The Dash —

Rather than thinking of the dash as being used for an “interruption,” it will serve you better to frame that rule as “A dash is used for a sentence that got started and did not get finished — broken sentence structure.” This thinking will allow you to use a dash in some places that may feel uncomfortable but where it is oh so correct. Sorry.

…The black car — was it in the right lane?
…The keys that I am holding in my hand — do these look familiar?
…Ms. Mary Reynolds — was she being considered for the job?

These are sentences/thoughts that got started but didn’t get finished in the original form, necessitating a dash.

Happy punctuating!


English Review…

I am doing a five-hour English review on February 7 and 8. This course is designed for those taking certification exams but is open to anyone who wants to improve English skills. We will cover grammar and punctuation, hyphens, apostrophes, vocab development, one-word/two-words, proofreading, et cetera. Here is the link for information and registration:

Happy punctuating!


That Pesky Word “So”

When so is said at the end of a thought, it seems to say “So that is my explanation; that is my reason.”

The word so can mean “for that reason” or “therefore” when it is used as a conjunction. In this case, at the end of a sentence that does not go on, so means “therefore.”

And when so is the last thing said, we view it as trailing off. Since it means “therefore,” there is a semicolon or period in front of it. It can be followed by a dash, indicating the sentence did not get finished, or ellipses

…I had contacted her and given her the data; so —
…I had contacted her and given her the data; so…

Happy punctuating!


The Word “This” or “That”

This and that should NOT be used to express “to what extent.” It is NOT ever correct to say

…It was not that bad.
…I didn’t expect it to be this easy.

Instead, you want the word so, which is what is called an adverb of degree, telling “to what extent.”

…It was not so bad.
…I didn’t expect it to be so easy.

Isn’t this stuff fun?

Happy punctuating!



Incident is an individual occurrence; incidence is the rate of occurrence. We seem to get into trouble in the plural.

…There was an incident last night that required an ambulance.
…There were several incidents during the night.

…The incidence of violence crime in the area has decreased.

Incidences is rarely used. It would have to mean the “rates” of something that happens. And “The incidences are too numerous to name” is just plain wrong.

Happy punctuating!


Possessive of “Parent”

Is it my parent’s house or my parents’ house? Except for a child custody matter, where one parent’s rights might be called into question, I am going to say that we use this word in the plural. We don’t really talk of one parent as in “I am going to see my parent tonight” or “My parent is in the hospital.” So let’s go with plural possessive.

…We spent the evening at my parents’ house.
…My parents’ best friends were over.

Happy punctuating!


A Little Grammar, Part 2

Yesterday we determined that the verb form in a dependent clause is determined by the word the clause modifies, which sets us up for a bit of a dilemma in this sentence:

…John is one of the men who IS/ARE attending the convention.

To determine whether it is is or are in “who is/are attending the convention,” we have to look at what the sentence is saying.

Is John one of many men in attendance? If so, then the clause modifies men, and the verb is ARE.

Is John the only one of the many men in attendance? If so, then the clause modifies one, and the verb is IS.

The sentence is saying that there are many men attending the convention and that John is one of them. It is correct as

…John is one of the many men who ARE attending the convention

Every grammar test on the planet uses this sentence to separate the wheat from the chaff. 🙂

Happy punctuating!


A Little Grammar to Bring Joy to the Soul, Part 1

From the many rules for subject/verb agreement, we are picking the most difficult one to discuss.

First, the groundwork: When the subject is singular, the verb is singular; when the subject is plural, the verb is plural.

…One of the boys HAS to be the leader.
…Several of the boys HAVE to be the leaders.

…Each of the employees IS being questioned.
…All of the employees ARE being questioned.

When the verb you are analyzing is in a dependent clause, you have to look for the word the clause modifies to determine the form of the verb. If it modifies a singular word, the verb is singular; if it modifies a plural word, the verb is plural.

…The man who WAS driving that car worked for me.
…The men who WERE driving those cars worked for me.

…A building that HAS several floors suits us better.
…Buildings that HAVE several floors suit us beeter.

Part 2 tomorrow!!

Happy punctuating!