Bloody Well Write

September 24, 2009

National Punctuation Day®

Filed under: grammar,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 12:39 pm
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Today is Thursday, September 24, 2009 — the sixth annual celebration of National Punctuation Day (NPD). Punctuation ensures that groups of words make more sense and take on more meaning than you can shake a stick at.

Hooray for punctuation!

In 2004, NPD was founded by Jeff Rubin, a former newspaper guy. In 1981, Rubin started The Newsletter Guy, a newsletter publishing firm. Rubin is also a public speaker, addressing effective writing and marketing techniques. I bet that he also addresses the importance of proper punctuation — but that’s just a guess.

Check out the official Web site. It offers some of the standard stuff (e.g., definitions of each punctuation mark, examples of punctuation gone awry, a resources section); most notable, perhaps, is the information concerning the baking contest. Send in two photos of your masterpiece — one of it going into the oven raw and one of it coming out, all warm and yummy — and you may win a bunch of non-edible NPD stuff. How cool is that?! Very, I say.

Doesn't a bake-off seem like a better idea?! (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adactio/3367193003)

Doesn't a bake-off seem like a better idea?! (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adactio/3367193003)

OK, stop messing around here and go bake something with meaning, such as a semicolon or em dash. You know you want to.

Happy trails!

SAK

July 29, 2009

The interrobang: Say what‽

This gorgeous, little punctuation mark is currently making a name for itself in grammar circles and, hopefully, beyond.

“But what the heck is it‽” you exclaim (and rightly so, as it is an unusual beast).

The interrobang shows surprise and question

The interrobang shows surprise and question

Read the entire article.

April 10, 2009

Going postal

Filed under: grammar,Jajo,post office,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 3:36 pm
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Art imitates life. Or is it the other way around? Or maybe both, depending on the day? Today’s entry developed directly from one of my work experiences yesterday.

A few of us went to the main post office here in town to learn a bit about mailpiece design. (Yes, the one-word mailpiece is, according to the post office, a legitimate term, and since I’m discussing postal issues, I’m deferring to its spelling preference.) We even scored a tour. The bummer was that we were there during off-peak hours, so all the belts were stationary, no whistles were toot-tooting and no one was shouting orders to and fro. In fact, there were very few folks around. But there were some chicks (dyed bright green and orange, no less) in cartons, chirping their little lungs out, waiting to be shipped out in time for Easter.

But I digress.

We learned about acceptable sizes for letters and postcards — including the “official” tapping-an-envelope-through-a-slot-to-see-if-its-size-is-legit method — and whether or not we should design an envelope out of metallic paper (not recommended); but what really caught my attention was the shtick about addressing a letter or parcel, particularly the punctuation (or lack thereof) within an address.

Read the entire article at Bloody Well Write’s new location.

March 3, 2009

Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon

Man. If ever a piece of punctuation brought out the über-moxie in people (usually wordsmiths of some sort, but frankly, all sorts of folks fit in this ire-inspiring category), the comma is it. It’s complicated. It follows several rules and then breaks them with a wink and a smile. It’s the top dog in the you’re-crazy-if-you-think-you-can-get-away-with-putting-that-THERE contest.

All sorts of stylebooks and writing guides have their own (slightly different) version of the comma rules. Since journalists tend to follow the AP Stylebook, and since most “ordinary” folks are familiar with journalistic writing (via newspapers and magazines), here’s the skinny on how to use the comma according to AP regulations.

Generally, commas correspond to the pauses we use in our speech to separate ideas and to help avoid ambiguity. Place a comma:

• Before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, yet) that joins two independent clauses, unless the clauses are short or have no internal punctuation: John would have gone to the store, but he couldn’t find his pants. John would have gone to the store if he had his pants, for he was completely out of strawberry milk, but his car keys were in his pocket, and his boxers were a little too shabby to wear in public.

• Around a nonrestrictive phrase — a phrase that can be deleted w/o changing the meaning of the sentence: The power of any vampire, whether practiced or inexperienced in blood-sucking, depends upon an invitation into the victim’s home.

• To separate members of a coordinate series of words, phrases or clauses if all the elements are not joined by coordinating conjunctions*: To make a proper mud pie, you need water, mud, a bowl and a stick.

*Notice that there is NOT a comma directly before the “and.” This is in accordance with AP Stylebook regulations. If you ask me, though, I think the AP folks are out of their grammatical minds. MLA’s version (comma before the and in a series) is the right and obviously morally correct way to do things, in my not-so-humble and loudly typed opinion; always using the comma before the and clears up every ambiguous instance. But AP rules the proverbial roost, so I enforce the lack of the comma in my work. I’ve even stopped cursing the AP gods under my breath every time I see the situation in copy. Apparently, time is the ultimate healer.

• Before the concluding conjunction in a series if an element in that series includes a conjunction: Sue ordered a greyhound, a whiskey sour, a wheat beer, and a gin and tonic that night. (Some would argue that the second and, joining gin and tonic, should be changed to an ampersand (&). AP, and thus I, argues against it; the ampersand should only be used if it’s officially in the name of something, such as a company (e.g., Johnson & Johnson).

My parting gift to you: One way to tell whether or not you need a comma between adjectives is to consider the weight of each adjective. Try to add an and between the adjectives. If it works and still makes sense, the comma is necessary: a small, red dog = a small and red dog. If it doesn’t, the comma doesn’t belong: He went to a large public school (no comma after large).

And one last thing: Please don’t give me too much grief about the title of this entry. It is quite obvious, I know, but I couldn’t help myself. I grew up, in part, in the ’80s, so please don’t taunt me too much about my silly, nostalgic pun. My inner child will thank you for it.

Happy trails!

SAK

February 25, 2009

To semicolon or not to semicolon

Filed under: grammar,punctuation,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 5:27 pm
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Aye, there’s the rub. In this age of instant gratification, Twitter messages of fewer than 140 characters and abbrv. glr. (abbreviations galore), the semicolon is, indeed, a lonely piece of punctuation. Some days, I even fear that its extinction is imminent.

I’d hate to see that happen; it would be such a shame.

Let’s keep that sucker alive, shall we? Yes, indeed. But how? Well, here are a few pointers on how to correctly use a semicolon:

• The semicolon lies between the period and the comma in force (a stronger separation than a comma, but not as definitive as a period). Its use is limited but, at times, poignant as a transition.

• Place a semicolon between two closely connected independent clauses that are not joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, yet): My latest eBay purchase should have arrived last week; it arrived today.

• Use semicolons to separate elements of a series when individual segments contain material that must be set apart by commas: Included in the experiment were Janeane Garofalo, a writer, comedian, actor and political activist; Björn Borg, a former World No. 1 tennis player; Stephen Hawking, a scientist and mathematician; and Kermit, a hand puppet.

• The semicolon goes outside the quotation marks when separating two connected thoughts: He said, “I really want to lose weight and tone up”; what he really wanted was a full tub of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey and a can of whipped cream.

• The semicolon goes inside the quotation marks only when it applies to the quoted matter. Otherwise, it goes outside the quotation marks (when it applies to the entire sentence): She said, “I think I’ll have a cup o’ joe; it will solve all of my problems and I will be happy forever and ever.”

Easy as pie.

Don’t be afraid of the semicolon; it is your friend. Just remember that it is a friend you can handle for about an hour before it drives you up a freakin’ wall. Too much of a good thing is, after all, too much. Visit this friend, but limit each visit to a short span of time. Everyone’s sanity — including yours — is at stake.

Happy trails!

SAK

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