We punctuate a fragment the same way that we punctuate the complete sentence it stands for. This is simply the way the language works.

…A   With John. He had been ill.
…A   I stayed with John. He had been ill.

…I have. It has been a long time, however.
…I have seen it. It has been a long time, however.

It follows, then, that this is also correct punctuation.

…You were alone at the time; is that correct?
…You were alone at the time; correct?

…Mr. Johnson had been fired; is that right?
…Mr. Johnson had been fired; right?

There is no justification for putting a comma instead of the semicolon here. It creates a run-on sentence.

Happy punctuating!


Trailing Off

English calls for the dash for trailing off — a sentence that got started that did not get finished. Many, many reporters are using the ellipsis.

When the person uses but before he trails off, there is no comma before but because there is not an independent subject and verb after. When a person uses so before he trails off, there is a semicolon because it means “therefore.”

…at the event but…
…at the event but —

…at the event; so…
…at the event; so —

Happy punctuating!


Quotes and Caps

The first word of a quote is capped if it starts a grammatically complete sentence or a fragment that stands for a complete thought. It is not capped if it is a fragment.

…Q   When did you leave?
…A    We left around 4:00.
…Q   What do you mean “We left around 4:00”?

…Q   When did you leave?
…A   We left around 4:00.
…Q   What do you mean “around 4:00”?

Happy punctuating!






Question Marks and Quotes

A question came up on Facebook about a question mark inside the quote when the sentence goes on.

…When he asked, “Are you serious?” did you respond in…
…He said something like “Are you coming or not?” and went on to demand…

The interrog goes inside the quote for the question that is being asked, and the next word has a lowercase letter because it is part of the sentence.

Happy punctuating!


Back from Alaska

Well, I must say the cruise to Alaska lived up to its glowing reputation. It was wonderful.

I cannot tell you, however, how many mistakes we saw on the ship, at the hotel, et cetera.

In the shelf of the library of the ship: …Reference Book’s…On a billboard: …fee for it’s products…
At a restaurant: …french fry’s…

It would seem that there are VERY few people in this world that know how to use apostrophes!!

Happy punctuating!



We have returned from our big excursion — 21 of us (almost all of the people I love most in this world) spent the last seven days on an Alaskan cruise. Our weather was fabulous; food, scrumptious; entertaining, great — and it was wonderful to have quality time with kids and grandkids and even the priest.

So it is back to the grind, though I am not sure about that cooking thing!

This coming weekend I will be with the Florida reporters, then in just a few short weeks at NCRA’s annual convention.

My three new books on drills — Practice Really DOES Make Perfect — are on their way from the printer and will be available later this week on my website.

Happy punctuating!








Adverbial Objective

When a noun answers an adverb question, it is called an adverbial objective.

…left Friday for the lake… (“Friday” tells “when”)
…spent four hours there… (“four hours” tells “how long”)

The terms “full time” and “part time” are used in this manner.

…work full-time for them, not part-time…

MW says that these terms are hyphenated as adverbs.

Happy punctuating!