punctuation, and you will probably find that most editors and publishers today do not want to see them in your writing. I think that completely eliminating them is overkill, but I also think they should be used sparingly so they make the proper impact whenever they pop up. I don’t have any hard and fast rules to put forth, although I read somewhere that limiting this piece of punctuation to 2 or 3 instances per 100,000 words is the sign of a good writer. The main problem I see with totally eliminating the exclamation point is that you must add in extra dialogue tags in order to get your idea across. Consider the following: “Oh,” Mike said when he opened his gift. “It’s the game I’ve wanted for the last three months.” That doesn’t make it seem … Keep reading!
Ah, quotation marks. They seem like such simple pieces of punctuation, yet they are abused like the rest. Their primary function is to indicate something is a direct quote or a piece of dialogue. They also serve other functions, and the following guidelines will hopefully direct you to proper quotation use in the future. Direct Quotes Whenever you are directly quoting someone in your writing, you should place the quote inside the quotation marks. The college president said, “We will persevere through this tragedy and come out stronger than ever.” However, if you are paraphrasing (or indirectly quoting) what someone has said, do not put the paraphrase in quotes. Original: Paul said, “Bob, I think that is the most terrible idea I have ever heard. You’re not worth the air you breathe. Now get out of my office.” Paraphrase: Paul said he did not like Bob’s idea. Titles This is … Keep reading!
I apologize for the long delay in between posts. I am hoping to be more consistent. Ellipses (singular, ellipsis), dashes, and hyphens are three more punctuation marks that are not always used well. In today’s post, I want to give you a brief overview of each of these to encourage you to use them (and properly, at that) in your own writing. The ellipsis is a set of three periods with a space between each one (Microsoft Word auto-formats them and the spaces do not tend to be as prominent in my opinion). One of the purposes the ellipsis performs is to show that a portion of a quote has been left out. While I’ve not seen it included in this context, it would be appropriate to use the ellipsis in the abbreviated quoting of Joshua 24:15. The entire verse reads, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the … Keep reading!
Let’s face it, colons and semicolons (or semi-colons, if you prefer) are punctuation marks that are not always used properly. Even in my own writing I have shied away from them because I have not wanted to misuse them. (Remember, the adage holds true, “If you are not sure of how to use a particular element of writing, it may be best to avoid it.”) Today, I hope to provide some guidance for colon and semicolon usage. First, what is a semicolon? It is more than the eye portion of a winking face. 😉 A semicolon is a comma with a period on top, which may help you remember that one use is to join two related phrases (like you would with a comma) that could otherwise stand on their own. Here is an example: “It was cold outside; I wore my winter coat.” I could have written this a … Keep reading!
I’m sure you’ve seen the memes floating around the ol’ Interwebs that are pro-Oxford Comma. In case you have been living under a rock, here is one example: There has been much debate over the Ox, and it has become increasingly acceptable to simply drop it from writing, especially in informal settings. I personally prefer to include it as I feel it adds a degree of clarity. As the title of this post implies, there is another use of the OC that is highlighted online. Look at these two statements and see if you can determine the different meanings: “Let’s eat, Grandma!” “Let’s eat Grandma!” Did you catch it? In the first statement, by including the Oxford Comma, you are asking your grandma to join you for a meal. In the second, you are calling your family to feast upon Grandma herself. Without the little curvy thing, you’ve turned a … Keep reading!
Ah, the comma. A delightful piece of punctuation that gives us pause…literally. Of course, that is not its only function, yet you would not know it by the way it is abused or not even used at all. Here are a few rules to keep in mind when placing this delightful piece of punctuation in your writing. 1. Commas separate the elements in a series If I wrote, “I went to the store and bought bananas potatoes cream cheese milk and pasta,” it would not make a lot of sense. Instead, I should have written, “I went to the store and bought bananas, potatoes, cream cheese, milk, and pasta.” The commas distinguish between the individual items, which could have otherwise been marked by putting “and” between each item in the list. Note, I placed a comma after milk; this is an Oxford comma, something I will talk about next week. … Keep reading!
Exclaimed. Whispered. Queried. Shouted. Grunted. Begged. Sighed. Hissed. Wailed. Bellowed. The words used to indicate how a person is speaking are numerous, and I remember my elementary school days when we had writing exercises that required us to use many of the available dialogue tags. Unfortunately, that training has been rendered mostly useless because of the editing trends of this day and age. Current resources, such as Renni Browne’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, recommend limiting your dialogue tags to “said” and “asked”. Browne points out that these two tags will blend into the background, rather than acting as the written equivalent to the lens flares in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboots. The constant changing of tags tends to be distracting, interrupts the flow of your story, and leaves your work looking amateurish. Also, it is important to note that you do not have to include a dialogue tag after every chunk of … Keep reading!