punctuation = better communication
→Last week I was so focused on National Pancake Day, that I missed the memo about National Punctuation Day on 9/26 (I just saw that DEW did get a post up on our Facebook page; she’s good). Could this be because on a scale from 1-10, my love for pancakes stacks (way) higher? Yes. But, since punctuation is pretty darn important—and too often gets ignored—l’m going to give some belated love to the subject.
After all, using punctuation correctly not only tells your readers what you are saying, but how you are saying it. Things like tone and clarity are all affected by punctuation. If you know what you’re doing, “.,-_;’: can bring life and personality to your words. On the other hand, if you toss punctuation out the window, not only will your sentences be confusing to readers, your credibility will instantaneously drop. (For a laugh, check out these funny misuses of punctuation.)
Since there are too many rules to hit in one blog post, I thought we could focus on three of the mistakes that I’ve recently noticed people making most—especially on social media:
1) Putting apostrophes on acronyms:
According to PSU’s “Style for Students Online,” in technical writing, acronyms and numbers are frequently pluralized with the addition of an “s,” but there is typically no need to put an apostrophe in front of the “s.” Therefore, “SSTs” (sea surface temperatures) is more acceptable than “SST’s” when your intention is simply to pluralize. Ideally, use the apostrophe before the “s” with an acronym or a number only to show possession (i.e., “an 1860’s law”; “DEP’s testing”) or when confusion would otherwise result (“mind your p’s and q’s”).
2) Not hyphenating two-word adjectives: A single adjective made up of two or more words is called a compound adjective. The words in a compound adjective can be linked together by a hyphen (or hyphens) to show they are part of the same adjective. Choosing to (or not to) use a hyphen between two words can alter the meaning of your sentence. For instance, writing “a heavy-metal detector” implies a device that detects heavy metals, while “a heavy metal detector” describes something that detects metal and is heavy. (Thanks, grammer-monster.com.)
3) Using commas instead of semi-colons: A semicolon is most commonly used to link (in a single sentence) two independent clauses (a sentence that includes a subject and a verb) that are closely related in thought. When a semicolon is used to join two or more ideas (parts) in a sentence, those ideas are then given equal position or rank. Correct example: “She was a fabulous dancer; she danced at Juilliard.” Incorrect example: “She was a fabulous dancer, she danced at Juilliard.” This one gets a bit tricky, so for further clarification and a plethora of examples, visit UW-Madison’s handbook (go Badgers!).
If your head is starting to spin (mine is!) and you think you ought to purchase a go-to resource that will have the answers to all your punctuation questions in one place, hop over to Amazon and pick up Grammar Girl’s Punctuation 911: Your Guide to Writing it Right for. It’ll be $0.99 well spent.