A Note on “Yes” and “No”

When “yes” or “no” is repeated, there are two options: periods or commas. If we want to get technical, if the words are repeated quickly with no pauses, use commas; if the words are said distinctly with pauses in between, use periods. I think this is an OWCATS situation. If you like, choose one option and use it all the time.

…No, no, no. There were many other solutions that we could have tried. (said quickly without pauses)
…No. No. No. There were many other…. (said more deliberately with pauses between)

Happy punctuating!


“A Half” Versus “One Half” and Others

In making this distinction, you choose the way it is transcribed depending on how verbatim you want to be. When “eighteen and one half” is said, then it is a mixed number, and the rule says that mixed numbers should be transcribed in figures.

…It is 18 1/2 feet long.

When “three and three fourths” is said, then this mixed number is in figures.

…We need 3 3/4 cups of sugar.

The “issue” arises when “a half” is said or “three quarters” is said. “A” and “quarters” are not really numbers. So for those who want to be “verbatim,” these numbers must be written out in their entirety.

…It is eighteen and a half feet long.
…We need three and three quarters cups of sugar.

This format is never correct.

…72 and a half…

Happy punctuating!


P.S. on the Word “Number”

When the word “number” and the number itself delineate an item in a list, it is best to write both of them out to avoid some confusing situations.

…They were, number one, $243; number two, $867; and, number three, $674.
…They were, No. 1, $243; No. 2, $867; and, No. 3, $674.

The second one is just not easy to read. For that reason, I think it is best to follow the example in the first sentence and simply make that the standard.

Happy punctuating!


A Different Meaning for the Period or Semicolon Before “Is That Correct?”

Deciding¬†to use¬†a¬†period versus a semicolon before “Is that correct?” and expecting your reader to distinguish that they¬†mean something different is¬†an exercise in extreme subtlety. This distinction has been pushed around out there for a long time.

…You testified that he arrived at 9:00; is that correct? — meaning is it correct that you testified to this?¬†
…You testified that he arrived at 9:00. Is that correct? — meaning is it correct that he arrived at 9:00?
I am just not sure that¬†anyone looks at the period and says, “Ah. It means X,” and then looks at the semicolon and says, “Ah. It means Y.” That is, I just am not sure that this distinction is “obvious” from the punctuation. You certainly may¬†use this difference if you want, though it is not really a “rule” that you are going to find in any standard English reference.
And, by the way, if the answer is “Yes,” then the question just wasn’t effective anyway.
Where a period instead of a semicolon really should be used is the situation where you have a very long question with a bunch of “facts” in it. Then a period and probably even a paragraph before “Is that correct?” is the best punctuation.
Happy punctuating!

“Too” and “Also”

The words too and also generally do not need commas with the exception of also at the beginning of the sentence.


Historically too and also had commas before them at the end of the sentence.¬† Since the words are just plain adverbs, there was never really a need to use those commas. They have been dropped — many years ago, in fact.

…She was in the room at the time too.
…We need another copy of it also.


In the middle of the sentence, too and also are simple adverbs, and there is still no need for commas.

…He too needed to complete the project.
…The contract also needs to be read.


Though too would rarely be used at the beginning of a sentence, if it were, it would not take a comma after it.

Also, on the other hand, when it occurs at the beginning of a sentence, is a conjunctive adverb of more than one syllable and needs a comma.

…Also, we will take a look at his health.

Happy punctuating!


When the Date Is an Adjective…

Take a look at the two basic ways that commas are used: All commas are used to either separate two language elements and push them apart or to surround a language element. The latter implies that the element, if lifted out of the sentence, would take both commas with it and leave a grammatically complete sentence behind.

…As the session began, it seemed there was no agreement.
…Do you intend to prolong this, Counsel?
…It is futile to continue this discussion, in my opinion.

…It seemed, as the session began, there was no agreement.
…Do you, Counsel, intend to prolong this?
…It is futile, in my opinion, to continue this discussion.

The question has recycled lately on FB regarding whether or not to use a comma after the full date when it is a direct adjective. This discussion also applies to the city/state combination as a direct adjective. The rules above do not change because the full date or the city/state are direct adjectives.

…I am referring to the January 8, 2015, letter that he sent.
…I am referring to the January 8 letter that he sent.
…I am referring to the January 2015 letter that he sent.

…It is the Rochester, New York, location.
…It is the Rochester location.

The confusion here comes from a rule that says to not use a comma between the adjective and the noun it modifies. That rule refers to a single separating comma. A pair of commas can go anywhere.

Happy punctuating!



Those Darn Hyphens

If a noun is listed as separate words, then it stays separate words — and is not hyphenated — as a direct (right in front of the noun) adjective.

…He is in real estate.
…He is a real estate broker.

…He is in high school.
…He is a high school senior.

This gets a little crazy since it means that words need to be looked up even more frequently.

…Odds and ends are being taken care of.
…It is an odds and ends job.

Happy punctuating!