From the Oxford comma to an omission comma, the little curly punctuation mark is a small, simple thing that can cause so much confusion amongst writers. We probably all think we have an idea when it should be used and yet still puzzle over it at times.
Ask anyone when they use a comma and many people will tell you it is used as a natural pause in a sentence, particularly when a breath would be taken when reading out loud. If you use it, to indicate a pause, your lung capacity, might be, shorter than, mine.
Commas give meaning to sentences
Commas are important to inject the correct meaning into a sentence, particularly long sentences.
They also have an important role to play in short sentences, and if you don’t get it right there could be awful consequences.
Let’s do a quick exercise to show how dangerous it can be if you get it wrong. Continue reading
An apostrophe used to show possession of something to someone can be a complicated thing. Do not confuse a possessive apostrophe with one used for a contraction of two words.
For clarity you should always consult a good style guide, such as New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide or The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
If you are submitting work to a publisher it is advisable to ask for their own house style as some of the examples in this article may differ from one publisher to another.
Show possession to one person or thing (singular noun)
You can’t be too careful where the apostrophe’s concerned (see what I did there?).
The meaning of what you want to say can be altered dramatically if you pop it in where it doesn’t belong, or omit it where it does.
I have to wonder whether the company, or individual, who put this large roadside sign out on the A12 in Essex, for all to see, really do nick tyres!
I wonder if they’re aware of the meaning of their large and expensive sign?
Often called the Greengrocer’s Apostrophe because it was seen on market stalls and greengrocers’ shops: carrot’s, onion’s, mushroom’s.
You can see apostrophes used wrongly in some of the most public places: on vans, shop fronts, and billboards. Not checking your punctuation before having something printed professionally can harm your credibility. Would you want the professional service in the image to print your signs?