Grammar Giggles – Dorp Your Kids Off At School

This was on our local news station and is from a school district on the far west side of the Valley. I understand that this is a simple mistake with a stencil, but it’s a four letter word and shouldn’t be that difficult. Having that kind of mistake in front of a school only makes it worse. Spelling is important!

School parking lot



Where Do You Put Prepositions At?


According to the Gregg Reference Manual, ending a sentence with a preposition is not always wrong–regardless of what your high school English teacher told you. It will depend on whether you are writing in informal or formal style. In a law firm, we are usually writing in a formal style, so sentences should not end in a preposition.

  • INFORMAL: We didn’t know which publication her artwork appeared in.
  • FORMAL: We didn’t know in which publication her artwork appeared.


Sometimes when you try not to end a sentence with a preposition, you can end up with an awkward sentence.

  • STILTED: It is hard to understand about what he was thinking.
  • NATURAL: It is hard to understand what he was thinking about.


Also be careful because sometimes the object of a preposition at the end of a sentence is not expressed.

  • Our vacations are typically relaxing, but this year’s vacation was anything but. (Anything but relaxing.)


You may be familiar with Sir Winston Churchill’s complaint to an editor who tried to discourage him from ending his sentences with prepositions, which has become one of the greatest examples of the hazards of NOT putting a preposition at the end of a sentence: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

The basic rule for ending sentences with a preposition is to use good sense. It is not completely taboo, but use your judgment for when it is appropriate.



Grammar Giggles – Formerly Extend?

From Twitter.  In honor of back to school time, here is another example of higher education proofreading problems. In my book, schools have a special standard with respect to English usage and grammar and THIS is not it. Perhaps they should focus more on academics and less on extracurricular activities. Oh well, off my soapbox. This picture shows how easy it is to confuse words that sound similar but don’t mean the same thing and proves that it never hurts to have someone else review important work.

Univ of Virginia2

First Annual?

I have a friend who has long argued that “first annual” is incorrect. I decided to research it and the consensus is that although the topic is conveniently left out of most grammar guides, the first time you have an event is the “inaugural” event, even if you intend to hold the event every year. The AP Stylebook does state: “An event cannot be described as annual until it had been held in at least two successive years.” Once you hold the event for the second year, then it can be called the “second annual” event. So Ed is half right. The first event is the “inaugural” event and the second yearly event is the “second annual” event. He would argue that the second yearly event is the first annual since it is the first anniversary of the event so it should be the first annual. The research (and I) tend to disagree because it is the second yearly event, making it the second annual. Each successive annual event would then be called the third annual, fourth annual, etc. 


Just For Fun – Punctuation Personality Types

This is a fun little test for those of us who are a bit over-the-top grammar nerds. Take a minute to see what your punctuation personality type is and how accurate it is. Mine is 🙂

The Question is Still What Happened to the Question Mark?

This week we continue our discussion of question marks.

You should use a question mark at the end of a sentence that seems to be a statement except that your voice rises at the end like you are asking a question.

  • You think I will believe that you were at the library?
  • Surely you didn’t mean what you said to the boss yesterday?

When you have a short question at the end of a sentence, use a comma before the question and a question mark after it.

  • We don’t have to attend the training, do we?
  • You’re going on vacation for two weeks, aren’t you?

Short questions that fall within a sentence can also be set off with dashes or parenthesis instead of commas. These questions are often called “tag or echo questions.”

  • The new association president—do you know her?—emailed me.
  • The new shopping mall—have you been there?—has great stores.

Where a longer direct question comes at the end of a sentence, start the question with a capital letter and precede the question with a colon or a comma.  The question mark ending the question also ends the sentence.

  • The question is, Have you completed your application for a Board position? (Direct question)

Note, however, that shifting the order of the words can transform a direct question into an indirect question. In a direct question, the verb precedes the subject (shall we, can we). In an indirect question, the verb follows the subject (we shall, we can).

  • The question is whether or not you have completed your application for a Board position. (Indirect question)

See how the indirect question asks whether or not you have and the direct question above asks have you? That makes the difference in whether to use the question mark or not.

Where you have a series of brief questions at the end of a sentence, you can separate them by commas or with question marks (if you want more emphasis). However, you do not capitalize the individual questions where they are all related.

  • Does the position include typing, drafting documents, and scheduling appointments? (This implies that the position includes all of these things.)
  • Does the position include typing? drafting documents? scheduling appointments? (This implies that the position may include one or more, but not necessarily all, of these things.

If, however, you have a series of independent questions, you will capitalize each question and end each question with a question mark.

  • Before accepting the position, you should confirm the following: Are you qualified for the position? Is there on-the-job training to keep your skills current? Is the pay in the range you are looking for?

Sometimes, independent questions in a series are elliptical (or condensed) expressions. See The Question Is What Happened to the Question Mark? post.

  • Did Jim sell his Corvette? To whom? For how much? When? (This is read to mean “Did Jim sell his Corvette? To whom did he sell the Corvette? For how much money did he sell the Corvette? When did he sell the Corvette?”)

You can also use a question mark inside parenthesis where there is doubt or uncertainty about a word or phrase in a sentence.

  • He was born in 1983(?).

In this case, you do not put a space before the parenthesis.

Note that just because a sentence includes the words ask or question does not automatically make it a question needing a question mark. If it is an indirect question, use a period, not a question mark.

  • Rose asked if she could help clear the table.
  • The question is how much time he gets for vacation.

Now you hopefully know more than you ever thought you would know (or need to know) about question marks. If you have another proofreading issue that perplexes you, please send it to and I will work on getting an answer for you.