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Punctuation or Chaos
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 sentence
is complete. As it stands, we don’t know whether “she” or “I” saved the company. We don’t even know who was talking.
• She said I saved the company.
• She said, “I saved the company.”
• “She,” said I, “saved the company.”
Without punctuation marks, a sentence is thrown into chaos. So please spend a few minutes assessing your punctuation proficiency by taking the quiz below.
The answers directly follow the test.
* NOTE: This quiz addresses punctuation rules and conventions of American English.
A) The ship arrives at 8 p.m.. Be on time.
B) The ship arrives at 8 p.m. Be on time.
C) A and B are both correct.
A) The teacher said, “This is an example of ‘an eye for an eye.’ ”
B) The teacher said, “This is an example of ‘an eye for an eye’.”
C) The teacher said, “This is an example of ‘an eye for an eye’ ”.
A) Lamar is a bright, happy, child.
B) Lamar is a bright happy child.
C) Lamar is a bright, happy child.
A) If I may be perfectly frank I think it’s a bad plan.
B) If I may be perfectly frank, I think, it’s a bad plan.
C) If I may be perfectly frank I think, it’s a bad plan.
D) If I may be perfectly frank, I think it’s a bad plan.
A) Ask me Wednesday. We will know more then.
B) Ask me Wednesday; we will know more then.
C) A and B are both correct.
A) We have come up with a travel choice for this summer; Mexico City.
B) We have come up with a travel choice for this summer: Mexico City.
C) A and B are both correct.
A) The four siblings can read each other’s minds.
B) The four siblings can read each others’ minds.
C) The four siblings can read each others’s minds.
D) The four siblings can read each others minds.
A) All the student’s favorite teacher is Mrs. Baines, but Mrs. Baine’s idea of a good time is fishing.
B) All the students’ favorite teacher is Mrs. Baines, but Mrs. Baine’s idea of a good time is fishing.
C) All the student’s favorite teacher is Mrs. Baines, but Mrs. Baines’ idea of a good time is fishing.
D) All the students’ favorite teacher is Mrs. Baines, but Mrs. Baines’s idea of a good time is fishing.
A) Our daughter is two-years-old now.
B) Our daughter is two years old now.
C) Our daughter is two-years old now.
D) Our daughter is two years-old now.
A) After reviewing the up to date documents, she pushed for environmentally-friendly practices.
B) After reviewing the up to-date documents, she pushed for environmentally-friendly practices.
C) After reviewing the up-to-date documents, she pushed for environmentally-friendly practices.
D) After reviewing the up-to-date documents, she pushed for environmentally friendly practices.
A) These are just words on paper- you can choose to disagree with them.
B) These are just words on paper - you can choose to disagree with them.
C) These are just words on paper—you can choose to disagree with them.
D) A, B, and C are all correct.
A) I hope you enjoyed yourself (why do I worry about that?).
B) I hope you enjoyed yourself (why do I worry about that?)
C) I hope you enjoyed yourself (why do I worry about that.)
D) I hope you enjoyed yourself (why do I worry about that).
1. B) See Periods, Rule 2
2. A) See Quotation Marks, Rule 7
3. C) See Commas, Rule 2
4. D) See Commas, Rule 4a
5. C) See Semicolons, Rule 1a
6. B) See Colons, Rule 1a
7. A) See “Each Other vs. One Another” (Newsletter of
Sept. 29, 2015, tenth paragraph)
8. D) See Apostrophes, Rules 1c and 2a
9. B) See Hyphens, Rule 4
10. D) See Hyphens, Rules 1 and 3
11. C) See Hyphens, intro (first paragraph)
12. A) See Parentheses, Rule 2b
Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com’s “Grammar Blog.”
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Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual similes and metaphors found in high-school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here is a selection of one year's winners:
From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.