Commas and the Year and the Adjective

Are there commas around the year when, with the date, it is a direct adjective?

…the May 15, 2012, letter…
…the August 9, 1939, birth date…

The year following the date is always surrounded with a pair of commas.

The reason there is confusion here is the rule that says you don’t put a comma between the adjective and the noun it modifies. That rule says you don’t put a single separating comma between the adjective and the noun it modifies.

This is not a single comma. This is a pair of commas, which you can put anywhere. If you take out the year, both commas go with it.

Happy punctuating!


The Adverb Being Used as a Conjunction

This one is from an answer on Facebook to the question of what punctuation these sentences need:

…He worked late on Friday; so he couldn’t attend the party.
…She approached the intersection cautiously; then she came to a complete stop.

“So” and “then” are, by nature, adverbs.

…was so excited…
…to then see what was happening…

When these adverbs are pulled out to the front of the sentence, they become connecting words, that is, “conjunctive adverbs” — in other words, words that are normally adverbs that are being used as conjunctions.

When this is the case, these “conjunctive adverbs” begin a new sentence and link that sentence back to the prior one. They show a relationship between the two sentences.

…I left early; therefore, I missed all the excitement.
…He called me; however, he didn’t have time to talk.

We don’t seem to have any issues with these words that I have used. I believe that is because they are more than one syllable, and it just “feels” correct to use the semicolon or period.

The one-syllable words — “so,” “then,” “thus,” “hence,” “plus,” “yet,” “still” — seem to give us more trouble.

When you look at these words, note that you cannot use them to start a conversation. That is, you cannot walk into the home of your good friend and have the first word out of your mouth be “so” or “yet” or “however.” There is a presumption that something has already been said. These words link the sentence they begin back to a sentence that has already been said.

They begin a SENTENCE, not a dependent clause.

Part of the confusion here comes from the fact that the word “so” is used in two different ways:

One, “so” is used to mean “so that” or “in order that” and to imply the reason for doing something.

…I called so I could share the good news with him.
…I drove through Redding so I could have dinner with him.
…He went to the doctor so he could get pain medication.

In each case, the dependent adverb clause gives the reason for the action of the main verb and answers the question “why.”

Two, “so” is used to mean “therefore.” When it means “therefore,” it is used to start a new sentence.

In the original sentence here, we are talking about the word “so” when it means “therefore,” which means it is beginning a new sentence.

Two sentences cannot go together with a comma as that creates a run-on.

The correct punctuation for these sentences is a semicolon or a period.

Happy punctuating!


The Word “Or”

The word or works just like the word and.

In a series when the conjunction, the word or, appears between each member of the series, use no commas.

…tan or blue or silver…
…25 or 28 or 31…

In a series when the conjunction, the word or, is at the end of the series and there is no other conjunction, use a comma before the word or (just as you would before and).

…tan, blue, or silver…
…25, 28, or 31…

Otherwise, use a comma before the word or when there is an independent subject and verb after it.

…go with her, or he will have to stay here…
…go with her or will have to stay here…

…do this, or she has no choice…
…do this or has no choice…

Happy punctuating!


Long Time Away!

I have been very delinquent about my blog — no excuses! So I am back and will make every effort to be more diligent.

I am teaching two online seminars this weekend. Email me for information.

I am doing a CSR academic review here in Los Angeles on July 26 and August 2 and on in Northern CA on September 6.

My new drill book series will be out next week!

Exciting stuff happening!

Happy punctuating!


The Answer “No”

When an attorney has asked a compound question

…Do you remember whether Ray was there?…

and the response he gets is “No,” there is another question to be asked.

…”No,” you don’t remember? Or, “No,” Ray wasn’t there?

That is my recommendation for punctuating the second question.

Happy punctuating!


Watching the Hockey Game…

I am sitting here working on a seminar for next week and watching the hockey game. Aha! A grammar problem:

…These teams are so evenly matched. There have been 100 faceoffs; both teams have won 50…

What is the problem? Where is the grammar mistake?

Each is used when the teams/people/things are being looked at individually; both is used when they are doing something together.

So it is

…100 faceoffs; each team has won 50…

…accident on the country road. Both lanes are blocked…
…sent gifts to the girls. Each sent a thank-you…

Happy punctuating!


A Little Grammar This Morning…

Remember that the word but has to connect two grammatically equal elements. That means that this statement cannot possibly be correct:

…I can’t help but think he is going with us…

This is just plain bad grammar. You need the gerund form, the –ing form.

…I can’t help thinking he is going with us…
…I can’t help believing it will be okay…

Happy punctuating!


Commas with Adverbs

An interesting question was asked over on FB this mornng. I am stealing a bit from Jim Barker’s forum.

…”Are you dating someone?” asked Scott casually.
…”Ashley was absolutely not involved,” stated Rene firmly.

…”I don’t see what you are referring to,” said Scott, puzzled.

Note that “casually” and “firmly” do not need a comma whereas “puzzled” does.

One of the questions was whether the “-ly” creates the need for a comma.

The commas are not about the “-ly,” per se, but about the fact that these words are adverbs. They modify the verb “asked” and “stated.” The difference between those and the word “puzzled” is that “puzzled” is an adjective, a participle. The participle takes a comma because it is a nonessential element that tells you about the subject, Scott, which is a noun.

Happy punctuating!


The Ordinal on Dates

It is not my intention here to deal in any way with “editing” the transcript or changing/not changing anything.

In formal English, it in incorrect to add the ordinal to the date that immediately follows the month:

…on January 5… (not said as “fifth” nor written as “5th”)
…until May 2… (not said as “second” nor written as “2nd”)
…for June 1… (not said as “first” nor written as “1st”)

The other places take the ordinal because it cannot be said any other way.

…the 5th of June…
…on June the 5th…
…before the 5th…

Happy punctuating!