Tag Clauses

A recent FB answer to why the first kind of tag clauses take a comma and why there cannot be a comma before the word “right” by itself.
“Didn’t you’ and “has he” echo the words of the question. They are a shortened form of the question.
…He was there early, wasn’t he [there early]?
…She was not the director, was she [the director]?
Those kinds of tag clauses take commas.
There is no justification for a comma before “is that correct” because it has its own subject and verb. And we punctuate a fragment that stands for a complete thought exactly the way we punctuate the complete thought.
…Q Where was he?
…A  He was at home. He was sick.
…Q Where was he?
…A  At home. He was sick.
…She was alone; is that right?
…She was alone; right?
Happy punctuating!

One More Time…

What do we do with “…my son Scott…?” Comma or not?
This is the “essential/nonessential” dilemma, the hardest concept in all of punctuation. I would suggest that you read the entire chapter in my book on this. It is Chapter 4. The rule is very difficult to condense into a few sentences. When I explain it, it is about 30 slides in a presentation.
Here is a brief summary of the rule: It goes to whether the appositive is needed to DEFINE the word it is renaming. Would communication be lost if the appositive were removed?
…my friend Bill…
…my husband, Bill…
In the first one, the assumption is that I have many friends. I am using the name “Bill” to define which friend I am talking about. It is “essential.” A pair of commas would mean I could take it out. So we do not want commas.
In the second one, I have just one husband. Giving his name is “extra.” He is already defined in the word “husband.” His name is “nonessential” to DEFINE him. The commas say the name could be taken out.
When it is “…my son Scott…,” the problem is that you may not know how many sons. When you don’t know, use no commas.
A further problem with this concept is that people use “essential/nonessential” incorrectly. It applies ONLY to appositives, participles, and adjective clauses. There is no such thing as an adverb that is “nonessential” to the meaning of the sentence.
There is much more to this explanation, but this is enough for now.

Happy punctuating!


Put the Question Mark Where the Question Is First Asked

It seems as if I just addressed this, but I looked back and don’t see it.

The only way to consistently punctuate questions is to follow this rule: Put the question mark where the question is first asked; where, if the attorney had just stopped and waited, s/he could have gotten an answer.

…What was she wearing? Did you notice?
…What was she wearing? A jacket or a coat?
…What was she wearing? I am talking about on the night of the incident. (or ? depending on intonation)

…Where did it come from? The right? The left?
…Where did it come from? The right or the left?
…Where did it come from? The right, the left, or the middle?

Questions that go on after the first question is asked should be handled in this format.

Happy punctuating!


More Errors in the News on the Internet…

Reading news on the Internet certainly gives me lots of chance to share with all of you. You get to work on your proofreading skills three time in one week and twice today!

…Of the parent’s plan for their children, the source said, “They want to fill their children’s lives with as much love as possible…

…oil worker – now wracked with pain from arthritis and other maladies — spends nearly every day…

These people seriously need a course in word pairs — or my book.

Happy punctuating!


What Should We Do with Email Addresses?

The question arises about email addresses as to whether it is best to write what they actually say or whether to just use the email address in its regular format.

He says, “It is mls, my initials; the symbol for at; the word revolutionbrakes, all jammed together; then dot com.” [And that is just a stab at punctuating that mess!]

So you put that sentence into the transcript, or you put in “…mls@revolutionbrakes.com….”

I would generally recommend simply putting in the actual email address as it is written in the URL unless there is some special focus on the words or letters themselves. Readability wins!

Happy punctuating!


Exhibit Numbers

Exhibit numbers are always in figures — even at the beginning of a sentence. The word “exhibit” is capped in front of the number. The word “number” is abbreviated as “No.”; the plural is “Nos.”

…THE COURT:    This will be Exhibit No. 4.
…MS. RAY:          4. Okay.

…We have marked this as Exhibit 9.

Happy punctuating!


The Word “Though”

The word “though,” when it is alone in the middle of the sentence, is surrounded by commas.

…I think he knew, though, that this was the end.
…He was standing, though, near the door.

At the end of the sentence, it takes a comma in front of it.

…He was leaning against it, though.
…I didn’t really understand it, though.

When “though” begins a dependent adverb clause, the clause is punctuated according to the rules for adverb clauses.

Happy punctuating!