Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Use of Semicolons

(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

The semicolon is stronger than a comma but weaker than a period. However, it can assume either role, although its function is usually closer to that of a period. Use semicolons sparingly because their use often makes sentences too long and cumbersome.

The most common use of a semicolon is between two independent clauses that are not joined by a conjunction.

* The road was long; the road was dangerous.

A semicolon normally comes before adverbs such as then, however, thus, hence, indeed, besides, and therefore when used between two independent clauses.

* Richard is going to London; however, he doesn't have his reservations yet.

When a semicolon is called for at the end of material enclosed in parentheses or brackets, the semicolon follows the closing parenthesis or bracket.

* She placed her manuscript in an envelope (her final draft); then, with relief, she sealed the envelope.

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at susanosb@aol.com, http://www.Christiancommunicator.com/.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Use of the Period

(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

A period marks the end of a sentence, followed by one space. (In typewriter days, we left two.) Sometimes we use a period at the end of an incomplete sentence.

* Completed sentence: The storm was almost upon us, so we needed to take shelter.

* Incomplete: Under a tree perhaps.

When an entire sentence is enclosed in parentheses or brackets, the period belongs inside the closing parenthesis or bracket. When a clause or a complete sentence is enclosed within another sentence, the period belongs outside.

* Sharon rewrote her manuscript over and over. (She never tired of editing.)

* She said she would never speak to him again [referring to her former boss].

No period follows chapter titles, subheadings, column headings in tables, dates, signatures, or addresses.

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at susanosb@aol.com, http://www.Christiancommunicator.com/.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Elusive Comma (Part 7 of 7)

(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

Look at places where you may omit the comma. A good rule is to let your ear be the guide. Read your sentences aloud. You'll naturally pause in those places that need a comma.

In a series whose elements are joined by conjunctions, you don't need a comma unless the elements are long and pauses are helpful.

* Is it by Beethoven or Brahms or Bach?

Of course it would not be wrong to say: Is it by Beethoven, Brahms, or Bach?

When elements in a series involve internal punctuation, or when they are long and complex, separate them by semicolons.

* The brown, fuzzy-wuzzy bear; the black and white panda bear; and the snowy-white, fat polar bear were all friends.

When an ampersand (&) is used instead of and as in company names, omit the serial comma.

Example: Dooey, Soakum & Howe.

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at susanosb@aol.com, http://www.Christiancommunicator.com/.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Elusive Comma (Part 6 of 7)

(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

Other Uses of the Comma

The comma denotes a slight pause. The effective use of the comma involves good judgment with ease of reading as the main goal.

A comma usually follows yes and no at the beginning of a sentence if you intend a slight pause. Likewise, a comma follows an exclamation oh or ah only if you intend a slight pause.

A comma follows names or words used in direct address as well as in informal correspondence.

* Friends, I'm here to tell you an important story.

* Dear Mary,

For clarity, separate two or more adjectives with commas if each modifies the noun alone.

* Kavic is a fantastic, faithful dog.

* It's going to be a long, hot summer.

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at susanosb@aol.com, http://www.Christiancommunicator.com/.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Elusive Comma (Part 5 of 7)

(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

Commas in Lists of Items

When listing three or more items, place a comma before the conjunction (such as and or but): Paper, pen, and writer. Some publishers omit the comma, but they won't fault you for not knowing their style.

The important thing is to be consistent, so the editor can match their style sheet to your manuscript.

If your list contains multiple words, it can be confusing if you don't add the second comma.

* His pets consisted of a long-haired cat, a short-haired dog, and a noisy parrot.

The exception to this rule concerns the name of businesses such as law firms which usually omit the last comma: Dewey, Sokum and Howe.

If the list of items includes commas, separate them with semicolons.

* The blank, white sheet of paper; the black, fine-line pen; and the ready, spirit-filled writer.

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at susanosb@aol.com, http://www.Christiancommunicator.com/.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Elusive Comma (Part 4 of 7)

(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

Commas in Phrases and Clauses

When a phrase comes before the main clause of a sentence, use a comma to separate them.

* Sitting in the back, the group cheered wildly.

* During the performance, the group cheered wildly.

We usually omit the comma after short, introductory phrases.

* On Tuesday Bill was absent from class.

When a phrase separates the subject and the verb, set it off with commas.

* Bill, after picking up his assignment, went home.

Commas set off interjections and other elements that break the continuity of thought.

* On the other hand, Bill may be right.

* Yes, Bill was right after all.

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at susanosb@aol.com, http://www.Christiancommunicator.com/.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Elusive Comma (Part 3 of 7)

(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

Using Commas in Dialogue

Commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks, whether single or double.

* "I want to go with you," he said.

* He said, "I want to go with you."

I constantly see errors regarding this rule in print. CMS says this is the traditional style, and was used well before the first edition of the manual in 1906.

Question marks and exclamation points go inside if they are part of the dialogue and outside if they are part of the entire sentence.

* Why did I keep in my head the words, "I'll never forget you"?

* Before he said good-bye, he asked, "Will I ever forget you?"

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at susanosb@aol.com, http://www.Christiancommunicator.com/.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Elusive Comma (Part 2 of 7)

(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

Let's look at some basic rules regarding commas:

Independent Clauses

Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause. (Independent clauses have a subject and a verb, and they can stand alone as a complete sentence.) In the two examples below, the clauses before and after the comma are independent.

* The situation looked hopeless, but there was one chance for success

* The situation looked hopeless, but I didn't believe it.

However, don't join independent clauses with a comma if they lack a conjunction. Join them with a semicolon, or cut them into separate sentences.

* The situation looked hopeless; there was one remaining chance for success.

* The situation looked hopeless. There was one remaining chance for success.

A common mistake made with the comma is to separate a dependent clause from an independent clause when they are joined with a conjunction.

* I was told the situation looked hopeless but didn't believe it.

Each clause must have a subject and a verb to need a comma before the conjunction.

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at susanosb@aol.com, www.Christiancommunicator.com

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Elusive Comma (Part 1 of 7)

(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

The punctuation error that seems to occur most often in the manuscripts crossing my desk is misuse of the comma. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS or CMOS), The Associated Press Handbook, and most grammar books list different rules. Most publishers have their own style sheets, but they follow CMS, the standard in the book publishing industry. CMS is expensive so I suggest Strunk and White's The Elements of Style to help you with grammar, punctuation, and word usage. First copyrighted in 1935, that little 92-page book is packed with the basics.

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at susanosb@aol.com, http://www.Christiancommunicator.com/.