More on the Word “So” — Even If We Don’t Even Want to Go There Again

Facebook had a couple of interesting questions/examples on “so.” SO I thought it would be good to take a look at them. This is my answer to the questions about the word “so” in the FB sentence below.

…If, after a question has been posed to you, you have any question relating to what is being inquired about, please tell me before you answer the question. So just make sure you understand what you’re answering before you answer it.
“So” is both a subordinate conjunction, which begins a dependent clause (which we are not discussing here), and a conjunctive adverb, which begins a brand-new sentence, that is, an independent clause. The sentence above that begins with “so” is an independent clause, not a dependent clause. It is a command form. Therefore, the word “so” has a period or a semicolon in front of it.
…The reporter’s only able to transcribe audible responses, so things that can be heard.
In the example above, “things” is an appositive to “responses.” The word “so” does not have a complete sentence after it even though it probably means “therefore.” There is a comma in front of it.
…He arrived at 5:00; so he missed the meeting.
…He arrived at 5:00, so missed the meeting.

…I am out of the office today; so I will call you tomorrow.
…I am out of the office today, so will call you tomorrow.

Happy punctuating!


Watch Out for the Run-On

Remember that, even though there are little short sentences, they are still sentences if they have their own subject and verb and can stand alone. Punctuating them with a comma creates a run-on.

…That’s right. He was long overdue for the visit.
…Let’s see. I think it was May.
…He’s an adult. He needs to get a job.

…He works on Saturdays during the school year. He is not available.
…We mailed them out on a Monday. It was fine.
…She may have wanted more than that. I don’t know.

Would these be good places for a semicolon? No. The semicolon works only when the ideas are really closely related or the construction is parallel.

…He is at home; he is not at work.
…She likes to read; he likes to fish.

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!

“Yes” and “No”

I think we have done this recently, but here it is again.

There are several rules floating around on what comes after yes and no. The easiest and simplest is this: When the words after yes and no echo or repeat the words in the question, use a comma. Otherwise, use a period.

…Q Were you there on Friday?
…A Yes, I was.
…A No, I wasn’t.
…A Yes, I was there.
…A No, I wasn’t there Friday.

…Q Were you there on Friday?
…A Yes. I got there at 10:00.
…A No. I was working.
…A Yes. But I didn’t see him.
…A No. Because I was working.

…Q  Were you there on Friday?
…A  Yes. Correct.
…Q You were there Friday; is that correct?

…A Yes, correct.

There is no semicolon rule that works for this situation.

Happy punctuating!


The Fragment

One of the rules that we need most in this field:

Punctuate a fragment exactly the same way that you would punctuate the grammatically complete sentence that it stands for.

…Q  What time did you leave?
…A   I left at 10:00. I was a little late.

…Q  What time did you leave?
…A   At 10:00. I was a little late.

…I am sorry. I think I misspoke.
…Sorry. I think I misspoke.

…That’s okay. I will just ask the question again.
…Okay. I will just ask the question again.

…He had been in that position for ten years; is that right?
…He had been in that position for ten years; right?

And if you agree with the first four, you have to agree with the last one. 🙂

Happy punctuating!



Punctuation After “Yes” and “No”

When the words after yes and no “echo” the words of the question, use a comma.

…Q  Did you go with her?
…A   Yes, I did.

…Q  Were you the only one there?
…A   No, I was not the only one there.

Everything else after yes and no takes a period.

…Q  Did you go with her?
…A   Yes. Someone had to help her out.

…Q  Were you the only one there?
…A   No. My brother was with me.

But and because make no difference.

…Q   Were you able to be of assistance?
…A   No. Because I got there too late.

…Q  Did she come over later that day?
…A  No. But she did call.

Happy punctuating!


A Period or an Interrog

When there are two parts to a sentence and one is a statement and the other is a question, it is the one at the end that determines the terminal punctuation.

…What he wants to know is where were you going?
…The question I am asking is how far were you willing to take this?

…Where were you going? is what he wants to know.
…How far were you willing to take this? is the question I am asking.

I know there is an issue about the comma/colon after the word is in the first two questions. We will save that for another day.

Happy punctuating!


Greetings from WA State

This is one beautiful place. I am looking forward to seeing the WA reporters on Saturday for a second time this year!

After “yes” and “no,” we need to use a comma when the words after the “yes” or “no” echo the words of the question.

…Q     Did you see him later in the evening?
…     A     Yes, I did.
…     A     Yes, I saw him.
…     A     Yes, I did see him.

…Q     Did she have any other ideas for making things better?
…     A     No, she did not.
…     A     No, she did not have other ideas.

When the words after “yes” and “no” are anything else other than echoing the question, use a period after “yes” and “no.”

…Q     Did you see him later in the evening?
…     A     Yes. We had dinner together.
…     A     Yes. He came over to the house.

…Q     Did she have any other ideas for making things better?
…     A     No. She did not really care to contribute.
…     A     No. She did not pay any attention to it.

Happy punctuating!



The Word “So”

When the word so means “therefore,” it begins a new sentence and needs to be preceded by a semicolon or a period. It NEVER takes a single separating comma after it but can always have something after it that requires a pair of commas.

…We live near the beach; so there are issues with dampness and mold.
…The vegetation had grown up around the house; so we had to hire someone to clear it.

…So in the afternoon we left for the appointment.
…So we decided to accompany her.

…So, Your Honor, we will submit that in the morning.
…So, first, let me tell you my reasoning.

Happy punctuating!