Commas And Commas

andSomething that I see a lot in my daily proofreading is a comma before and. Apparently, the lessons in elementary school on serial commas or using commas in compound sentences have morphed into ALWAYS using a comma before the word and. Here are the tricks I use to help figure this out.

First, sometimes a compound sentence (which is a sentence of two independent clauses joined by a conjunction) is confused with a simple sentence with a compound predicate (the part of the sentence telling what the subject does or what is done to the subject or the subject’s state of being).

So when you have a sentence that reads:

Jamie was a paralegal and she was highly skilled in trial graphics.

you should read on each side of the and so you will read:

Jamie was a paralegal.

She was highly skilled in trial graphics.

Those are two independent sentences, so a comma is needed before the and when you make it a compound sentence.

Jamie was a paralegal, and she was highly skilled in trial graphics.

Where you have a sentence with a compound predicate, such as:

 Jamie was a paralegal and was highly skilled in trial graphics.

there is no comma. You can’t say:

Jamie was a paralegal.

Was highly skilled in trial graphics.

so it is not two independent clauses.

When you are confused about whether they are independent clauses or not, read each part on either side of the and as if it were a separate sentence. If it is a complete sentence, then put the comma before the and. If the two clauses do not make sense as an independent sentence, then there is no comma before the and.

Here are some more examples to help you see this concept.

He needed to go to the grocery store, and he was going to meet James for lunch.

COMPOUND?

He needed to go to the grocery store.

He was going to meet James for lunch.

YES – NEEDS A COMMA.

He needed to go to the grocery store and was going to meet James for lunch.

COMPOUND?

He needed to go to the grocery store.

Was going to meet James for lunch.

NO – NO COMMA  NEEDED.

The corporation filed its annual report with the Corporation Commission, and it paid the required fee.

COMPOUND?

The corporation filed its annual report with the Corporation Commission.

It paid the required fee.

YES – NEEDS A COMMA.

The corporation filed its annual report with the Corporation Commission and paid the required fee.

COMPOUND?

The corporation filed its annual report with the Corporation Commission.

Paid the required fee.

NO – NO COMMA  NEEDED.

I hope this helps with some of the constant “comma drama” that you may find yourself in daily. Email proofthatblog@gmail.com if you have any other “drama” that you would like to see as a topic of a future Proof That proofreading blog post.

 

Grammar Giggles – He Was Choosen

I found this in a full-page ad for the well-known recipient of a professional award. Having done some marketing, I know how expensive full-page ads in these kinds of publications are, and it is really a shame that this kind of error is there. This is the exact reason publishers send proofs and ask for signatures approving those proofs. That makes it YOUR mistake–not the publisher’s, which means you pay for it regardless of the mistake.

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Grammar Giggle – Firm Bio Part 2

I had to research the partner of the person from the Firm Bio Grammar Giggle earlier this week and you’ll never believe it, but this bio was worse! Not only are there numerous misspellings, but the bar association in Arizona is called the State Bar of Arizona NOT the Arizona State Bar Association. Those details are really important. This could very well be the first impression people get of you, make sure it is a good one.

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Grammar Giggle – Firm Bio

I actually found this while researching a potential witness. Your online bio is really important and should be error free. This is my first impression of this professional and I must admit, it’s not a very good one.

firm-bio

Happy Thanksgiving Part Two

happy-thanksgivingA couple of years ago, I posted an article about Thanksgiving and other holidays and grammar issues. Since it is time again, here is an encore of that article.

Thinking about Thanksgiving here in the United States got me thinking about names of holidays and grammar rules. For instance, if you use Eve or Day with the name of a holiday, i.e., Thanksgiving Day, you capitalize day. However, if you were to say “the day before Thanksgiving,” day would not be capitalized. Religious holidays are also capitalized

  • Good Friday
  • Hanukkah

Even some “invented” holidays are capitalized

  • Black Friday
  • Pi Day

Is happy capitalized when used with a holiday? If you exclaim “Happy Thanksgiving!” then it is, but if you use it in a regular sentence “I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving,” then it is not.

Generally, the seasons of the year are not capitalized unless it is part of a proper name.

  • This winter seems to be colder than normal.
  • The Phoenix College Spring Semester 2014 will begin in January.
  • HOWEVER: The fall semester is nearly over.

When using seasons to describe time of year, remember that seasons are reversed in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. When it is summer in the U.S., it is winter in most of South America and Australia. In that case, it is clearer to say “the first three months of the year,” or “the last quarter of 2014.”

As for possessives with the word “season,” the phrase Season’s greetings! is possessive because you are referring to holidays that happen only during one season—winter. Possessives with names of holidays are usually singular; however, where the holiday is plural, the apostrophe is after the plural word:

  • Presidents’ Day (celebrating more than one president)
  • April Fools’ Day (more than one fool)
  • Mother’s Day (each family celebrating its mother and it is the official name of the holiday)
  • Father’s Day (same)
  • HOWEVER: Veterans Day (official name of the holiday)

The official holiday name wins out over plurals and possessives, so you may just have to look it up to be positive you are correct.

I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving and know that when I count my blessings, the people who read my blog faithfully, those who stumble across it, and those who cheer me on are near the top of my list. Thank you!

 

Grammar Giggle – Theses Cases

A friend sent this to me. I actually missed the error the first couple of times I read through it quickly, but it is there. I also looked up “Oftentimes,” which, while correct, is archaic and could easily be replaced with “Often.” Our goal should always be to make our writing more readable.

theses

Grammar Giggle – Complementary/Complimentary

I saw this sign at an event I was attending recently. “Complementary” means something that completes or makes perfect (which a massage always does for me, but that’s not what they mean here). “Complimentary” means free of charge (which IS what they mean here).

complementary

Grammar Giggle – Where, Oh Where, Is The Hand Dryer?

A friend found this on our recent trip to Memphis in a restroom. Sometimes it isn’t an error in words that makes a Grammar Giggle. Sometimes it is an error in direction. While this sign tells you to use the hand dryer on the right, the hand dryer is actually on the left. Some good citizen tried to change the arrow direction, which only made me giggle more.

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Pronouns, Reflexive Pronouns, and Myself

i-myselfWhile I’ve written about reflexive pronouns before (http://proofthatblog.com/2012/11/26/me-myself-and-i/), it is important enough that some of it bears repeating.

Pronouns are words that substitute for nouns and other pronouns. Personal pronouns are what we will be talking about here and they indicate the person speaking, the person spoken to, or the person or object spoken of. It is the Iyoumetheyhesheit of English. You typically choose the pronoun based on the person it is replacing. For instance:

  • She said it was too early (when she means Mary)
  • He drove his car like a maniac (where he means Bob).

The challenge comes with reflexive pronouns, which are pronouns that end in -self and reflect back on the pronoun previously mentioned. For example:

  • Mary said that it was hard to get up by herself 
  • Bill drove the car himself.

What is NOT correct is using the reflexive pronoun alone–without it being able to reflect back on the pronoun. So, for instance, saying:

  • If you have any questions, talk to myself.
  • Tony and myself will go shopping for dinner today.

is not correct because in both places. Myself has nothing in the sentence to reflect back to. It should be:

  • If you have any questions, talk to me.
  • Tony and I will go shopping for dinner today.

Further examples are:

  • Send the meeting minutes to Bill and me (not myself) for approval 
  • Sue and I (not myself) are ready for vacation.

As for when to choose me and when to choose I, a little bit of adjusting and testing will make it easier to make the correct choice. For instance, in the sentences above:

  • If you have any questions, talk to me. You would say “talk to me” not “talk to I” and not “talk to myself,” so it should be “talk to me.”
  • Tony and I will go shopping for dinner today. If you were going by yourself, you would say “I will go shopping,” not “me will go shopping,” so “Tony and I will go shopping” is correct.
  • Send the meeting minutes to Bill and me for approval. Again, if you take Bill out, you would ask people to “send the meeting minutes to me for approval.”
  • Sue and I are ready for vacation. Take Sue out and you would say “I am ready for vacation.”

I hope all this makes it easier for you to use the proper reflexive pronouns when you’re talking about yourself (see what I did there?). Otherwise, I will continue to bang my head against the wall at hearing “myself” used inappropriately.