The wedding invitation that arrived at my door last month had this to say: “This day I will marry my Friend; the one I laugh with, live for, dream with, Love.”
Can you spot the errors? (The quotation marks are mine.)
Friend, of course, should not be capped, nor should love, though I get that it was done for emphasis. Meanwhile, that semi-colon has no right separating a complete sentence and a sentence fragment. ... (How’s my ellipsis looking? Did I get it right or should I have used only three dots? Perhaps, instead, you're thinking that I need to rearrange the placement of my four?
Welcome to National Punctuation Day: “A celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semi-colons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.” Those and other punctuation marks have September 24 all to themselves every year, though too few of us take any note. Ditto for proper capitalization and spelling, particularly in these text message-driven days.
Writes John Myhra, “A problem some teachers are noticing is that students no longer know how to punctuate correctly. Text messages often contain run on sentences and don’t contain any punctuation; students are carrying this poor habit to the classroom. Another concern is the use of lowercase letters. Students aren’t using capital letters where they should. These are only a few of the problems that have arisen due to the overuse of texting.”
Of course, kids aren’t the only ones who regularly butcher the English language—and often unawares. How about you? Can you spot the punctuation, spelling, and capitalization slip-ups in the following sentences?
- Given the state I was in I couldn’t get any work done . . .
- My least favorite book in the series is the case of the missing glove.
- They love him, they hate him.
- Milk can help you chill, it makes you super cool.
- The sunshine club will donate money but you can also make a personal donation.
- Does’nt it matter to you at all.
- I like Fall more than any other season.
- John said I love you and then he walked away.
- The “Titanic” was thought to be unsinkable.
- His work I’m glad to say is improving.
Now for those same sentences correctly written--and explained, too:
- Given the state I was in, I couldn’t get any work done.
(Use a comma to set off introductory phrases or clauses.)
- My least favorite book in the series is The Case of the Missing Glove.
(Capitalize the first, last, and all important words in a title & either underline or italicize it.
- They love him; they hate him. (They love him, and they hate him.)
(Use a semicolon to show 2 independent clauses are related or add a comma and conjunction.)
- Milk can help you chill; it makes you super cool. (Milk can help you chill, and it makes you super cool.) (Same as #3)
- The Sunshine Club will donate money, but you can also make a personal donation.
(Capitalize the names of organization; add a comma with the conjunction between 2 independent clauses.)
- Doesn’t it matter to you at all?
(Use an apostrophe in a contraction to represent the letter(s) that have been left out.)
- I like fall more than any other season.
(The names of months, days, and holidays are capitalized but NOT the 4 seasons.)
- John said, “I love you,” and then he walked away.
(Use quotation marks to indicated spoken words and, as in this case, separate them from the speaker and the rest of the sentence with commas.)
- The Titanic was thought to be unsinkable. (The Titanic was thought to be unsinkable.)
(Like the titles of longer works, such as books, films, & magazines, either italicize or underling the names of ships.)
- His work, I’m glad to say, is improving.
(Use a comma to set off interrupting expressions.)
Did you make the grade when it comes to language rules? How about your son or daughter? Both a bit rusty? If so, this handy guide will have you both punctuating like pros in no time at all and make September 24 a day worth celebrating every year.