Punctuation Myths: A Grammar Lesson

From: BusyTeacher.org
From: BusyTeacher.org

The No, It’s Not Arbitrary and Does Make Sense: Teaching the English Punctuation System article from busyteacher.org is a great place to review what you know and think you know about punctuation.

A true/false quiz is the best place to start.
1. You write a comma when you take a breath. True False
2. You write a colon before a list. True False
3. You write a period after a thought. True False
4. A letter S should always have an apostrophe before it. True False
5. A period should be written after an independent clause. True False
6. “Mother” and other important words should always be capitalized. True False

How many did you get right?

The rest of the article gives good examples of the right kinds of sentences and punctuation and is worth a review even if you think you’ve got punctuation down.

As my trusty AP Stylebook states, “There is no alternative to correct punctuation.” Sometimes it is just better to recast the sentence than to try to fix it.

All Together vs. Altogether: A Grammar Lesson

You know that moment when you’re writing away and all of a sudden you can’t remember simple things? Like than or then? I once wrote an entire high school AP English paper without using than. To which my very patient teacher asked me, just how late were you up writing this paper? Of course, my answer was much too late.I didn’t get to rewrite the paper, but I have yet to forget than and then again.

I had a similar experience this morning. Out of nowhere, I couldn’t remember the difference between all together and altogether. Luckily, the AP Stylebook and this wonderful website fixed my confusion.

All together is an adverb and means a group.

Altogether is also an adverb and means completely and totally. It also means considering everything.

Looking this up reminded me of an elementary school lesson on this topic, all together means we (from the together) and we means a group. Only a group of things, people, etc. can get all together.

Colon or semicolon: a grammar lesson

If you aren’t following Mark Ragan (@MarkRaganCEO) on Twitter, you’re missing out. In addition to posting about the ever-changing landscape of Public Relations, he often posts quick grammar hit, like this one on the colon and semicolon.

Colons can be used for emphasis, to set off a list, indicate dialogue, introduce quotations and in a Question and Answer section. Semicolons indicate separation of thought and can be used to clarify a series, such as the first example in the above article. Additionally, the semicolon can replace a conjunction (and, but, or, etc.).

The truth is grammar is meant to be simple, it’s often over-thinking that creates the complications.

As my trusty, AP Stylebook states, “There is no alternative to correct punctuation.” Sometimes it is just better to recast the sentence than to try to fix it.

Anyone, any one, anybody, any body: A Grammar lesson

Earlier today, I had to pull out my trusted AP Stylebook. I had to explain why anyone was wrong in a sentence and couldn’t quite remember why it was wrong, I just knew it was.

The sentence was, “any one can participate.” I just knew it was supposed to be, “anyone can participate,” but I couldn’t remember why.

Luckily, the AP Stylebook always has the answer.

One word for an indefinite reference, two words when the emphasis is on singling out a member from a group.

Indefinite reference: Why would anyone want to do that? (This is the most common).
Singling out: Any one can vote. (The group is whoever is eligible to vote.)

Still confused? Check out this post by my favorite Grammar Girl on the topic.

Me, myself and I: A Grammar Lesson


Image from: sydneywriterscentre.com.au

We all could use a little review of me, myself and I once in awhile. This article from Dina Giolitto “Credibility Thieves in Your Web Copy, A.k.a. Grammatical Goofs and Punctuation Flubs” is an excellent refresher.


In the article, Giolitto explains that “myself” is a reflexive pronoun that should reflect back to “I” as the subject of the sentence. Remind you of diagramming sentences in middle school? These examples should help:
WRONG: I have excluded me from the running.
RIGHT: I have excluded myself from the running.
To reiterate, myself goes with I.

“I” is usually the subject of the sentence. The most common way it is misused is when “I” paired with another noun.

Giolitto’s Tip: take away the second part of the subject and see if it makes sense:
WRONG: John and me walked to school again this morning. (Me walked to school? No.)
RIGHT: John and I walked to school again this morning. (I walked to school. Yes.)

Her tip of checking to see if the second part of the sentence makes sense works just as well when “Me” is used as the object of a preposition or verb.
WRONG: Are you walking to school with John and I? (Are you walking to school with I? No.)
RIGHT: Are you walking to school with John and me? (Are you walking to school with me? Yes.)

Feel better about using me, myself and I, now?