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!


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!

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!

Dependent Clauses

This is an email question from yesterday.

……Okay. Now, you told us, Ms. Ryan — right? — at one point you got up [, or ;] you left the room [, or ;] and you went to the bathroom. Is that right?

Amid all the other punctuation issues, the question is do we need semicolons or commas between the three elements at the end? It is easy to get distracted by all that stuff in the front of the sentence.

If we clear everything out, the sentence is “You told us you got up, you left the room, and you went to the bathroom.” Looked at like that, these are clearly dependent clauses with the word “that” missing each time. Therefore, it is a series of dependent clauses that needs commas between the elements.

And because of all of the other punctuation, a period before “is that right?” is best.

We just have so many opportunities to have fun!

Happy punctuating!


The Word “So”

When the word so means “therefore,” it starts a new sentence and takes a semicolon or period in front of it and no single comma after it because it is only one syllable.
…We left early; so I missed his phone call.
…The company had already fired him; so there was nothing I could do to help.
…The blue car ran the signal; so the accident was inevitable.
Absolute rule.
Happy punctuating!

The Adverb That Gets Bumped up to Conjunction

Sometimes an adverb gets pulled out to the beginning of a sentence to form a “bridge” to the sentence before it. It becomes a linking word for the two sentences and shows a relationship between the two sentences. This is called a conjunctive adverb. Some examples are

however, moreover, nevertheless, therefore, still, thus, yet, then

Generally there is a comma before a conjunctive adverb. When it has more than one syllable, it has a comma after it; when there is only syllable, there is no comma.

…He had sent her the money. He therefore expected a response.
…He had sent her the money; therefore, he expected a response.

…I had explained it several times. He still didn’t understand.
…I had explained it several times; still he didn’t understand.

Happy punctuating!


“i.e.” and Its Friends

These eight expressions are often used when something is being renamed or reiterated:

i.e., that is, e.g., for example, to wit, namely, for instance, in other words

The punctuation depends upon where they are in the sentence and/or what follows them. There are six rules; so we will do a few at a time.


If followed by a fragment, use a pair of commas.

…I bought a new car, that is, a VW Beetle.
…This is a very serious crime, to wit, murder.

If followed by a complete sentence, use a semicolon and a comma.

…She has to have surgery; i.e., she has to have a hysterectomy.
…He was late that day; in other words, he didn’t make it on time.

If followed by a list, use a colon and a comma.

…Send everything to me: for example, bills, receipts, canceled checks.
…I visited several Oregon towns: namely, Eugene, Portland, Salem, Bend.

Happy punctuating!


Parallel Construction and the Semicolon

…I arrived on Saturday; he arrived on Sunday.
…He resigned in 2010; she resigned in 2011.
…The first train leaves at 5:00 A.M.; the last train leaves at 10:00 P.M.

The Rule: When two sentences have NO conjunction between them and have parallel grammatical construction, use a semicolon between them.

This question always arises: Could I use a period? My answer is always why would you
pass up the opportunity to use a semicolon? This is one of the absolute semicolon rules.

Use a semicolon here! It belongs here! This is your chance! Be sophisticated!

Happy punctuating!


The Word “So” — Third Time Is a Charm?

So we had a discussion over on FB about “so” — again!

As you all know, I want us to punctuate according to the grammar that is going on in the sentence. I believe with my heart and soul that punctuation is an outgrowth of grammar most of the time.

The word “and” and the word “so” simply do not function the same in the language. “And” is a conjunction through and through. It does absolutely nothing else in the language except connect equal elements. When it connects two sentences, it has to have a comma in front of it.

…I walked over to the edge and looked down at the car.
…I walked over to the edge, and I looked down at the car.

So far, so good; right?

The word “so” is, by nature, an adverb.

…He was so very tired that night.
…She is so happy to have the job.

Sometimes we pull the word “so” out to the front of a sentence. When we do, it is STILL AN ADVERB, but it takes on the role of connecting the sentence it is part of to the sentence in front of it. Thus we call it a “conjunctive adverb.” It is just like “thus” and “still” and “then.”

…He had left the company; so he could not participate in this.
…We went through San Diego; so we did not stop to see her.

It starts a new sentence. When you put a comma in front of it, you create a run-on — the same as you would if it were not there and you were to use a comma.

…We sent it on Friday; so it should arrive no later than Monday.
…We sent it on Friday. It should arrive no later than Monday.

A comma in either of these sentences creates a run-on sentence.

The semicolon could always be a period; it can never be a comma. And the length of the sentence has nothing whatsoever to do with being able to put a comma instead of a semicolon or a period.

And the rule is that, if the conjunctive adverb is just one syllable, it does not take a comma after it.

I hope you will consider this and really take the time to analyze it from a grammar standpoint. Grammar and the way the words are functioning preclude the use of the comma.

Happy punctuating!


The Compound Sentence

I am going to start this topic today and will keep coming back to it over the next weeks. The question is what to do with an element that begins a second sentence after an and or but (or, nor).

One of the basic reasons to have punctuation is to sort out the structure of the sentence.

Cardinal Rule No. 1: When two sentences are linked by a coordinate conjunction (and, but, or, nor), there is a comma — or some punctuation — before that conjunction — end of story. Though there is a notation that the comma MAY be left out when the two sentences are short, that is a MAY rule, not a “You have to” rule.

The element that comes at the beginning of the second clause often causes a problem. There are so very many variables, and there are three choices: no commas at all, commas around it, or one comma after it.

In the case of a parenthetical, there are commas around it. When there are commas around it, the comma before the conjunction has to change to a semicolon so that it stands out. Marking the division of the two sentences is the most important mark of punctuation in the sentence.

…We had hired him in May, but he simply didn’t work out.
…We had hired him in May; but, in our opinion, he simply didn’t work out.
…We had hired him in May; but, well, he simply didn’t work out.

More to come on this topic.

Happy punctuating!