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Posts Tagged ‘Commas’

Dear readers (and, I hope, fellow lovers of language):

I need a break from the 2016 election.

Let’s talk about the serial comma (also called the Oxford comma) for a moment. We’ve all seen the following to advocate for its use:
why-use-the-serial-comma

But here’s the thing: I would use a colon to clarify if I really meant that JFK and Stalin had side jobs. My sentence would read:

We invited the strippers: JFK and Stalin.

If I meant that JFK, Stalin and some ladies working their way through college were all coming to the party, I would write:

We invited JFK, Stalin and the strippers.

I’m a fan of improving clarity by rewriting. No need to overwork the comma and use it for a simple series.

However, we cannot give the comma a gold watch and say goodbye. We still need it. And some people certainly appreciate it. (Read this from the bottom up.)

Email courtesy of 36-hour Tina

Email courtesy of 36-hour Tina

 

We also need articles or bad things happen.

 

Image courtesy of Shane Marshall Brown

Image courtesy of Shane Marshall Brown

A “the” before “pen” would have made all the difference. (Or even a bigger space before “is.”)

What we don’t need is random quotation marks — not even one random quotation mark, as seen in the photo below. (By the way, quotation marks come in pairs. That’s how they work. But if the signmaker had added another, we’d be wondering what the dogs are actually doing.)

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Image courtesy of Angela DeVore

Please send me your sign/email/meme fails in the comments or via Twitter (@BethCon5). I think we all will be needing more election breaks over the next 45 days.

Love,
Beth

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Dear Georgia Department of Revenue:

It’s been more than three weeks since I dutifully mailed in my 2015 tax forms. Your federal counterparts (i.e., the IRS) cashed my payment check the day they received my forms. Yet I’m still waiting for my refund from you.

Usually I file electronically and get my refund lightning fast. However, thanks to some asshat who tried to steal my identity on a federal return (little did they know that I am not a federal refund kind of gal), I had to mail in the forms.

So now I’m wondering, “Where’s my refund?” It’s a common-enough question that you have a web page devoted to the answer. Let’s break it down:

You cannot help me by phone (no number given) or walk-in (Where would I go to do that in Savannah?) until 30-45 days have passed. I repeat (and so do you): 30-45 days. That is an eternity in today’s instant-gratification society.

Oh wait: You have a portal to allow tracking.

Great!

I signed up. I received this response when I tried to track my refund:

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 3.23.10 AM

 

What is the freakin’ deal?

Comma splice aside (What? No one to proofread? There should be SOMEONE, given the fact that employees aren’t tied up helping people for 30-45 days or so), I promise I entered the correct information. I’m looking at my tax forms. I used my SSN to log in, for crying out loud.

I don’t want to get all loud, Rihanna style, but I do want my refund.

I shouldn’t expect efficiency and logic from a government entity, but I do. I’m optimistic like that. So if you could get your act together, that would be great.

Yours in fiscal responsibility,
Beth

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Screen shot

Dear Mr. Rashid,

Thank you for your recent email, which appears to be a forwarded recommendation letter from Gregory T. Hagan. While I’m certainly happy Mr. Hagan was pleased with your services, it might behoove him to proofread his letter. As a writing professor and fan of the English language, I am mortified to see that the letter is one huge run-on sentence. Additionally, is “Hem” a person on your staff or is that your nickname? Or perhaps did Mr. Hagan mean “him” here? Why is his name misspelled in his email address, and why is it included at the end of the recommendation letter, making it look like that is the way to contact you?

If I had been asked to assist Mr. Hagan, I would have edited the letter to read as follows:

I am writing to recommend the services of Abdulla Rashid. I was in urgent need of a loan of $8,000 to pay my bills. A friend recommended Mr. Rashid, who helped me immediately. My family and I are now happy. Please contact him if you are in need of any kind of loan. 

I’m dismayed that you would use such a poorly written letter as the first contact with me. It really makes me wonder whether it would be wise to use your services when I have to question your attention to detail. And really, you should have written me yourself first, then provided his recommendation letter as a supplement.

Also, why is your organization offering loans in the first place? Your boilerplate indicates that you provide “innovative plastics solutions.” I see nothing on your website about loans and I see no Abdulla Rashid Salem Jumaan listed on the team biography page.

For these reasons, I must decline your implied offer to loan me money. Thank you anyway. Please send my regards to Mr. Hagan and encourage him to take an English composition course.

Sincerely,
Beth

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Sign makers are having a really tough time.

From Nate:

Do you have to wear a tux to work out?

From Charlotte:

Let's do a preposition review, shall we?

From Jacque:

And while we're at it, let's review apostrophes, commas and writing succinctly too.

From Aimee:

(Hmmm ... Where to start? ...) I don't know that I want to see someone with an "entergetic" face. And I'd rather experience a frappuccino in Starbucks.

From Whitney, via imgur.com:

Just as I'm passing on experiencing the meat clerks, I'm passing on this kind of dinner.

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‘Twas five days before Christmas when all through our house,
All creatures were stirring, except for a mouse.

In Naveen’s belly* it rested, all squeezed to a pulp.
(The boys loved watching the snake grab it and gulp.)

The children denied attempts to put them to bed —
Optimus, Bumblebee filling their heads.

And I with my chicken and Eddie with his dog
Had just settled down with some spiked eggnog

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.

Away to the front door we flew like a flash.
In our bare feet, we looked like white trash.

Out on the driveway something made our eyes hurt:
The guy next door again wasn’t wearing a shirt.

Then what to our watering eyes did appear,
But a strange being — just whom was not clear.

What this being was bearing gave me pause:
Poorly written signs? Must be Santa Clause!

More rapid than Bob Ross, these signs he produced,
And shouted the many mistakes he deduced:

“No comma! No period! And what’s with the quotes?
A misspelling here – Just see what they wrote!”

To the step of the porch he came with his haul.
“Let’s slash away, slash away, slash away all.”

“Get me your stylebook, and Strunk and White too.
They must learn the difference between whom and who.”

Eddie looked at us and in a manner quite snide,
Said, “You two have at it, I’m going inside.”

And then in a twinkling, I fetched my Mac Air
And my iPhone as a camera to capture signs there.

As I drew closer to my mysterious guest,
I noticed something odd: He was kind of a mess.

He was dressed all in things that I write about
From snack food to rednecks – how’d he find out?

A bundle of Utz chips he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a vendor, just opening his pack.

A mask – just like Batman! His shoes? Birkenstocks!
His jeans were jacked up, Dixie flag as a top!

His mouth was covered in hot cheeto dust
And the beard of his chin was colored like rust.

The stump of a Sharpie he held tight in his yap,
To give to the kids for their skin art crap.

He had a broad face, around which headphones
Blasting some KISS – thank God — not the Stones!

He was chubby and plump – hadn’t been to the gym.
So I suggested that later I’d go there with him.

He winked with his eye, then his head he did nod,
And I knew right then he’d been reading my blog!

We spoke not a word, but went straight to our work.
“If we fix all these signs, does that make us two jerks?”

Laying his writing hand aside of his knee,
He nodded his head, and we laughed with glee!

It took us a while; we edited with passion.
Then he left – but I have loads of blog rations!

I heard him exclaim ‘fore he strode out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good write!”

* Naveen is the ball python we are snake-sitting for the break

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Just in time for Christmas, I offer you this gift of poorly executed signage.

The extra "e" gives it extra flavor, I bet.

Hmm ... La Guardia sign creators must not know the rule about using plural verbs with Latin plurals (although I grant that the rule is changing). (Photo courtesy of 36-hour Tina.)

Elizabeth sent this to me because I'm "special." I'm not sure if I should be offended.

Elizabeth also sent me this. I don't even know where to begin with this mistake medley. Make your own attempt in the comments section!

In addition to the seven exclamation points, this sign is frightening because it reveals that J.P. Morgan's entire fire alarm system hinges on this cord in this outlet. (Photo courtesy of 36-hour Tina.)

'Tis the season for extra apostrophes. (Image courtesy of Wigs -- er -- Lisa).

Happy holidays!

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On this day of thanksgiving, I am thankful for family, friends, health, a great job, and all of the usual things.

And I’m also thankful for punctuation.

  • Quotation marks: Thank you for telling us when someone else starts talking and finishes, helping us recognize exact language in other instances, and also when a word is not being used in its usual sense. I feel awful that people incorrectly use you to emphasize a word.
  • Parentheses: Without you, we would not know that the writer is offering an aside (information that is useful, but not crucial).
  • Brackets: You are underused, I think, because people don’t know what to do with you. You set text apart, insert some information, identify clarifications, enclose missing material, and help out in math. Perhaps you are not as common as [several other marks] but you are useful nonetheless. Thanks!
  • Ellipsis: People like to add to you. But it’s nice that you have just three simple characters … and that you show that the writer omitted something.
  • Hyphen: Thank you for connecting words to modify a noun. Without you, the phrase “dirty-movie theater” wouldn’t be as interesting. We also appreciate the way you create numbers, show time periods and create fractions.
  • Dash: You are another mark with substance — like a super hyphen — to show change in thought or that the speaker has been interrupted. Thank you for your heavy lifting. (Note: I’m talking about the “em dash” here. AP Style doesn’t recognize the “en dash,” so I don’t either.)
  • Question mark: Do you know how useful you are? Thank you for allowing us to ask a question. And in Spanish, you get all fancy!
  • Exclamation point: You are the sad victim of abuse. It’s terrible! When used sparingly, you provide an element of excitement. Thank you!
  • Apostrophe: Thank you for letting us know what belongs to whom, and when some letters are missing. You’re the best!
  • Comma: We appreciate your ability to link similar items, but also show difference.
  • Semicolon: You’re like a super comma; we celebrate you because you are completely awesome.
  • Colon: You are more substantial than a comma or semicolon, but not quite as burly as a period. In addition to making introductions, you do other important things: separate hours from minutes, chapter from verse, and two numbers in a proportion. Thanks.
  • Period: We celebrate your ability to end a thought. Period.

Thank you, handy symbols — not just today, but every day!

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