More Hyphen Stuff…

When a prefix goes with both words in a hyphenated combination, do not add the prefix and make it solid word. Hyphenate the prefix.

…In your opinion, are the non-work-related conditions also disabling to Jane?

When a prefix goes with a compound that is separate words, do not add the prefix to make a solid word. Hyphenate the prefix.

…Please run down your post-high school job experience for me.

Happy punctuating!



Compound Question

When someone asks two questions and uses “or” in between, there are two options: Put a comma/semicolon before the “or” that separates the two sentences and a question mark at the end; or make it into two questions. When the questions are lengthy or there is a lot of other punctuation, it is probably best to break them into two separate sentences.

…Was it on Monday, or did you do that later in the week?

…Was that on Monday, September 5, 2017? Or did you and your husband, Bill, do that on Sunday, the 11th?
…Did you notice whether the man you were talking to was wearing a heavy jacket? Or did you not pay any attention to the clothing he had on that afternoon?

Happy punctuating!


Where to Put the Word “Only”?

The word only is very often misplaced in a sentence. Always put it just before the word that it refers to/modifies.

…I only have a dollar. 🙁
…I have only a dollar. 🙂

…She only listened to her brother. 🙁
…She listened to only her brother. 🙂

…He only knows where it is. 🙁
…Only he knows where it is. 🙂

…He only got one hit in the game. 🙁
…He got only one hit in the game. 🙂

And the list goes on and on.

Happy punctuating!


“The reason is…”

So many people make this mistake. My very favorite Dodgers announcer, Vin Scully, whose English was really excellent, made this error. And he is not alone. I heard it three times yesterday and had the news on for only an hour.

Once you say “the reason,” all other words implying the reason are unnecessary.

…The reason why is that she was ill. ?
…The reason is because she is ill. ? [This one leads the list!] …The reason is on account of she was ill. ?
…The reason is due to the fact she is ill. ?

The ONLY one that is correct!

…The reason is that she was ill. ?

Or you can omit the word “that.”

Just a little PSA from one who cares about the language.

Happy punctuating!


That Confusing “S”

When a proper name ends in “s” and we have to make it plural or possessive, it seems it is always a bit jarring.

There are several things to keep in mind:

First, when a surname has the word “the” in front of it, it is always plural.

…I saw the Cohens when I visited D.C.
…The Johnsons joined us for dinner.

Second, when a surname ends in “s,” the plural form adds “es.”

…I saw the Joneses when I visited D.C.
…The Hollises joined us for dinner.

Third, when making a surname that ends in “s” plural possessive, make the name plural first; then add the apostrophe.

…It is difficult to believe the Wilsons’ story.
…It is difficult to believe the McIntyres’ story.

…I rode with them in the Rosses’ car.
…I rode with them in the Hodgeses’ car.

When using a surname as an adjective, there are two equally correct ways to say it.

…He is currently living in the Nelson house.
…He is currently living in the Nelsons’ house.

…He is currently living in the Wells house.
…He is currently living in the Wellses’ house.

The distinction in the latter case is often diffcult to hear and particularly so when the next word begins with an “s.” Think “passenger side” versus “passenger’s side.”

(And, of course, I have to point out that I married my wonderful husband in part so that I would have that really cool name to use in these examples.)

Happy punctuating!


Sentences Joined by “And”

If there are several sentences that have a coordinate conjunction between them — usually this is the word “and” — it is correct to put a comma before the coordinate conjunction, the “and.” There seems to be some discussion that, when there is a string of these sentences, there is no need for the commas. I know of no such rule.

This is often called a “narrative,” which features several sentences strung together with “and.”

After two or three sentences like this, it is best to use a period and start the next sentence with “and.” And after six or eight lines, there should be a paragraph, which, yes, begins with “and.”


Okay. So I should not write a blog during the insomniac hours of my life — 4:30 A.M. I just reread it: “…who is just needs a better grasp….” Yikes. Why are those errors so easy to spot now?

And I violated a very important proofreading rule for these things: write the blog; proofread it; save it as a draft; do something else for a while; proofread it again. It is a great way to catch those little errors.

Anyway, my website is The book will be available on November 11, and it is $20 (plus CA tax, if you live in the state, and shipping) between now and the end of the year.

Happy punctuating!


“All Things English,” My Book with a Different Approach

As I am sure many of you agree, the lack of English skills of people in general is appalling. Whether it is grammar, punctuation, word pairs, spelling, or just general knowledge of English, people are just not learning even the most basic of English skills. Little or nothing is being taught about the language. High school students, college students, those entering our field where English is of supreme importance — we are hard pressed to find people who see a problem with “Where’s it at?” or “for all intensive purposes” or “seperate from mine” or “less chairs.” The list is endless.

We are all busy. We probably are not going to take time to undertake an intensive study, though we may need it, of the language.

So my attempt to help remedy the situation is my new book — a different tack for me.

–one vocabulary word in a sentence that more or less defines it
–one spelling word that is spelled incorrectly
–one idiomatic expression to be looked up
–one word pair with sentences to illustrate the meaning
–one fun English fact, a variety of stuff from punctuation to grammar to random rules

There are 120 “days” of these combinations and a “workbook” page to use to reinforce the information. The idea is to look up these words and expressions, write down the definitions, write the spelling word as many times as it takes to learn it, fit the word pairs into sentences, define the idiom and how you would use it — all intended to be accomplished in 20 minutes or so a day. That would be 20 fun-filled, challenging, and interesting minutes each day.

Perfect for your high school student who is just needs a better grasp, your college student who is struggling with writing papers, your significant other who is looking for that promotion at work — for you, who absolutely love the language and would view this book as the most fun you have had this year!

The book is at the printer and will be ready to ship on November 11. Order at

Happy punctuating!


The Word “Then”

When “then” means “at that time,” it does not take a comma as it is an adverb.

…He was then on his way to becoming successful.
…I saw them and then began to wonder what would happen.

If “then” is at the beginning of a sentence, it starts a new sentence and needs a semicolon or a period in front of it. If “and” is in front of it, the “and” is irrelevant and does not affect the punctuation.

…He walked into the house; then he began to shake.
…He walked into the house, and then he began to shake.
…And then I noticed the bug.

When “then” doesn’t have any meaning but is just a “throwaway” type word, it takes commas around it.

…Well, then, are you intending to leave that here?
…Are you saying, then, that you need this here?

Happy punctuating!


Does “:00” Mean “O’clock”?

I have not seen a written rule about “o’clock” equaling “:00” in a standard English text. I would love to have a reference for that rule. I know that many people were taught that. I have simply never seen it written as a rule.

There are three separate English rules for transcribing times.

I believe that, in our era of searchable documents, we should use time figures so that these can be found in a search.

SAID: We arrived at five.
TRANSCRIBE: We arrived at 5:00.

SAID: We arrived at five P.M.
TRANSCRIBE: We arrived at 5:00 P.M.

SAID: We arrived at five o”clock.
TRANSCRIBE: We arrived at 5:00 …….

If you want to be totally verbatim and the word “o’clock” is said, put the word into the transcript; if you think the “:00” already means “o’clock” and that this is redundant, then leave out the word.

Happy punctuating!