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 🙂  http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/guest-post-your-punctuation-personality-type-by-leah-petersen/

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 proofthatblog@gmail.com and I will work on getting an answer for you.

The Question Is What Happened to the Question Mark?

A reader recently asked what had happened to the question mark. She thinks that people are growing reluctant to use the question mark. We will go through use of the question mark because it is sometimes confusing.

The biggest confusion will come in determining whether the thing you are asking is a direct question or a polite request.

polite request will not use a question mark but will use a period instead.

  • Will you please get the attorney’s signature on this pleading and return it to me. (Not really a question because you expect them to do it.)
  • May I suggest that you research flight times before you book the travel.

With a direct question, use a question mark:

  • Will you be able to join us after work?
  • What time do you start working every morning?

When you have a question with quotation marks, the question mark should come at the end of the question:

  • He asked “What color car does he drive?”
  • Did you type the document called “Motion for Summary Judgment or, in the Alternative, for Summary Adjudication”?

The first bullet point shows where the quotation is the question so the question mark goes inside the quotation mark. The second bullet shows that the question is the entire sentence and not just what is in quotation marks, so the question mark goes outside the quotation mark.

Where you are using a rhetorical question (one that you really don’t expect an answer to), you should use a question mark.

  • Who decided hell’s weather should be in Arizona this week?
  • Who died and made you boss?

Where you have a condensed (or elliptical) question (where a word or phrase represents a complete question), use a question mark.

  • Jill said she was having a celebration party. When? (Representing the complete question “When is the celebration party?”)

Punctuate both complete and elliptical questions to reflect your meaning.

  • Where shall we meet? At the bus station? (Giving the option of meeting somewhere other than the bus station.)
  • Where shall we meet at the bus station? (Indicating that we are meeting at the bus station and the question is where at the bus station we will meet.)

We will continue with question marks in the next post. But go forth and ask questions and punctuate them correctly, OK?

Grammar Giggles – The Party Did What?

As some of you know, last week I started a new job that has really sucked the extra energy out of me. With apologies for not posting at all last week, I’m hoping some of you missed your “Proof It” fix and promise that I will make a concerted effort to research and post the blog post on Wednesday and to post two Grammar Giggles–one today and one on Friday. Thanks for your support! On to your Monday Grammar Giggle.

This was sent to me by a friend who received it from opposing counsel. It makes me wonder what this even means. It is incorrectly plural and incorrectly possessive. I can’t help but be embarrassed for this firm that this work product came out of their office–and I don’t even know which firm it is.


Grammar Giggles – Toco Bell

I looked at this several times before I figured out what was wrong. Then I looked at the actual Taco Bell website to make sure it was wrong and it wasn’t just me thinking that I knew what it was supposed to be. Then I just shook my head (which I do with a whole lot of these Grammar Giggles).

Locos Tocos                          Locos Tacos

Semicolons Help Keep The Flow . . . Ommmmm . . .

I must admit, semicolons are one area of grammar that scare me. I’m not sure why, but they do. That shows how much researching and writing these posts helps me as much as they hopefully help you.  Now on to our topic.

The semicolon is a mark of punctuation to be used when you want to connect two thoughts that are similar to one another. The best description I’ve seen is that a semicolon is like a soft period which separates the thoughts but keeps the flow of the first sentence.

Here are some rules for using semicolons:

  • With two independent clauses when the coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, or nor) is omitted to separate the clauses. One way to tell is when you could delete the semicolon and each clause could be a separate sentence. However, if the clauses are not closely related, go ahead and make them separate sentences.
  • Use a semicolon between two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction where you want a stronger break between the clauses.
  • When one or both of the independent clauses have internal commas and it could be misread without a semicolon to make it easier for your reader.
  • When independent clauses are separated by transitional expressions. Again, the second clause should be able to stand alone as a sentence. Below is a partial list of the transitional clauses:
    • accordingly
    • besides
    • consequently
    • for example (and use a comma after this phrase)
    • furthermore
    • hence
    • however
    • moreover
    • namely (However, if the first clause anticipates the second clause and the full emphasis falls on the second clause, use a colon rather than a semicolon before this word.)
    • nevertheless
    • on the contrary
    • otherwise
    • so (where so means “therefore,” it can be preceded by a comma or a semicolon. A comma should be used if the clauses are closely related and the first clause smoothly flows into the second. A semicolon or period should be used if the clauses are long and complicated or the clauses need a stronger transition between them such as a long pause or strong break.)
    • that is (use a comma after this phrase)
    • then
    • therefore
    • thus
    • yet (see parenthetical for so above)
  • Use a semicolon when items in a series already contain commas to keep from confusing the reader, i.e., Phoenix, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; and Dallas, Texas.

That’s it for now. This is a very busy, emotional, exciting, and gratitude-filled week for me as I leave one job with people I’ve worked with for over 15 years to a job at a brand new firm. How exciting is that going to be? I’m so up for this adventure! But first, as one of my associates said when I gave my notice, “So you’ve given your notice at work, what are you going to do now?” I’m going to Disneyland–with my daughter and my two oldest granddaughters celebrating their 13th birthdays. Enjoy your week!