June 4, 2009  •  Dyske

Someone else’s

Is “someone else’s” grammatically correct? Every time I type, the spell-checker reminds me that it’s wrong. There are a lot of discussions online about “passers-by” vs. “passer-bys”. The general consensus, from what I saw, is that the former is more correct. If this is true, shouldn’t it be “someone’s else”? I personally feel that “passer-bys” is more correct, especially when you remove the hyphen (”passerbys”). It’s more consistent with other words like “blastoffs” and “playoffs”.

May 2, 2009  •  brie

Dashes when saying year-olds

I have a question about when to use hyphens. For example, do I have a five-year-old dog or a five year-old dog?

October 19, 2008  •  kangnamgu

Find the error

Working from a textbook, one exercise requires students to find the error in different sentences. Can anybody find the error in the following sentence? *The painting of the Buddha, that has nine figures, made the religion more concrete to believers in 13th-century Tibet.* The sentence refers to a picture in the book of a painting of a Buddha with several other figures (bodhisattvas) around it. Sections of the sentence is underlined. I will use square-brackets to indicate the underlined sections. The error should be with one of these underlined sections. Here is the sentence again: The painting of the Buddha[, that has]{A} nine [figures,]{B} made the religion more [concrete]{C} to believers in [13th-century Tibet.]{D} The Teacher’s Edition of the textbook says that the error is with {A}. If this is correct, what is wrong with it? Thanks!

July 5, 2008  •  karenmetrin

Numbered List of People

I need to list the people in a photo, below the photo. The picture will be framed, not in a magazine, etc. What is the proper punctuation? The way I originally typed the names follows but I am ready to finalize the layout and want to know the proper format. The way I have it now: 1. Catherine, March 11, 1874; 2. Alice Bell, July 8, 1875; 3. Birdie Alberdine, February 14, 1877; 4. Mary Adella, November 15, 1879… and so on for eight people. If I number each person, is additional punctuation required between the names as I have typed it or do the numbers stand alone? Should the individual names even be numbered? I am really not certain what the proper format is. I am on a deadline to complete this restored photo and layout for a client so a prompt reply would be greatly appreciated.

June 22, 2008  •  julie

Pluralization of “Stachewicz”

So, for a last name like “Stachewicz”...would it be The Stachewiczs or the The Stachewiczes?

May 27, 2008  •  kaitlin

Questions in Bulleted Lists

Is it appropriate to use a bulleted list in a question? Example: Which type of flour would you use for the following items: - bread - cake - cookies Would you put a question mark at the end of each bullet? Would you only use a question mark at the end of the last bullet? Does the sentence need to be re-worded?

May 8, 2008  •  mareen

Possessive when abbreviated letter is plural

If our organization is called Help for Kids and we want to use the abbreviation HFK . . . is this correct usage in this sentence: HFK’ activities will start in the summer. With the K standing for Kids and Kids being plural, would this be correct use of the apostrophe at the end of HFK’?

April 28, 2008  •  perplexed

semi-colon and colon in one sentence

I have a sentence with which I am struggling because I am not sure if I can use both a colon and semi-colon in it. However, I want everything in one sentence and cannot figure out what other punctuation I should use. Here’s the sentence with names and details altered for anonymity. “I am indebted to my family, especially my cousins: Jane Smith, my first teacher, without whom I would not be where I am today; and John Smith, my second teacher, who taught me more than he could have possibly imagined.” The colon is setting up a list and the semi-colon is separating items in the list that contain commas. Thoughts? Thanks in advance.

March 18, 2008  •  sarah4

Spelling with mixed cases

I recently gave a class of six year olds a spelling test and saw that many of the children were spelling words with the correct letters but had used capital letters at the beginning, middle or end of a word. Is a word that has the correct letters but some of them are in capitals still considered to be correctly spelled?

September 30, 2007  •  Dyske

Do’s and Don’t's

“Do’s and Don’t's” is a popular phrase, but the punctuation of it seem to vary for “don’t's”. What should it be? Dont’s or Don’t's

September 1, 2007  •  Dyske

What is this triangular symbol?

While waiting for the subway to arrive, I noticed this mysterious symbol between “PRINCE” and “ST.” This is not a mistake of any kind. All of the signs at the station had this little triangle, and whoever created these signs put a significant amount of effort in inserting it. (Just look at how it is tiled.) Obviously this was something important for the artist who created this mosaic sign. What could it mean? It could not be a dash. Firstly, a dash would be inappropriate for this context. Secondly, if it were meant as a dash, it would have been much easier to draw a straight line out of these square tiles (instead of a triangle). (FYI: This is New York City.)

August 13, 2007  •  amandacox


I constantly see apostrophes used in ways I believe are incorrect. I am wondering anyone can confirm for me, though. For example, I often see “Temperatures will reach the high 90′s today...” Aren’t apostrophes only used to show possession or in contractions? For example, “This sweet ride isn’t (cont.) mine; it’s (cont) Jessica’s (poss).” Also, how would I word something to the effect that everyone is coming to the house that my husband, Mike, and I own? “Everyone is coming to Mike’s and my house.”?

June 29, 2007  •  ian

Punctuation of Ltd.

Let us say I received a box of apples from Joe Jones, Ltd. Would I write: “Joe Jones, Ltd., sent a box of apples.” or “Joes Jones, Ltd. sent a box of apples.”? Notice that the first example has one more comma. Thanks!

March 2, 2007  •  catherine

Hyphenating percentages

Is it proper to hyphenate percentages if they’re modifiers? Example - a 20 percent increase. I’m trying to determine this by Associated Press standards.

December 18, 2006  •  soup

Pet names and capitalization.

Are common pet-names capitalized as per proper names i.e. when writing to a loved one, which of the two is the better option? -Hello darling- or -Hello Darling-

November 5, 2006  •  cate

Capitalizing Directions

When do you capitalize directions? ie) Uncle Henry flew south for the winter.

September 1, 2006  •  siang

Hyphens conundrum

1. The much talked about question; or The much-talked-about question. If hyphenation is not required, would hyphenation make it wrong, and vice-versa. Though I’d definitely hyphenate the following: “The much-talked-about-but-never-dealt-with question”. No? 2. I like groceries shopping; or I like groceries-shopping. Same for things like coat(-)checking, floor(-)scrubbing, etc. How about: The groceries-shopping tedium; coat-checking etiquette; etc. Would it be okay if you don’t hyphenate them? 3. Behaviour is context dependent; or Behaviour is context-dependent. The page is content heavy; or The page is content-heavy. Likewise, if hyphenation is required, would the lack of hyphenation make it wrong, and vice-versa. 4. The end of school vacation; or The end-of-school vacation. A not so surprising accident; or A not-so-surprising accident. Again, the same question applies. Especially for the first case, since not hyphenating it would possibly change its meaning: The end of *the* school vacation vs. The vacation that happens at the end of school. Thus, can anyone, without hyphenating it, argue that they mean the latter?

August 24, 2006  •  davidjones

Quoting text within a quotation

I’m curious about the correct way to punctuate something like the following: David found a note that only had a few words written on it. “I’m too tired to walk.” Is there a correct way to do this without quotation marks. I’ve seen hyphens used in some instances but that seems incorrect.

July 24, 2006  •  ngungo

Parentheses vs. Square Brackets

From Jim Van: “If the Recovery (read it Money) is in the millions [of dollars], even 4 decimal places would make a SIGNIFICANT figures.” Question: What difference in use between parenthesis and square brackets?

June 7, 2006  •  emilykingston

I wonder why?

On page 89 of “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”, Lynne Truss writes, “I wonder why?” Many people put a question mark at the end of this phrase, but to me it doesn’t seem like a question. Isn’t it a statement? “I wonder” is a statement. “Why” is a question in and of itself. In this context, though, the question mark is not making sense to me.

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