Grammar Giggle -Dear Server, Please Purchase A Gift Certificate

I caught this on a recent dinner out during a weekend with friends. I think the comma is unnecessary–it should be a period–and the wording at the end is confusing. Taken literally, I am encouraged to ask my server to purchase a gift certificate. So I would say “Dear Server, please purchase me a gift certificate” and the server would purchase a gift certificate and give it to me for future use. Perhaps it should say “Ask your server about purchasing one.”

Gift certs

The State of Capitalizing “State”

StateUPDATE – PLEASE SEE CHANGES TO THIS POST AT The Updated State of Capitalizing State.

I need to clarify something in a blog post published in 2014 on Capitalization in Legal Documents. The capitalization of the word “state” is obviously very confusing depending on your preferred resource.

According to the Gregg Reference Manual, “state” should be capitalized:

  • When it is part of the full name of the state as in the State of Arizona
  • When the word it modifies in capitalized as in the State Corrections Director
  • When referring to the state as a party to litigation or a governmental actor as in “The State filed a Motion to Dismiss”

Most other sources I’ve found disagree with Gregg’s first example and say that “state” should not be capitalized when used as a proper noun but is capitalized when used in place of a particular state or referring to a specific governmental body:

  • The residents of the state of California have a reputation for being healthier than most.
  • The corporation, registered to do business in the state of California, is actually an Arizona corporation.

According to another favorite resource of attorneys, the Chicago Manual of Style, “where the government rather than the place is meant, the words state, city, and the like are usually capitalized.”

  • The State of Florida’s statutes regarding corporations are codified at Title XXXVI.

Another resource simplifies it as when you are using “state” as a common noun, you would not capitalize it:

  • She loved visiting the Northwestern states because she loved the rain.
  • The state of California has a beautiful coastline.

But do capitalize “state” if it is part of a proper name

  • I love visiting Washington State (as opposed to Washington, D.C.—although I love visiting there too).
  • I have visited New York City, but not the rest of New York State (capitalized to differentiate between New York City and New York State).

All resources agree that “state” should be capitalized when it is a party to litigation.

  • The response to the Motion to Dismiss was filed by the State yesterday.

The only comfort in all this confusion is that obviously everyone is confused. In fact, in many recent U.S. Supreme Court cases, “state” is capitalized in different instances, which may be a holdover from style from the 18th Century when many common nouns are capitalized.

Grammar Giggles – Holiday Fun

I have seen this sign every day for several weeks at a local car wash but had the opportunity at a stoplight to snap a quick (although nowhere near professional) picture. Yes, this sign–misspelled “holiday” and all–has been up for weeks.


Grammar Giggle – Email Template

This was in an article that I found while researching how to auto reply to external messages only. Try as I might, I’m afraid I would think much less of a person from whom I received this out of office message. ALWAYS proofread your out of office messages. It is your message to the world. Make it a good one. 

Grammar Giggle – Taking Another Peak

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted a similar Grammar Giggle (Take a Peak At This) from a different local news station. It must be something about the season that brings this out in news stations. Again, peak is the top, peek is to look slyly at, and pique is resentment or to offend. I’m pretty sure they mean they are looking slyly at the Nutcracker (because they are behind the curtain).


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.


He needed to go to the grocery store.

He was going to meet James for lunch.


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


He needed to go to the grocery store.

Was going to meet James for lunch.


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


The corporation filed its annual report with the Corporation Commission.

It paid the required fee.


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


The corporation filed its annual report with the Corporation Commission.

Paid the required fee.


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