The Word “Remember” at the Beginning

…Remember that she has an appointment.
…Remember she has an appointment.

We can always leave out the word that when it begins a clause and doesn’t really do anything in the clause. In neither of the sentences above is there a need for a comma. You certainly wouldn’t want a comma in the first one; the second one is exactly the same sentence.

If there is a dramatic pause after remember, you might use a colon and then cap the complete sentence. But a comma is not correct.

Happy punctuating!


Fractions and Hyphens

Fractions are written out in words. They are hyphenated only when they come right in front of a noun, called a “direct” adjective.

…increased by seven eights…
…only one third of them remained…

…a seven-eights increase…
…one-third reduction in staff…

If there is a mixed number, a whole number and a fraction, in the sentence also, the fraction is in figures, for the sake of consistency.

…sent 2 1/4 today and will send another 3/4 tomorrow…

Happy punctuating!


The Words “Quote” and “Unquote”

When someone says the words quote or unquote or quote/unquote, they should be surrounded by punctuation, AND the word or words that follow should still be quoted. There is no rule in the literature that supports leaving out the quote marks because the words are said. It is not an either/or.

The words quote/unquote have a slash mark between them.

…is a, quote, “monster” when he drinks.
…sent a, quote/unquote, “zinger” to her.

Happy punctuating!



When you are trying to decide whether to hyphenate something, try this:

…It is a large green bug that….

It is a bug. What kind of bug? It is a green bug. What kind of green bug? It is a green bug that is large. If this works and you can “build” it like this, it is not hyphenated.

…It was a small black car that….

It is a car. What color car? It is a black car. What kind of black car? It is a black car that is small. When this works, it is not hyphenated.

Happy punctuating!


Quotes This Weekend

This coming weekend on Sunday, September 23, from 5:00 to 7:00 Pacific time, I will be presenting a seminar on quotes — when to quote, what to quote, the use of italics, quotes in lieu of italics. Hope you will join me. It is a two-hour seminar for .2 CEU’s.

To register, go to

Happy punctuating!


P.S. A while can always be two words!!! Take it out of your dictionary as one, and never wrestle with it again!



Comma Basics 3

So we are working on the idea that many times an element needs commas around it in the sentence but that this does not necessarily mean that element is “nonessential” or “isn’t necessary to the meaning of the sentence.”

A parenthetical is an element that can be dropped into any sentence we say. We can say “well” somewhere in every sentence we say. We can say “in my opinion” in every sentence we say. We surround these with commas. However, we are not surrounding them because they are “nonessential.”

If my sentence is “He is guilty, in my opinion, of this most heinous crime,” it changes the basic meaning if we take out “in my opinion.” The sentence gives a different meaning without “in my opinion,” but we still surround “in my opinion” with commas.

We don’t surround elements with commas in sentences solely because they are “not necessary to the meaning of the sentence.” We surround some things with commas that really do make a difference to the meaning of the sentence.

More to come…

Happy punctuating!


Comma Basics 2

So comma rules fall into these two categories: Every time you use a comma, you are either separating two elements that should not bump up against each other, or you are using a pair of commas to surround an element.

It is in this second category that we need to understand some terminology. We get into the habit of thinking that, when we surround something with commas, it is “nonessential.” This is just not the best way to think of these elements. We need to be careful about this term nonessential. It does not accurately describe an overall reason for using a pair of commas around a sentence element.

…We arrived in Springfield, Ohio, late in the day….

Is Ohio “nonessential”? Isn’t there a Springfield, Illinois? And yet we definitely surround the state when it follows the city — and not because it is “nonessential.”

…It happened on May 19, 2012, early in the morning….

Is 2012 “nonessential”? Aren’t there other years with a May 19? And yet we surround the year with a pair of commas when it follows the date — and not because it is “nonessential.”

…I spoke, Mr. Parker, with her sister….

When we address someone, there is the chance that we are using the name to distinguish which person we are speaking to. Doesn’t that mean we need his name in the sentence? And yet we surround a name used in direct address with a pair of commas — and not because it is “nonessential.”

So to say that an element that is surrounded with a pair of commas is automatically “nonessential” or “not necessary to the meaning of the sentence” is just not accurate. We need a much better grasp of why we surround elements with a pair of commas.

More to come….

Happy punctuating!



Comma Basics 1

No matter how many rules you know for commas, every one of those uses for the comma fits into one of two categories:

1. You are using a comma to separate two elements. You are using the comma to push two elements apart so that they do not pile up on each other.

…on June 5, 2012…
…in El Paso, Texas…
…was very, very difficult…


2. You are using a pair of commas around an element. When you put commas around an element, you are saying it can be removed from the sentence and that you will still have a grammatically complete sentence.

…saying, ma’am, that she was…
…with my oldest brother, John Walker, and his…
…was living, you know, with my…

When you surround something, you are NOT saying it is “nonessential” to the meaning of the sentence. That term is restricted to a very specific situation. You are NOT saying that you don’t “need” the element. There are many elements that are surrounded with commas and many reasons for doing so. It is not about you “don’t need it.”

To say “I am going to put commas around it because it can be taken out” would lead to a whole slew of commas that would not be correct. To say “This sentence is a run-on; so I need commas around something” is simply not consistent with the way the language works. To say “This element is not essential to the meaning of the sentence” is a very broad brush to use for some rules that apply to a very few situations.

Sometimes the grammar just needs commas around an element.

Every single comma rule goes into one of these two categories.

You are separating elements, or you are surrounding elements.

More to come…

Happy punctuating!


The Hyphen with a Name

…Ray Charles-inspired arrangement…
…Ray Charles-inspired and -motivated arrangement…

…John Andrews-led department…
…John Andrews-led and -directed committee…

When the proper name has a “suffix,” it should be hyphenated to the last name. If there are two of them, “hang” a hyphen in front of the second one also to show it goes with the name.

Happy punctuating!