Tag Archives: punctuation

ChanteSez…Weird Al is a genius

30 Jul

I wish I’d made this: “Word Crimes” by Weird Al. That is all.

ChanteSez … Dig picture perfect punctuation

25 Jun

I wish I could claim today’s ChanteSez, but alas, that credit belongs to Curtis Newbold, aka The Visual Communication Guy. For those of you who are more visually inclined, his handy chart lists 15 of the most common punctuation marks, and amusingly, how hard they should be to learn.

There’s the period at the low end, and the comma at the hard end.

Check it out below. Thank you to Piggie for the tip!

Punctuation marks chart

ChanteSez … Don’t get possessed by apostrophes

18 Jun

Will F. from @HighImpactMda suggested today’s ChanteSez grammar tip weeks ago — I appreciate his patience, and yours. Sometimes you see an apostrophe before an “s,” and sometimes after. What gives?

Here are a couple of examples:

The twins’ style is so different, even though they are identical.

You can catch Mo Audio every Wednesday on Jabari Graham’s ABL Radio.

When you’re forming a possessive, and the item (or person) doing the possessing ends in “s,” you add the apostrophe to the end of the word.

Conversely, if the word doesn’t end in “s,” add one and put the apostrophe before it.

Here’s how to remember it: No “s,” add one. With “s,” needs none.


ChanteSez … Sometimes you have to go missing

2 Apr

Someone recently asked me where the (over)use of ellipses — or dot dot dot — came from. My guess is texting. Who has time to write out words on a small screen?

Here’s the lowdown on this punctuation fave:

Ellipses are formally meant to indicate missing words, or their intentional deletion.

More commonly, they’re used to signal hesitation, which is also an appropriate use.

The key is to leave enough context and content so the missing words don’t distort your message. So text and type away, and remember why you’re taking the missing route.

ChanteSez … Don’t commit bigamy in your writing

3 Apr

It’s illegal in the U.S. to have more than one spouse. But it happens all the time if you pay attention to what’s written. A pair of commas makes all the difference.

When you don’t set off a spouse’s name by commas, the indication is that there is more than one spouse.

If you’re providing the name of a husband or wife in a story, it’s probably a nonessential phrase.

A nonessential phrase is an extra bit of info that adds some detail to the sentence, but isn’t required to make the sentence understandable.

How to tell if you’ve got a nonessential phrase? You can take the phrase out of the sentence and it still makes sense. It’s “nonessential” to the sentence.

And nonessential phrases must have a comma before and after them.

Here’s what I mean:

She married her husband, Thomas Williams, in 2013.

The nonessential phrase here is the husband’s name. If it’s removed, the sentence still makes sense:

She married her husband in 2013.

Now, if you take the commas out, but keep the nonessential phrase in, you’re indicating there’s more than one husband. Thomas Williams just happens to be the one we’re talking about in this sentence:

She married her husband Thomas Williams in 2013 (and hey, maybe she married her other husband back in 2003).

Keep it legal, folks.

ChanteSez … You can quote me, part 2

17 Oct

Last week’s ChanteSez was about the use of punctuation with quote marks.  My advice was to quote everything within a quote. The key word there is “within.”

That is, whatever punctuation was necessary to indicate what someone said — or how they said it — should go within the quote marks.

If the quote was a question, was said with force, or was simply a complete thought, the appropriate punctuation belongs inside the quote marks.

  • “Do people understand the power of proper punctuation?” she asked.
  • “I am so ready to go to Miami!” he said.
  • “If you come home with another C,” his mom yelled, “no Facebook or Twitter for two weeks!”

The only time you wouldn’t include punctuation inside the quote marks is if you, the writer, are asking a question or making a statement of force, unbelief, etc., about the quote.

In the first example below, my colleague at Terribly Write is asking a question about the quote. (Thank you, Laura, for making sure I clarified this rule!)

  • Are you saying, “Put all punctuation inside quotation marks”?
  • There’s never been an adage more true than “Put your money where your mouth is”!

ChanteSez … You can quote me

10 Oct

Quote marks, or quotation marks, are typically used to indicate what a person has said. Most people understand that part. It’s the punctuation used with quote marks that can be confusing.

As a rule of thumb, quote everything, including the punctuation. In other words, put punctuation inside the quote marks. A few examples:

  • Felabration is one of Atlanta’s most highly anticipated parties,” she said.
  • “How in the world is he able to dance like that?” she asked.
  • “That is going to be one awesome pumpkin carving party!” she exclaimed.

ChanteSez … Snap to it!

15 Aug

One of the most common mistakes ChanteSeez (hee hee) is the contraction form of “it is” — it’s — used as a possessive pronoun (its).

Contractions take two words and make them one. Other contractions include “that’s” (that is), “we’re” (we are) and “what’s” (what is).

Consider the apostrophe a snap. Add an apostrophe whenever you want to “snap” two words together.

Even with this tip, the only way to truly avoid this mistake is to re-read your writing. Then ask yourself if you meant the “snap” version of “it is,” or its (see!) possessive pronoun sibling.


ChanteSez … Leave the LY alone

8 Aug

When you’re using adverbs that have “ly” at the end, you don’t need a hyphen.

For example:

  • The beautifully dressed woman took center stage.
  • The carefully prepared presentation caught the team’s attention.
  • His compassionately listening ear made her feel better.


ChanteSez … Make a dash for it, part 3

1 Aug

Last one on dashes — for now. Dashes are used for attribution. Typically, this isn’t the same kind of attribution you’d see in the middle of a sentence when someone is quoted. Those attributions are set off by commas.

Dashes are used with what ChanteSez are independent quotes. Often they are part of an introduction, like at the start of a chapter. Some examples:

  • “We like the cars, the cars that go boom!” — Tigra and Bunny of L’Trimm
  • If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both.  — H. Mann
  • I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.  — Shakespeare