Scare Quotes Should Be Scarce Quotes

Many writers—professionals and creators of casual composition alike—employ a form of emphasis that is usually unnecessary and often clumsily intrusive. Scare quotes, pairs of quotation marks placed around a word or phrase for emphasis, are valid when writers frame wording they are using ironically or mockingly, when they wish to imply that the enclosed word … Read more

A Guide to Terminal Punctuation

This post outlines the functions of punctuation marks employed at the end of a sentence: the period, the exclamation point, the question mark, and ellipses. Period Periods are employed as terminal punctuation for statements other than questions or exclamations. In American English, periods precede a close quotation mark at the end of a sentence (with … Read more

A Guide to Internal Punctuation

This post outlines the functions of punctuation marks employed within a sentence: the comma, the semicolon, the colon, and ellipses. Comma A comma performs a number of functions, including setting off elements of a list (“I’m going to order soup, salad, and an entrée”) combining with a conjunction to separate two independent clauses (“She ordered … Read more

A Guide to Hyphens and Dashes

This post details the purposes of various horizontally aligned typographical symbols. Hyphen Hyphens perform various functions, including the following: They link standing compound words (follow-up, self-respect). They are used with some prefixes (anti-inflammatory, pre-Christian). They represent expression in isolation of a prefix or a word element (pre-, -er). They link spelled out numerical terms representing … Read more

A Complete Guide to Parentheses and Brackets

This post discusses the functions of parentheses and brackets, which are used to set off portions of text from the whole for various purposes. Parentheses, almost exclusively appearing in pairs, are usually employed in the same manner as a pair of commas or dashes, though they suggest de-emphasis of the content within (as opposed to … Read more

Coordination of Conjunctions and Punctuation

When a conjunction is inserted into a sentence to separate two cumulative elements of the sentence, where commas, if any, are correctly positioned depends on the syntactical structure of the sentence regardless of whether a parenthetical phrase complicates the sentence. In each sentence with parenthesis below, the punctuation is not appropriate for the syntax. Discussion … Read more

Yet 3 More Types of Hyphenation Errors with Numbers

Confusion about the relationship between hyphens and numbers, whether they appear in numeral or spelled-out form, is rampant. Each of the following examples erroneously employs hyphens; discussion after each sentence explains the error, and a revision corrects it. 1. Because of concussions, he had played just sixty-nine games in two seasons between 2010-2012. Using a … Read more

3 Cases of Using the Wrong Punctuation

In each of the following sentences, the wrong punctuation has been employed to aid in organization of a sentence. Discussion after each example explains the problem, and a revision demonstrates the solution. 1. Ensure that you have an escape route while driving in traffic, drive at a speed that places your vehicle outside clusters of … Read more

5 Functions of Quotation Marks

This post discusses the use of quotation marks to distinguish dialogue, parts of compositions, phrases as phrases, scare quotes, and epithets. 1. For Dialogue Quotation marks are placed around speech in fiction (to distinguish it from attribution and narrative) and nonfiction (for the same reasons, in addition to emphasizing that it is recorded verbatim and … Read more

3 Types of Hyphenation Errors with Numbers

Writers are easily confused by, or are negligent about, proper use of hyphenation with phrases with numbers, whether the numbers are represented in spelled-out or numeral form. The following sentences represent various types of erroneous use of hyphenation; a discussion after each one points out the problem, and a revision resolves it. 1. In April … Read more

3 Types of Extended Phrasal Adjectives

Each of the following sentences includes a phrasal adjective (two or more words that modify a noun) consisting of several words, and each requires hyphenation missing from that phrase. Discussion after each example explains the problem, and revisions demonstrate solutions. 1. These remain front and center priorities for organizations. When a phrase structured as “[blank] … Read more