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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

In and of Itself

Posted on Friday, January 19, 2007, at 3:16 pm

To many people, the phrase in and of itself sounds clunky and old-fashioned. However, when used sparingly—and correctly—it serves a purpose. Example: The weather was not, in and of itself, the cause of the traffic delays. vs. The weather was not the cause of the traffic delays. In both sentences, we understand not to blame …

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Commas Before and in a Series

Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007, at 8:58 pm

In American English usage, many writers and editors feel that a comma should precede and with three or more items in a series. Example: I would like to order a salad, a sandwich, and dessert. Newspapers and magazines do not generally use this rule as print space is too valuable to use on what might …

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Writing Addresses

Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007, at 6:42 pm

If you are writing an address, whether typed or handwritten, on an envelope to be mailed via the post office, the U.S. Postal Service recommends that you do not use any punctuation. Use all CAPS. Center the address on the envelope and use a flush left margin. Put room, suite, and apartment numbers on the …

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Use of Brackets

Posted on Tuesday, January 16, 2007, at 5:54 pm

Brackets are used for a number of purposes: Use #1: Sometimes, you may wish to clarify or add to an original quote. Put words that are being added to an original quote within brackets. Always put the changes in brackets, not parentheses. This tells your readers exactly how you have altered the original. Example: Original: …

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Affect vs. Effect Rules

Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007, at 3:57 pm

Knowing whether to use effect or affect may not qualify you as a genius, but you will be demonstrating an understanding about a grammar issue most people find perplexing. We trust that the strategies offered here will clear up any confusion you have had. Rule 1. Use the verb effect when you mean bring about or …

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Rules Do Change

Posted on Friday, December 1, 2006, at 8:54 pm

Spacing after periods, colons, question marks, and exclamation marks Originally, typewriters had monospaced fonts (skinny letters and fat letters took up the same amount of space), so two spaces after ending punctuation marks such as the period were used to make the text more legible. However, most computer fonts present no difficulty with proportion or …

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The Most Common Punctuation Error of All

Posted on Wednesday, November 1, 2006, at 9:09 pm

When asked what the most common punctuation error of all is in American English, I don’t have to think hard. The "winning" mistake is the misuse of the apostrophe, especially with its/it’s. First, let’s get rid of a myth: There is no such thing as its’. Why? Because its’ would be meaningless. If its' existed, …

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Using Commas, Semicolons, and Colons Within Sentences

Posted on Sunday, October 1, 2006, at 10:15 pm

Punctuation within sentences can be tricky; however, if you know just a few of the following rules, you will be well on your way to becoming a polished writer and proofreader. Rule: Use a comma between two long independent clauses when conjunctions such as and, or, but, for, nor connect them. Example: I have painted …

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Become a Better Writer Instantly, Part 1

Posted on Friday, September 1, 2006, at 9:55 pm

Here are some tricks of the editing trade that will make your writing look more polished instantly. Trick #1: Use concrete rather than vague language. Example of vague language: The weather was of an extreme nature. Example of concrete language: Thunderstorms tore open the sky, bringing a deluge of rain. Which sentence would make you …

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Who vs. Whom

Posted on Monday, May 1, 2006, at 3:46 pm

Let's crack the code for who and whom. It is easier than you might imagine. In addition, I will give you the technique for learning when to use whoever vs. whomever. The following are informal methods rather than rules; however, they really work! Rule: Use who when you could replace it with he. Example: Who/whom …

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