I'm happy to announce that not all grammar books are a tedious read! Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss is actually chuckle-to-yourself funny and enjoyably educational.
We read and discussed it for this month's book club and my grammar ghosts have been haunting me ever since. I've been particularly spooked these last few days because someone said to me (in reference to my blog), "I'm just glad you learned how to spell quesadilla!" And she went on to tell me that I was incorrect by spelling "voila" as w-a-l-a. Oops! While my friend's tips were a healthy yet painful jab to my pride, I'm thankful to have things like that pointed out to me--it makes me a stronger writer and it makes grammar/spelling sticklers happier, and I'm an aspiring stickler myself. So, anyone who reads my blog and cringes when I misspell or mispunctuate, please feel free to speak up. I welcome and appreciate it!
Anyway, I tossed my grammar questions into the pot of punctuation discussion we had stewing at book club the other night and got some good answers, but I still came home uncertain and confused about a few things, and I think I managed to spark some confusion myself. So, I picked my three most nagging grammar questions and went on the hunt for some solid answers that I understand, and thought I'd share my finds with you. I'm hoping I'm not the only one who could use a refresher course in grammarese.
MAG's Grammar Q&A:
Q: I've heard and read that commas and periods always go inside quotation marks, but I so often see punctuation, especially commas, outside of quotation marks. What's up with that? Are there exceptions to that rule? I hate exceptions!
A: According to Media Writer's Handbook by George T. Arnold: Place commas and periods inside closing quotation marks. For example, "This is a moment I'll remember forever," the winner of the Pulitzer Prize said.
Avoid writing sentences like this:
Asked whether she would play in the tennis tournament even though she was injured, the star player said, "absolutely".
"She said playing with an injured elbow "doesn't bother me", and she went on to win the match in straight sets.
*This book also said to be aware that those outside the journalism and mass communications fields may not always place periods and commas inside quotation marks--no wonder I've been so confused! Not everyone has had my journalism style of an upbringing. And the book I'm referencing simply said avoid, not "don't you dare ever put commas and periods outside of quotation marks."
Q: This question may sound ambiguous, but I'm confused about the word "too." So often I see sentences like this:
Molly went to the store, too.
I want some ice cream, too.
(Maybe I see so many commas before the word "too" because I'm always writing them!) Is this correct? Should there be a comma in front of the word "too"? Mom???)
A: I searched and searched for an answer and found that I'm not the only one confused by this--it seems to be a matter of style and whether you want your reader to pause or not. I'll link you to what the Chicago Manual of Style Online has to say about this. So, I think I've been using commas before the word "too" a little too feverishly. It wouldn't be wrong to do so, but it isn't necessary unless you want the reader to pause for emphasis. Here's another helpful link: The Grammar Exchange.
I think I'll be omitting my commas before "too" from here on out! My bad.
Q: Back in college, I can remember getting emails from student editors that would say, "Hey comma Marie comma," or "Hi comma Marie comma." Are those commas after "hey" and "hi" really necessary? Is there a rule about it? You wouldn't write "Dear comma John comma," right? Help! I've always assumed those editors were right, but maybe they've led me astray.
A: I couldn't find an answer, so do any of you know??
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