Posted tagged ‘commas’

How do you feel about digital memories?

September 14, 2009

digital ageListening the OnPoint, the topic is whether it is possible to create a “total recall” for all our memories of our lives. With all the social networks like Twitter and Facebook–not to mention the plethora of others–should we as human beings be recording all the minutiae of our lives to be retrieved at a later time?

Should we supplement our memory with the digital gadgets like cell phones, iPods, social networks or other aids?

Is there anything to the argument that the more you memorize, the more ability you have to memorize other things in the future? With children, it’s clear that the more you stress their brain with input of classical music or shapes/colors, the smarter the child will become and the faster her brain will be able to process new input.

What do you think? Should we record things that we don’t “need” to remember in our lives?

Can Commas, Change Meaning

February 4, 2008

comma.jpgOne of the most difficult punctuation marks to teach, almost certainly, is the comma. Just like anything else, the more one forces his/her brain to think about these rules, the easier it becomes to pull them out of the dusty recesses of the mind when needed.

Below are listed some of the “main comma uses,” as provided in the Third Edition of The Bedford Handbook for Writers.

1. Before a coordinating conjunction joining independent clauses: No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but many foolish ideas have died there.Basically, a good rule to follow is when one has a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet), try to replace it with a period and form two sentences. Does it make sense? If it does, then replace the conjunction with a comma immediately preceding it.

My mother sent me to the store to buy milk, and it was on sale.

In the above example, the coordinating conjunction, “and,” can be removed, which forms two independent sentences. My mother sent me to the store is the first independent clause, and it was on sale is the second independent clause. Therefore, there MUST be a comma before the conjunction.

2. After an introductory clause or phrase: If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. Clauses or phrases which require a comma immediately afterusually tell when, where, how, why, or under what conditions the main action of the sentence occurred. For example, if one were to write, In the summer, the weather is quite warm, a comma after summer is needed. The only time a comma is not required is when there can be no confusion by the reader in the sentence. When John was ready to eat, his cat jumped on the table. Omitting the comma could leave the reader with the impression of a cat-eating man named John.

3. Between all items in a series: All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening. Sometimes, however, the final comma is omitted. We, who major in Journalism, are taught often that the conjunction (i.e. and, or or but) takes the place of the comma, and therefore it is not needed. You may notice in newspapers that this tends to be the case.

4. Between Coordinate Adjectives: There is a mighty big difference between good, sound reasons and reasons that sound good. Our school of thought in this case is that the comma actually can be replaced by the word “and,” and the sentence doesn’t change its meaning. Good and sound are the reasons. Another example is “The bride was blonde, slender and altogether stunning.

5. To set off Nonrestrictive Elements: Silence, which will save me from shame, will also deprive me of fame. When we are adding a phrase of a several words, we need to encapsulate it with commas. If the meaning does not change with the omission of the words within the pair of commas, then it is nonrestrictive. Writing of your only son, his name needs to be surrounded by commas. However, if we write, “social networking strategist Jay Deragon…” we do not need a pair of commas surrounding the name. Why? Because, out of all the people in the world, Jay is not the only social networking strategist.

These are but five rules which guide us to correct comma usage. When in doubt, read the sentence aloud, and put commas where you pause naturally – in most cases. Another option is to hire a professional copywriter or English or Journalism major to proofread what you’ve written.

How ’bout it?

Have You Been In a Comma?

December 1, 2007

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Commas!

November 27, 2007


 Everywhere I look, it seems like that’s what people are saying. Marquees and signs everywhere say things like WELCOME BACK STUDENTS! or NO PARKING ON SIDEWALK. CONTRACTORS THIS MEANS YOU!What’s wrong with those two instances?Well, for starters, the first one is an imperative. I picture someone yelling, Drill Sergeant-style at passers-by, “Welcome the students back, you lowly twit!” (or something along those lines).

The second is a sign where someone is building house in my neighborhood. I know what they’re saying, but there needs to be a comma since the contractors are in direct address: “Mother, I will be home late. No, sir, I did not take it.” These are the examples from the AP Stylebook, page 327.

Everybody knows that commas need to be used when giving a series: We read, colored, ate and then took a nap. Another instance most people know is when you using a conjunction with two independent clauses (i.e. two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences). For example: “The postcards were sent, and the response was huge!”

Upsetting Emails?

November 14, 2007

Have you ever thought about what all the punctuation marks really mean – or what they are intended to mean?

Check out this video By Frank Ze.

So the next time you get a disturbing email respond kindly, but make sure to use Ze’s punctuation substitution method.

How ’bout it?

The Communications Factors: Biz Writing

October 5, 2007

I got an email this morning regarding the tips on writing for business. I agree with the majority of the article. The main point was that in order to write an effective business letter or email, the writer needs to keep it short and sweet. I will never forget what one of my journalism professors said: “Words are expensive.” He was referring to the importance of being able to take a story of 1000 words and edit it down to 800 without losing any of the meaning. I guess that’s why I strive for concise words which convey a powerful meaning.


The first point of the article was that the writer should abstain from “unfamiliar” words. The examples given were ascertain, consummate, and peruse. Certainly one should shy away from those words in a business letter, but I don’t think they are necessarily “unfamiliar.” Remember, when writing to a group of businessmen or women, just because you don’t pull out all the stops of your command of the English language doesn’t mean that you are writing as though your audience is composed of idiots. In fact, my mentor, Jay Deragon, has a powerful presence in the Relationship Economy and is probably smarter than I am, but reading his blog posts is sometimes painful. My strength is being able to write clear and concise text; Jay’s strength is having the ability to grasp complex, abstract strategies and implement them into the emerging technologies of this world.

Many of those who commented on the article disagree. They said to refrain from “unfamiliar” and long words was to “dumb down” the English language. However, I believe there is a time and place for the display of your inherent sesquipedalian qualities. There is nothing which loses readers, thereby decreasing your “stickiness” on the ‘net, faster than having to find a dictionary to look up an unfamiliar word. The time to employ erudite, tedious loquacity is college entrance essays, not in business correspondence. Many of the MBAs of the world have excellent vocabularies but don’t use them because they are not out to impress anyone. It does, however, impress people when you are able to convey a complex subject without unnecessary use of commas, or words which might give pause to the reader.

If the writer doesn’t restrain himself from utilizing grandiose verbiage and punctuation, then, he is drawing attention to his inexperience or his over-elevated sense of self-importance. The most dire consequence is for the reader to think, “What a pompous ass!”

I will continue on this vein in future posts.

How ’bout it?

The Communications Factors. Are You Published?

October 2, 2007

When someone makes the claim of writing as his/her profession, the first questions which springs to the minds of those who aren’t in the business is, “Are you published? What have you written?”

Posing such a question doesn’t make you appear to be well-read, or even interested; it only shows that you don’t know as much as you think you do. The Miriam-Webster On-line dictionary defines publish this way:

1 a : to make generally known b : to make public announcement of;
2 a : to disseminate to the public b : to produce or release for distribution;

So anyone who writes a blog, prints a poem, or uses a “vanity press” to print his book is actually “published.” The question now becomes, why are you published? Even the occasional blogger who only posts something once a quarter (financial, not football) is technically “published.”

Are we, as human-beings, placing ourselves into published garbage – a world in which anyone with computer and a credit-card can write a book, whether it has value or not? A visit to YouTube shows that very little thought goes into the production of many videos. Some are very well-crafted, with graphics, voice-overs and music, but others look like the “publisher” just was bored and had too much time on his hands.

Since I know more about writing and the English language than I do about production of video, I will focus on print media, both on-line and off.

Why do so many people, as evidenced by the the number of blogs and blog-hosting sites, think that they need to express what is in their heads? I am thoroughly amazed by the sytles and content of the majority of blogs and the individual posts.

Many, many times, I’ve seen that sometimes the blog writer doesn’t know the first thing about grammatical rules or punctuation. I understand that typos do happen, even to the best of us. However, when there’s a clear misspelling of the word its, as in, “it is,” that’s totally unacceptable. Not knowing the difference between its, and it’s, is the sign that you should spend less time on video games and more time with an English book.

And just because you have the thought, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be said or written, much less broadcast to the whole world! “Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re stupid, than saying (or writing) something removing all doubt.”

How ’bout it?