8 Punctuation Marks That Are Now Extinct

October 8, 2013 § Leave a comment


Dirty Words

April 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is my ‘little grammar bible’. Really, I have yet to find a book that does it better. Then I found this:

1“One glance at your friend’s blog should tell you everything you need to know about the sorry state of the English language. This book gives you the tools you need to stop looking like an idiot on message boards and in interoffice memos. Grammar has never before been so much fucking fun” -Baker and Hansen


So, I obviously bought it (and can’t wait to start teaching writing again in May).

Words of Note

March 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits that spread by imitation and that can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble –George Orwell


Illustration of Steven Jobs by Matthew Phelan (2009)

Misused Word of the Week

March 27, 2013 § Leave a comment


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: ) : ( : O … The ‘Other’ Colon

March 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Now that emoticons are the most pervasive use of the colon, it’s time to re-introduce the world to that ‘other’ colon.


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Commas Three Ways

March 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Most of us have been taught to “place the comma where you would naturally take a breath.” I’ve called it “the rule of flow” because most students tell me the reason for placing commas in some places and not others is because “it flows.” Reading aloud is definitely a good test for clarity and “flow” in all writing, but what about when you’re not sure? Here are three common uses for commas:


imageEnclose parenthetic expressions between commas.

Like when suggesting a coffee shop you might say:

The best place to go for coffee, in case you’re ever on the North Shore, is Honey Donuts.

imageUse a comma when using a conjunction (like ‘and’ or ‘but’) to introduce an independent clause (ie. a complete sentence). 

Like after you celebrate your birthday you would say:

I’m getting too old for parties, but it was worth staying up all night long. 

(with a comma because “it was worth staying up all night long” is a complete sentence)

OR you might say:

I’m getting too old for parties and am feeling it today. 

(no common because “am feeling it today” is NOT a complete sentence)


 In a list of 3+, place a comma after each item except for the last (aka. the “Oxford” or “Serial” Comma).

We painted the house white, grey, and pink. 

The Oatmeal explains the semicolon (so I don’t have to)

March 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Where explaining the mystery of grammar is concerned, few have been more clever than The Oatmeal.


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