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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Apostrophes

Comma Chameleon

Posted on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, at 11:28 am

I realize that on the grand scale of interesting things, punctuation is pretty far down the list. (In a recent survey, it was in a dead heat with stovepipes, just behind pocket lint.) Punctuation is a dying art. I’m not sure whether this is the writers’ or the readers’ fault, but I mostly blame the …

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Apostrophes with Words Ending in s

Posted on Wednesday, November 2, 2016, at 10:15 am

While normal people wonder about apostrophes in general, believe it or not, word nerds have heated arguments over whether to use an additional s with singular possession. Rule 1: Many common nouns end in the letter s (lens, cactus, bus, etc.). So do a lot of proper nouns (Mr. Jones, Texas, Christmas). There are conflicting …

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Pop Gets It Wrong

Posted on Monday, October 3, 2016, at 8:15 pm

Misinformation spreads like bedbugs. For centuries, humans have clung to articles of faith gleaned from parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, authority figures, community leaders, and other notoriously unreliable sources. These rumors, superstitions, misinterpretations, urban legends, and baseless theories are often nothing more than quaint, harmless nonsense. Then again, try telling that to those who …

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Pop Tunes and Grammar

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2016, at 5:55 pm

For many years I’ve had a framed drawing sitting on my bookshelf. It’s from the New Yorker magazine, and it’s by the brilliant cartoonist Roz Chast. It depicts a record album titled Miss Ilene Krenshaw Sings 100% Grammatically Correct Popular Tunes. Songs include “You Aren’t Anything but a Hound Dog,” “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing …

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You Can’t Coin What’s Already Coined

Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2016, at 12:24 pm

Sometimes you hear statements like this: They threw him under the bus, to coin a phrase or To coin a phrase, he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Those who say such things do not understand coin a phrase. You cannot coin a phrase that other people have already used. When you use phrases …

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A Sportswriter Cries “Foul!”

Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, at 1:30 pm

by Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist The hyphens are coming, and beware—they’re taking over. Commas, not so much. Commas have gone extinct. These are a couple of my pet peeves when it comes to grammatical violations in print. More on that later. In the meantime: Somehow, a guy named Al showed up in …

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Confessions of a Guerrilla Grammarian

Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, at 10:01 am

I was on a mission. It was dicey. It was bold. It had cloak-and-dagger undertones, although the weather was too balmy for a cloak, and rather than a sharp weapon I was wielding a Sharpie Permanent Marker. Let me set the scene. I live in a charming little tourist trap in Northern California. A couple …

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Copy Editors Are People Too

Posted on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, at 9:38 am

There can’t be many books about the life and adventures of a professional word doctor, but one that came out in 2015 is definitely worth a look. It’s Between You and Me, by Mary Norris, a longtime New Yorker copy editor who calls herself a “comma queen.” Norris admits that the book’s very title is a grammar lesson: …

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Punctuation or Chaos

Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, at 9:43 am

She said I saved the company No one knows for sure what the above sentence means. It consists of six everyday words, and the first five are monosyllables, yet this simple declarative sentence has at least three quite different meanings—maybe more, because with no period on the end, the reader can’t even be sure the …

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Media Watch: Pronouns, Punctuation, Word Choice

Posted on Tuesday, February 9, 2016, at 3:19 pm

Let’s begin this installment of “Media Watch” with a headline we could do without: • “Manning and Co. bring in ’da noise” Did you catch it? Why the apostrophe? It should not be there unless one or more letters are omitted from the front of da (like the missing be in ’cause). That’s not the …

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