The Word “Then”

The word then is an adverb when it means “next” or “at that time.” When it is an adverb, it does not take punctuation.

…We were then seen by a different doctor.
…I then noticed the spot it had left.

When then is pulled out to the front of the sentence and is being used to connect two sentences, it is called a “conjunctive adverb.” It takes a period or semicolon in front and no comma after because it is one syllable.

…My husband was trying to talk to her; then he called the doctor.
…I was driving southbound on Montana; then I turned left.

Sometimes the  word then has no meaning at all. It is used as a throwaway word. In this case, it takes commas.

…I am following his directions, then.
…Are you saying, then, that he is not a part of this?

Happy punctuating!


What If They Say “212”?

This question has popped up in seminars over the last several months. My answer is to put it into the transcript as “2012.” I know. You are yelling, “But that is not verbatim!”

First of all, we are not verbatim all the time. When “goverment” is said, we put in “government.” For “accidently,” we put in “accidentally.”

Second, I think we have to keep in mind that we are the only ones in the room looking at exactly HOW something is said. The person who says “212” without the zero has no clue that you are going to do something weird with that. He (or she) doesn’t get the difference. He thinks he said the year.

If you put in “2’12” or “2-12” or something other than the regular year, the guy reading your transcript is going to wonder, “What the heck is this?” He doesn’t realize that is the way he really said it.

So my thoughts are to just go ahead and transcribe the year — and, yes, even if it is video-recorded.

Happy punctuating!


And a Little More (Read Above First)

For those who want to add “so” and “yet” to the list of coordinate conjunctions: I have never had anyone be able to explain to me how that follows the way sentences work. I believe this is an error. Tossing out the word “for” because it is a very obscure meaning that makes it a coordinate conjunction, I would address “and,” “but,” “or,” and “nor.”

These four words are conjunctions. They link nouns and verbs and prepositional phrases. “So” and “yet” cannot do that because they are not truly conjunctions; they are adverbs. Only when we pull the adverb out in the front of the sentence does it become a conjunction.

A coordinate conjunction can link ANYTHING that is grammatically equal. “So” and “yet” cannot do that and are not, in my opinion, coordinate conjunctions. They are conjunctive adverbs, which have to have a semicolon or period in front of them.

Happy punctuating!


The Word “So” — Third Time Is a Charm?

So we had a discussion over on FB about “so” — again!

As you all know, I want us to punctuate according to the grammar that is going on in the sentence. I believe with my heart and soul that punctuation is an outgrowth of grammar most of the time.

The word “and” and the word “so” simply do not function the same in the language. “And” is a conjunction through and through. It does absolutely nothing else in the language except connect equal elements. When it connects two sentences, it has to have a comma in front of it.

…I walked over to the edge and looked down at the car.
…I walked over to the edge, and I looked down at the car.

So far, so good; right?

The word “so” is, by nature, an adverb.

…He was so very tired that night.
…She is so happy to have the job.

Sometimes we pull the word “so” out to the front of a sentence. When we do, it is STILL AN ADVERB, but it takes on the role of connecting the sentence it is part of to the sentence in front of it. Thus we call it a “conjunctive adverb.” It is just like “thus” and “still” and “then.”

…He had left the company; so he could not participate in this.
…We went through San Diego; so we did not stop to see her.

It starts a new sentence. When you put a comma in front of it, you create a run-on — the same as you would if it were not there and you were to use a comma.

…We sent it on Friday; so it should arrive no later than Monday.
…We sent it on Friday. It should arrive no later than Monday.

A comma in either of these sentences creates a run-on sentence.

The semicolon could always be a period; it can never be a comma. And the length of the sentence has nothing whatsoever to do with being able to put a comma instead of a semicolon or a period.

And the rule is that, if the conjunctive adverb is just one syllable, it does not take a comma after it.

I hope you will consider this and really take the time to analyze it from a grammar standpoint. Grammar and the way the words are functioning preclude the use of the comma.

Happy punctuating!


Hyphenating a Compound Noun

A compound noun can be one word, hyphenated, or multiple words. You can know the correct form only by looking it up and checking the part of speech.

…bookkeeper, roommate
…sister-in-law, aide-de-camp
…real estate, high school

Whatever the form, it must be maintained in all uses of the word.

…a bookkeeper problem
…an in-law problem
…a real estate problem

It is most important to note that, if the noun is separate words and is a direct adjective, it is NOT hyphenated. It is already a unit, and the original form is maintained.

…social security payment
…White House employee
…high school graduate

Happy punctuating!


“A Million” or “One Million” and Others

There is a recurring question about these kinds of numbers. What if it is “…sent a hundred dollars to him” or “…paid ten and a half” or “…a little over a million”? The answer is that these are technically not really numbers — “a million” and “a half” and “a hundred.” And English rules say that these should be written out in words since they are not really numbers.

The dilemma, of course, is that, when these are mixed in with regular numbers, writing them in words does not always “fit” with the transcript form. What if it is “…paid $895,000 for it and sold it for a million”? There is a consistency issue.

So what is the answer? You are probably not going to like this. The answer is that you must decide whether you want to be totally verbatim and keep the “a” in lieu of the “one.” OR you decide that you are going to go ahead and write the number in figures as if it had been said with the word “one.”

If you write it in words, then every part of it has to be in words.

…spent a hundred and fifteen dollars on that.

The choice is yours.

Happy punctuating!