Submitted by speedwell  •  March 9, 2004

Question about these things: { }

We always used to call these { } “wavy brackets.” Are they ever legitimately used in non-mathematical writing as, say, within-a-sentence punctuation?

Submitted by patoho  •  February 19, 2004

Colon and Semi Colon

When do I use colon and semi colon within a sentence?

Submitted by max2  •  February 13, 2004

Posessive aspostrophes

I tend to use the posessive S when you would actually bother to sound out the extra letter. In my head I hear the posessive “Jones’s” as “Jons-zz”

I also had a cat named Socks. If his name were to be made posessive, I wouldn’t put the extra S sound, so it’d just be “Socks’ ”

This is a little punctuation quirk I’ve picked up over the years. I doubt I’m correct. What’s the proper rule on this?

Submitted by speedwell  •  February 10, 2004

List Punctuation

My co-worker and I are having a fight over the correct end punctuation for items in a bulleted or numbered list. An example of this type of list could be a set of instructions for filling out an expense report form:

- Employee’s full name - Amount - If you entertained a client for the Davis deal, write client’s name and company next to the amount. - Job code (if applicable) - If you have no code assigned to your job, write PENDING in the space.

She says you must always use a period after each item, regardless of length. I say you must use a period only if the item is a complete sentence, and that if some of the items are sentences and some are not, the entire list must be rewritten to make it consistent. Yet another co-worker holds that you must never use a period after list items. We can’t all be correct (and maybe none of us are!).

Submitted by silvana  •  February 4, 2004

Double/Single Quotation Marks

This issue is killing me. I know that when writing dialogue, double quotation marks are used, as in,

“The road is icy and wet,” he said.

However, when putting quotation marks around a single word or phrase intra-sentence, what is the correct procedure? Especially if the usage is referring to some sentiment of sarcasm or a sort of contempt. I know that if it is a direct quotation from a person or book, magazine, etc., double quotes are used.

Should it be:

For ‘security’ reasons I was not allowed to bring my cell phone into the concert hall.



I mean, I suppose this is a direct quotation of the person who said it was for security, but in that case, when are single quotation marks used?!

Submitted by mukundsharma  •  December 9, 2003

rock ‘n’ roll

What kind of an inverted apostrophe should be used before n? Strictly speaking, I think it should be tail pointing downwards. But for reasons of aesthetics is it okay to use the one with the tail upwards?

Submitted by Dyske  •  July 22, 2003

Hyphen, N-dash, M-dash

What is the difference between a hyphen, an N-dash and an M-dash? How do you properly use them?

Submitted by Dyske  •  June 12, 2003

Spaces After Period

I know that you are supposed to put one space after a period if you are using a word processor, and two spaces if you are using a typewriter. But this doesn’t make sense. A space on a typewriter is wider than a space on a word processor (though it depends on the font you are using.). So, why would you put two spaces on typewriters?

Submitted by Dyske  •  March 18, 2003

Commas, Periods, and Quotation Marks

I know that commas and periods go inside quotation marks, but I can’t help breaking this rule. Firstly, they look better outside. Secondly it doesn’t make sense, at least to me. For instance:

From the crowd I heard, “apple!,” “orange!,” “grape!,” and “banana!.”

For each expression, the exclamation mark makes sense to be within the double-quotes because it functionally belongs to each person who is uttering it, but the commas do not. What the first person said is: “apple!” The comma has nothing to do with him. That is, he is not the one who is itemizing various fruits. As far as he is concerned, apple was the only thing he needed to express. Functionally speaking the comma belongs to the sentence, not to the expression. For me, it looks much better to write:

From the crowd I heard, “apple!”, “orange!”, “grape!”, and “banana!”.

This makes it clear what I am itemizing. Here is one quote, here is another, and so on..

Submitted by lee  •  November 5, 2002

Em dash

Do you need spaces before and after em dash? Blah blah—blah blah. Or Blah blah — blah blah.

Submitted by Dyske  •  November 2, 2002

Where are the commas?

Every native speaker has a different opinion about where the commas go when you list more than 2 words. Which is correct? “apples, oranges and grapes.” or “apples, oranges, and grapes”

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