This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.
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When including a complete sentence in parentheses, what are the rules? For example, someone just sent me this in an email:
“I always change some of the readings from semester to semester (for example, I am trying out the book on migration for the first time this semester and am not sure if I will keep it in the Fall).”
But I could just as easily see it written this way:
“I always change some of the readings from semester to semester. (For example, I am trying out the book on migration for the first time this semester and am not sure if I will keep it in the Fall.)”
Are both acceptable? Is one preferred?
Which ending punctuation sequence is correct for a question dialogue sentence containing a quotation within it?
a. ”Does the menu say, ‘no substitutions?’” asked Jo.
b. ”Does the menu say, ‘no substitutions’?” asked Jo.
In a sentence, there is the name of a company followed by an abbreviation, the initials of the company, in parentheses. The company name is a possessive in this sentence. Where does the apostrophe go? I want to know how this would work, as I am having trouble finding anything but advice to restructure the sentence, and I would like an answer that gives me what to do with the sentence as it stands.
Example: This policy sets a standard for determining access to Introspective Illusions (II) resources.
Would it be Introspective Illusions’ (II’s) or Introspective Illusions’ (II) or some other construction?
Should a rhetorical question end with a question mark?
I have a question about “;” and “—” as used in sentence structure. I prefer using — i.e. “He did not expect to meet anyone—the house had been empty for years—and was surprised to hear whistling from the upper floor.”
Now, as I wrote a line in my story, as sentence ran away from me and I ended up using a ; at the end, as well as the — and I got the feeling that maybe it had to be one or the other all the way through and not a mix. Anyway, the sentence (racial slur warning)
Rod had not let her buy the beer herself at first—not until father had gone down there and cleared up some misconceptions from that sneaky pool-digger—and hadn’t that been a fun day to be alive; now he just gave her sympathetic looks whenever she came to get beer for her father.
So, in such a sentence, is it right to use both the “—” and the “;”? I can always rebuild it, but it felt right to me somehow, even though I got uncertain about if it would sting in the eyes of others.
Could I use both a colon and semicolon in a sentence?
A college will provide help for students who are struggling in homework; the resources are: study skills that help students to be on top of coursework, counselors will give advices dealing with the workload, and the option to drop a class early.
For example, “Every morning, I wake up at 6:00 am and then I make a cup of coffee.”
As a writing teacher for international students, I see this kind of sentence all the time. I know it is technically correct to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction, but I have found that so many Americans omit this comma that it has become extremely commonplace even among native English speakers. Is it socially acceptable in writing to omit the comma? How serious is it to mandate that my international include this comma?
I imagine everyone uses an apostrophe with expressions of distance or time when the number is one:
It’s only an hour’s drive from here.
They live a mile’s walk away.
A stone’s throw away.
It follows that an apostrophe should also be used in the plural version, as stipulated by, amongst others, The Guardian and Economist style guides:
It’s three hours’ drive from here.
They live two miles’ walk away.
I notice the apostrophe is often dropped here, so my question is this - do you think the apostrophe:
is always optional?
is only necessary in formal writing?
is always necessary?
or that there is some other grammatical explanation that makes the apostrophe unnecessary?