Entries Tagged 'Grammar & Spelling' ↓

Capitalizing titles of high-ranking officials

Grammar tips about capitalizing titles of high-ranking officials such as presidents, governors, and attorneys general.

Should the title of a high-ranking official be capitalized?

Depends on who you ask! But since we use, recommend, and carry The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, that’s the source WriteShop tends to rely on first. According to the Blue Book (11th ed.):

Capitalize the titles of high-ranking government officials when used with or before their names. Do not capitalize the civil title if it is used instead of the name.

The author cites several examples, including:

  • The president will address Congress.
  • The governors, lieutenant governors, and attorneys general called for a special task force.
  • Governor Fortinbrass, Lieutenant Governor Poppins, Attorney General Dalloway, and Senators James and Twain will attend.

That said, you may accept either from your students since other sources may conflict. For instance:

The Holt Handbook, 6th ed. says:

Titles that indicate high-ranking positions may be capitalized even when they are used alone or when they follow a name.

Example:

    Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States

The Writer’s Brief Handbook, 5th ed. says:

When you use titles of world figures alone, capitalization is optional.

Example:

    The President [or president] spoke to the reporters.

. . . . .

Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation (11th ed.) | Combination reference book and workbookDo you or your kids need some grammar guidance? The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation offers concise, helpful rules, examples, and practice exercises.

It’s a combination reference book and workbook, super easy to use, and handy for home or office. Examples are short, simple, and practical. We know you’ll love it too! Want to read some reviews? Just click here.

Photo: Beverly, courtesy of Creative Commons

Grammar tips: Teaching appositives

Teaching appositives? These rules and tips will help you explain this part of speech.

Sentence variations play an important role in writing. They can add interest and variety to a composition, improve rhythm, or help you trim wordy sentences.

The appositive, an especially useful sentence variation, can even help you combine two sentences:

Bertram is a master chef.
Bertram works at La Petite Restaurant.

into one sentence:

Bertram, a master chef, works at La Petite Restaurant.

What’s an Appositive?

An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that immediately follows another noun. An appositive explains or defines the noun it follows and is usually set off by commas.  In these examples, the noun or pronoun is green and the appositive is blue.

  • Mike’s dog, a mutt, sat down in the street.
  • Mike’s dog, a scrawny mutt, sat down in the street.
  • Mike’s dog, a scrawny mutt with a scruffy coat, sat down in the street.
  • Mike’s dog, a scrawny, scruffy-coated mutt with no common sense, sat down in the street.

A few more examples:

  • My neighbor Augustus grew a 100-pound pumpkin last summer.
  • Flipper, Melvin’s pet goldfish, lives in a glass bowl on the bookshelf.
  • Grandpa’s ancient Buick, a behemoth of a car, still drives like a charm.
  • The garage, a danger zone, is filled with tools, bags of used clothing, boxes of papers, stacks of old magazines, and countless other piles of junk.

When Appositives Need Commas

Some appositives require commas and others don’t.

Commas Needed. You’ll need to use commas if the sentence would still be complete and clear without the appositive. Put one comma before the appositive and one after when it provides non-essential information.

  • Dilbert Dithers, one of the town’s junk dealers, collects vintage radios. (The sentence makes sense without the appositive. Since the appositive adds non-essential information, commas are necessary.)

Commas Not Needed. If the appositive gives meaning to the sentence, you will not need to put commas around the appositive. One-word appositives do not need commas.

  • The American author Ernest Hemingway spent many years abroad. (Since there are many American authors, Ernest Hemingway makes the sentence meaningful. Therefore, no commas are needed.)
  • Pinkie’s brother Roscoe lives in Walla Walla. (In order to explain which of Pinkie’s brothers we’re referring to, Roscoe becomes essential information. It’s also a one-word appositive. Therefore, no commas are needed.)

Choosing Where to Place an Appositive

An appositive can BEGIN a sentence.

  • A prize-winning baker, Mrs. Patchett loves to make pies, cakes, and cookies.

An appositive can BREAK UP a sentence.

  • Mrs. Patchett, a prize-winning baker, loves to make pies, cakes, and cookies.

And an appositive can END a sentence.

  • Needing donations for the church bake sale, the committee called Mrs. Patchett, a prize-winning baker who loves to make pies, cakes, and cookies.
Photo: Kathia Shieh, courtesy of Creative Commons

Grammar in a nutshell

From geography jingles my children learned over 17 years ago, I can still remember, among other facts, the states that comprise the eastern border of the U.S.

There’s just something about poems, songs, and mnemonics that can make learning facts—and remembering them—so much easier. That’s why I’ve always liked this little poem, as it defines and illustrates many common grammar concepts.

                Grammar in a Nutshell

      The articles are, oh, so wee,
           These little words are A, AN, THE;
      The nouns are names of anything,
           Like BOOK, COMPUTER, FAITH, or RING.
      Pronouns are used for nouns instead—
           I run, HE flies, SHE wished, THEY said.
      Adjectives simply tell the kind
           of everything that we may find,
      Like BLUE and ROUGH and SOFT and SWEET,
           RUDE and PLEASANT, WISE and NEAT.
      Adverbs will tell “how,” “when,” “where,”
           Like SWEETLY, NEATLY, OFTEN, THERE.
      The prepositions help each day
           IN our work or AT our play,
      UNDER, OVER, AROUND, and THROUGH,
           AMONG, ABOUT, ABOVE, and TO.
      Good conjunctions join together
           Man AND woman; plume OR feather.
      Interjections always claim—
           OH, NO! ALAS! AH, what a shame!
      The verb—it helps us get along
           In conversation or in song,
      Since it explains the subject’s fate,
           Expressing action, being, state;
      You ARE friendly, I LOVE you,
           EAT your breakfast, TIE your shoe.
      Grammar may not seem exciting,
           But it will help our speech and writing!

Author Unknown

Answers to Friday’s grammar quiz

Aha! 

As promised, here are the answers to Friday’s grammar quiz. I’m sure you’ll find differing opinions as to the exact number of punctuation marks, prepositional phrases, etc. That’s OK—these lists identify the main ones. 

1. The fourteen main punctuation marks in English grammar

  • Period .
  • Comma ,
  • Colon : 
  • Semicolon ; 
  • Dash — 
  • Hyphen -
  • Apostrophe ‘
  • Question mark ?
  • Exclamation point ! 
  • Quotation mark “double” or ‘single’
  • Parentheses ( )
  • Brackets [ ]
  • Braces { }
  • Ellipsis . . .

2. The eight traditional parts of speech

  • Noun
  • Pronoun
  • Verb
  • Adverb
  • Adjective
  • Preposition
  • Conjunction
  • Interjection

3. The four main sentence types

  • Declarative (statement)
  • Interrogative (question)
  • Exclamatory (strong statement ending with an exclamation point)
  • Imperative (command )

4. The 50 most common prepositions

    about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at, atop, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, in front of, nside, instead of, into, like, near, of, off, on, onto, on top of, out of, outside, over, past, since, through, to, toward, under, underneath, until, up, upon, with, within, without

. . . . .

The Blue Book of Grammar and PunctuationDo you or your kids need additional help with basic grammar concepts? The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation offers concise, helpful rules, examples, and practice exercises. It’s a combination reference book and workbook, super easy to use, and handy for home or office. Examples are short, simple, and practical. We know you’ll love it too! Want to read some reviews? Just click here.

Grammar quiz: What do you know?

Question markOK, here’s a quick little grammar quiz. Yes, there will be differing opinions on the exact number of some of these, but this is just for fun!

I’ll post the answers Monday!

  1. There are 14 primary punctuation marks in English grammar. How many can you name?   
  2. There are eight traditional parts of speech. Do you know them all?
  3. What are the four main sentence types?
  4. There are approximately 50 common prepositions. Can you name 25?

Notable confusables

Last week we talked about some Notable Confusables, and you and your kids had fun with a bunch of online grammar quizzes. How’d you do?

Clearing Up Confusing Combos 

If your children had trouble with any of the concepts, they’ll enjoy the following engaging and interactive learning tools. They’ll view definitions, learn the rules, and practice the new skills with the click of the mouse. Give ‘em a try!

. . . . .

The Blue Book of Grammar and PunctuationDo you or your kids need additional help tackling these Notable Confusables? The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation offers concise, helpful rules, examples, and practice exercises. It’s a combination reference book and workbook, super easy to use, and handy for home or office. Examples are short, simple, and practical. We know you’ll love it too! Want to read some reviews? Just click here.

How’s you’re grammar?

Okay, okay! Before you start giving me a hard time about this blog title, yes, I KNOW it should be “your.” And if you didn’t catch it, well, this blog’s for you!

Confused?Notable Confusables 

Today we’re going to tackle these Notable Confusables:

  • their, there, and they’re
  • your and you’re
  • its and it’s

Did you know that using these words incorrectly can make you appear uneducated?

In an earlier blog, I explained the difference between its and it’s. But today, let’s just have some fun taking a few short Internet quizzes to test your knowledge. They’re quick, painless, and provide immediate feedback!

Once you’ve taken these quizzes, give them to your children. The results will help you know where to focus your teaching efforts.

Take Some Grammar Quizzes!

They’re/their/their quiz

Its/It’s and There/Their/They’re Quiz

Its/It’s and There/Their/They’re Quiz 2

Quiz: Its & It’s

Its/It’s Quiz

Confusing Words – Your vs. You’re

You’re – Your Quiz

Their vs. There vs. They’re Quiz

So go have some fun today! Play around with these quizzes, make note of which words trip you (or your kids) up, and then commit to practicing till everyone feels confident. You can slay the Confusables Monster!

. . . . .

The Blue Book of Grammar and PunctuationDo you or your kids need some help tackling these Notable Confusables? The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation offers concise, helpful rules, examples, and practice exercises. It’s a combination reference book and workbook, super easy to use, and handy for home or office. Examples are short, simple, and practical. We know you’ll love it too! Want to read some reviews? Just click here.

Jane’s grammar nugget: Bits and pieces

Jane StrausJane Straus, author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, is back as a guest at our blog.

Today, Jane covers more ground as she helps us make sense of three more grammar bugs!

Jane says many people have been taught incorrectly, so hopefully she can help us unlearn our bad grammar habits!

Plural or possessive titles?

Is it Mother’s Club? Mothers’ Club? Mothers’ Club?

In a title, you may think of the noun as a plural or as a plural possessive. So Mothers Club or Mothers’ Club would both be correct.

Apostrophes with words ending in s

Is it class’ opinion or class’s opinion or classes’ opinion?

If you mean one class, it should be class’s opinion. If you mean more than one class, it should be classes’ opinion(s).

Rule 2 of Apostrophes from The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation says: Place the apostrophe before the s to show singular possession.

    Examples: one class’s opinion; one girl’s opinion; Ms. Jones’s opinion; Mr. Cross’s opinion.

Rule 3 says: To show plural possession, make the noun plural first. Then use the apostrophe.

    Example: The classes’ opinions were predicatable according to their grade levels.
    Example: The girls’ opinions differed.
    Example: The Joneses’ house survived the flood.
    Example: The Crosses’ house survived the flood.

Quoting a Question within a Question

When quoting a question within a question, where does the question mark go? Is the following correct?

Didn’t she say, “How did you do that?”?

In The Blue Book of Grammar and PunctuationRule 3 of Quotation Marks says: When you have a question outside quoted material AND inside quoted material, use only one question mark and place it inside the quotation mark.

    Example: Did she say, “May I go?”
    Example: Didn’t she say, “How did you do that?”

Reprinted by permission of Jane Straus, author of the bestselling The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, from her free Grammarbook.com e-newsletters and blogs.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

From Kim

Thanks again to Jane for sharing from her wealth of knowledge!

We love The Blue Book so much that we’ve been carrying it for years in the WriteShop store. We also include it in the WriteShop Starter Pack. It’s a combination reference book and workbook, oh so easy to use, and handy for home or office. Jane’s examples are short, simple, and practical. We know you’ll love it too! Want to read some reviews? Just click here. And to read more of Jane’s Grammar Nuggets, type “Jane” in the search box above.

Jane’s grammar nugget: Not your grandma’s grammar!

Jane StrausJane Straus, author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, is back as a guest at our blog. Today, Jane has stopped in to help us modernize Grandma’s grammar! Jane says:

“As if it isn’t enough that computers have influenced just about every area of our lives, you’d think that something as sacred as the English language would remain immune to technology’s pressures. Not so. You may not need to learn new rules of grammar as often as you need to update your computer’s RAM, but tweaking your grammar skills will make you look more professional, and you can impress your friends and colleagues with some cutting-edge reasoning.”

Spaced Out

One or two spaces between sentences after a period?

Professional printers who set material in proportional fonts have always used only one space after ending punctuation marks such as the period. However, original typewriters had monospaced fonts, so two spaces were used to make the text more legible. Most computer fonts present no difficulty with proportion or legibility, so use just ONE space after a period, colon, or any other ending punctuation mark. You will not be struck by lightning, I promise!

Questionable Marks

Quotation marks and punctuation

In Grandma’s day, a period used with quotation marks followed logic:

    Example: Myrtle said the word “snarfblatt”.

The period went outside the quote because only the last word was in quotation marks, not the entire sentence.

    Example: Myrtle said, “I would never say that.”

The period went inside the quotation mark because the entire sentence is a quote.

Today (actually for the last 30 years or so), the period always goes inside the quotation mark in American English.

    Example: Myrtle said the word “snarfblatt.”

This does not follow logic, but it makes life easier for professional editors and for the rest of us who have enough to think about besides punctuation.

Warning: If you write a quotation in England, ignore this advice. Logic is still followed on that side of “the Pond.”

We’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe

Since Grandma’s day, we have shortened some words and dropped the former plural form. Memo and memos used to be memorandum and memoranda. Yet other words still retain their original length, spelling, and plural form: curriculum and curricula.

With the word data, we no longer see the singular datum used at all. Data is now normally used in both the singular and plural form.

    Examples: The data are being tabulated. The data is useful to the scientists.

Just Because

In Grandma’s day, you would be scolded if you started a sentence with but or because. But you wouldn’t have deserved that scolding then or now. Just make sure that if you start a sentence with either of these two words, you are following them with complete thoughts.

    Good Examples: But she would never say such a thing. Because of this bee sting, my arm is swollen.
    Bad Examples: But I can’t. Because I said so.

These are incomplete thoughts, and you will get your knuckles rapped with a ruler for writing them.

Reprinted by permission of Jane Straus, author of the bestselling The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, from her free Grammarbook.com e-newsletters and blogs.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

From Kim

Thanks again to Jane for sharing from her wealth of knowledge!

We love The Blue Book so much that we’ve been carrying it for years in the WriteShop store. We also include it in the WriteShop Starter Pack. It’s a combination reference book and workbook, oh so easy to use, and handy for home or office. Jane’s examples are short, simple, and practical. We know you’ll love it too! Want to read some reviews? Just click here. And to read more of Jane’s Grammar Nuggets, type “Jane” in the search box above.

Grammar tips: Is it I or me?

Is it I or me? Do you think "I" sounds refined while "me" sounds common or uneducated? These grammar tips will help you use each one correctly!

Is it or me? As children, we were so often corrected for misusing me that many of us think I is always right while me has become the evil impostor.

When we would say, “Me and Rebecca are going to the store,” it’s likely that someone drilled into our young heads: Rebecca and I. Rebecca and I. Rebecca and I.

Which Is It: I or Me?

We’ve been led to believe that me sounds common or uneducated, so we overcorrect by saying: Can Sean go to the ballgame with Mark and I? Join Dad and I for breakfast tomorrow. This gift is from you and I.

But contrary to popular belief, I isn’t always refined, educated, OR correct.  Continue reading →

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