Thursday, June 20, 2013

Appearing Professional: Puntuation Edition

           At the writer's conference, my workshop mentors said that the difference between an amateur and a professional is in the little things. The things that everyone loathes to deal with: grammar. The basics of English. Have you ever read a book from an acclaimed author and found grammar mistakes on ever other page? I don't mean a tweak of the rules for the sake of style. I mean definite mistakes. It seems to downgrade the quality of the writing.
           So maybe grammar is important. At least, a little bit. Here a few common mistakes that were pointed out at the workshop.

          Two complete sentences joined with a conjunction must have a common before the conjunction.
           Incorrect: Cindy rode her elephant everywhere she went but today she left him at home.
           Correct: Cindy rode her elephant everywhere she went, but today she left him at home.
           A series of items, actions, or phrases must be set off with commas.
           Incorrect: She walked down the road over the hills and into town.
           Incorrect: She walked down the road, over the hills and, into town.
           Correct: She walked down the road, over the hills, and into town.
           But there's an exception to this rule. If you are writing a college essay that is supposed to be in APA style (who knew there were different formats for essays?), then you leave off the last comma. Like so:
           She walked down the road, over the hills and into town.

           Commas are set inside the quotation marks at the end of dialogue.
           Incorrect: "Look, that's the elephant lady", people whispered to each other.
           Incorrect: "Look, that's the elephant lady" people whispered to each other.
           Correct: "Look, that's the elephant lady," people whispered to each other.


           If two words are used as one adjective, then a hyphen is needed to connect the two words. I always have problems with hyphens. It's kind of confusing, so I'm glad they cleared this one up for me. But now that I know, I'm afraid I may have given a few people whose work I've edited bad advice concerning hyphens. :P
           Incorrect: Cindy walked into the high-school.
           Correct: Cindy walked into the high school.
           Incorrect: She talked with her friend, a high school teacher, about the elephant.
           Correct: She talked with her friend, a high-school teacher, about the elephant.
           I despise commas. There are just too many rules and exceptions to them. Although I suppose that goes for all the English rules. If I have an adverb phrase before the subject of my sentence, I always forget if I'm supposed to put a comma after it or not.
           What are some punctuation rules you forget?


  1. Hey there! Rebekah here. I finally got around to checking out your blog, and I want to thank you for following Pens and Needles and for all your sweet comments. :)
    Anyway, I really like your blog! This post is so true. I'm really a grammar Nazi, and if someone has really bad grammar, I'm not likely to read their story or blog.
    So yeah. Have a great day! :)

    1. Thank you so much. I really enjoy reading your blog and the photos you take are beautiful. :)

  2. I went through so much grammar training I felt as if something would break in my brain. But I learned a lot from it, and I noticed that, when I read a book with poor grammar I am not able to enjoy the story as much.

    1. It is really hard to enjoy a book with bad grammar. I usually try to read it fast so I'm not mentally editing it. :P But if the story is good after awhile that will distract me from the grammar.

  3. I've learned ALL about essay formats since I started college. *Eyeroll* I guess you do need to organize a research paper somehow, but honestly? Most teachers care more about the format than the quality of writing. *Second Eyeroll*

    1. Eck! Essays are terrible boring. I've had a few teachers like that. But one of my English professors actually appreciated good writing. And he was very helpful with students who had a hard time with writing and grammar. He's one of my favorites. :)


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