On My Soapbox

A discussion of this construction comes up about once a month. Is there or is there not a comma after “that” in the following sentence.

…I knew that, if I turned right, I’d get there sooner.

The sentence is “I knew that I’d get there sooner.”

“I knew” is the subject and verb of the sentence. “That I’d get there sooner” is a dependent clause that is a noun direct object.

In the middle of the noun clause — between “that” and “I’d get there sooner” — there is an adverb clause. An adverb clause that comes in the middle of what it modifies is surrounded by commas.

I am not sure how “I knew that” can be ignored and dismissed as “an expression.” It is the subject and verb for the sentence. It is not a throwaway. Since every word in every sentence with almost NO exceptions has a function in a sentence, we have to assign these words “I knew that” a function.

The word “that” is a pronoun that can point out something (as a demonstrative) or be a relative pronoun that begins a dependent clause. There is nothing else it can do in a sentence. In this sentence, it begins a dependent clause, “that I’d get there sooner.”

If “I knew,” in fact, are the subject of the sentence, then “if I turned right” cannot possibly be introductory since it does not begin an independent clause.

I know this rule from Gregg. I just don’t think there is any way that it matches the grammar of the sentence. You cannot just dismiss words in a sentence and call them “an expression.”

I would so like the authorities to back up their rules with a discussion of the grammar. I believe that all rules have to go along with the way English grammar works.

And with this explanation, I will let it go — until this comes up again. smile emoticon


I know this rule from Gregg. I just don’t think there is any way that it matches the grammar of the sentence. You cannot just dismiss words in a sentence and call them “an expression.”

Happy punctuating!


The Word “Number”

When the word “number” is said and is followed by a figure, it is abbreviated except when it begins a sentence since it would look like hte word “no.”

…It refers to Section No. 123.
…I am on page No. 15.

…Number 84 is not included here.

The plural of the abbreviation is “Nos.”

…I have read Nos. 15 and 16.

Happy punctuating!


Bumping Up the Comma to a Semicolon

The rule about “bumping up” the comma to a semicolon in a compound sentence with a coordinate conjunction has to do with obscuring the division in the sentence. Does the other punctuation “hide” the break between the two sentences? Is there other punctuation that makes it difficult to see where the first sentence ends and the second one starts? One comma alone does not do that. It takes at least two, and then they have to be close the the comma before the conjunction.
…I met with John, my boss, on Friday, July 12; and we went over the reports.
…She said that, when he left, he took it all with him; but his brother, his sister, and I refute that.
Happy punctuating!

An independent clause and a sentence are the same thing. And the first rule of all punctuation is that a comma goes before a coordinate conjunction that connects independent clauses. The fact that there are words in an independent clause that refer back to the first clause makes no difference.

There is, however, a very sophisticated rule that not a lot of people know: When a modifier that modifies BOTH clauses comes at the beginning of the sentence, the comma is omitted.

…When he showed me the letter, I was interested but I was not convinced.

…In the interim between now and two months from now, he will do research and he will come up with a plan.

Since the opening clause in the first and preposition phrase in the second modify both sentences, the comma is omitted.

Happy punctuating!


“Sometime/Some Time”

Some extra hints about the differences between one word and two:

“Sometime” as an adjective means “occasional” or “here today/gone tomorrow.”

…He is a sometime friend.

“Some time” is an adjective and noun combination. “Time” is the noun. There are times when it has to be two words because the grammar calls for a noun.

Here the word “time” is the main word in the expression. We don’t say, “Ago I saw him.”
…some time ago…
…some time back…

Here it is the object of the preposition, which always has to be a noun.
…for some time…
…in some time…
…at some time…

Otherwise, “some time” is two words when it means “a period of time.” Often, with this meaning, the word “some” can be left out.

…I have some time tomorrow.
…We spent some time discussing it.
…There will be some time for that later today.

“Sometime” is an adverb and means at “a point in time.” “Time” doesn’t work by itself here. And here the whole word can be left out.

…I will see you sometime this afternoon.
…We met sometime last week.
…She will be here sometime later.

Happy punctuating!


Clarifying Terminology

When we say, “Do not put a comma after ‘so,'” we are talking about a single separating comma. A pair of commas can go anywhere. There is never a single comma after “so.” We have this confusion often with this rule in several other contexts also.

…So when did you join the company?
…So, Mr. Anders, when did you join the company?

…So you were the liaison to the company sites worldwide.
…So, in other words, you were the liaison to the company sites worldwide.

Happy punctuating!


A Note About Lillian Morson

I keep seeing comments that Lillian Morson and I are contradictory. This just isn’t so. I would say that we agree on about 90 percent of the rules. There are a few “sticking” points between us, but they are truly few. Those are the ones that so often get brought up.

We know each other and have, in years gone by, talked about our differences. If Lillian were still active in the field, we would give seminars together and have a great time discussing our similarities AND differences.
There is truly room for both of us in this field. It is actually good for the field that we are both here.
Happy punctuating!

CCRA Education Liaison

I am happy to announce that CCRA and I are going to be “partners.” I am to be the education liaison, working to be sure schools are in the loop about what is going on in the field, helping students, and just generally being a cheerleader for the court reporters and court reporting students in California.

I am looking forward to being able to add in some small way to the work being done by CCRA in promoting court reporting interests in California and beyond.

Happy punctuating!


Happy New Year

Dear blog people,

If you remember a very successful Australian tennis player from the 1970s, Evonne Goolagong, you might remember that she had “walkabouts” — times when she just wasn’t with it, wasn’t concentrating, and played just terribly. (Walkabout historically refers to a rite of passage during which Indigenous male Australians would undergo a journey during adolescence, typically ages 10 to 16, and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months to make the spiritual and traditional transition into manhood.)

That is where I have been these past few months — on walkabouts. I would like to say I have made some major transition on these walkabouts, but mine have been more like Evonne’s.

However, I am back and dedicated to getting the word out about this beautiful language and promoting this fabulous profession.

Stay tuned for a major announcement in the next few days.

I hope your new year is off to a great start.

Happy punctuating!