The Grammar Cheat Sheet

Please Note

I originally wrote this article for myself alone. It served as my way of learning the rules of language.

The fact that it got some attention mostly bothers me, to be honest, as I wasn’t intending for this to become some sort of authoritative source by any means. I worry this might be the case for a few, which I’m ashamed of as it was nothing more than practice and play for a literary child.

Reading through the comments makes two things clear: little, some, much, most of what is here is wrong. Secondly, what is right and what is wrong is subjective.

You would be much better off finding a much more substantial and educated opinion -– might I suggest The Elements of Style by Strunk & White? The Maira Kalman illustrated edition is quite lovely.

Thank you

When you know the correct way to structure a sentence, the world becomes a scary place — you start to notice how many people get it painfully wrong. The ease of content creation that the web now affords us is making the problem worse, so why not get a basic understanding to help make your text a little more professional?

Before we get into this, let’s establish two things.

  1. A lot of these ‘rules’ are different country to country, decade to decade.
    The way a proof reader or typesetter might lay out a page in Britain is different to how it might be done in America. How it’s done in 1985 is different than how it might be done in 2005. The styles of typesetting can change over time and throughout different regions.
  2. Always be consistent, even if it might not be ‘correct’.
    Some companies will have certain ways they layout text, even if it might be considered wrong for their geographic location. But they are consistent with how they lay their text out and that is the most important thing. You don’t want your audience to get half way through a piece of text and get confused because you changed the way you laid something out.

Double Spaces

Never use them. Ever. Your high-school teacher was wrong, don’t ever use them.

Apostrophes

An apostrophe is inserted when letters are removed.
Let’s go to the race. (Let us go to the race.)
It’s going to be a great day. (It is going to be a great day.)

The other use of the apostrophe is to show ownership.
The runner’s shoes.
Mayor Swanks’ opening speech.

Tip: If the last letter of the owners name ends in s, place the apostrophe on the end without adding the extra s.

Commas

Ah the lovely comma. A comma can help you set the pace of your text, but don’t go crazy.
He ran faster and faster, faster still, his muscles burnt, his face dripped.

Is more interesting than:
He ran faster and faster. His muscles burnt and his face dripped.

There are also a few rules when using a comma:

  1. Use it to divide items in a list (of three or four items), when in a run-on sentence.
  2. Use with and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.
    She ran as fast as her body would let her, yet it wasn’t enough.
  3. Use to separate contrasting parts of a sentence.
    She felt she couldn’t summon the energy to run the fastest, she was wrong.
  4. Use in a similar way to parenthesis, but when you don’t want to break the flow.
    She smashed her feet on the pavement, not realising the damage she was doing, in an effort to win.

Paragraphs

This can be a problem on the web, as apparently the ‘enter’ key is a little hard to find. We’ve all seen those sites, where someone posts an article that isn’t broken into paragraphs correctly. The problem with this is that your text needs to breathe, flow well and look smooth – a lot of this is achieved by well spaced paragraphs. A couple of simple guidelines:

  1. Stick to around 5 sentences
    The reality is that you can have as many sentences in a paragraph that you feel is needed to get your point across, but for arguments sake, let’s save five or six is somewhat of a limit.
  2. Keep each paragraph topical and relative.
    Don’t make two distinct points in one long paragraph when two short ones will work better.

Quotation Marks

The British will use single quotes, then double quotes, when there is a quote within a quote.
‘I can’t forget I “can run as fast as lightning” for as long as I need’ Samantha told herself.

While the Americans will do this the other way around.
“I can’t forget I ‘can run as fast as lightning’ for as long as I need” Samantha told herself.

The British idea is that single quote marks are less obtrusive, the American idea is that double quotation marks are more noticeable. So really, they have their preference for the exact same reason. However, as I am an Australian, I go by the British standard of singles first.

Punctuation in Quotes

If the question mark, full stop or any other punctuation is part of the quote, then include it within the quotation marks.
He raised an eyebrow and scoffed, “Did you hear that Samantha is ‘going to run me into the ground’ at today’s race?”

If the quote is part of a sentence, and the punctuation isn’t part of the quote, then keep the punctuation on the outside.
To think, he thought he could win, he even went as far as to say ‘you aren’t even a blip on my radar’, in that cocky I’m-a-prick tone of his.

If the whole sentence is a quote, then keep the punctuation inside of the marks.
‘I won, I won, I won, even with this athletes foot, I won! Whooo!’

Hyphens & Dashes

There is a difference here and this is probably the thing most people get wrong on the web.

The hyphen is essentially used to join two words together, without space on either side.

Dashes are different. There is either the en dash or the em dash. An en dash will be the width of the capital N in any given font, while the em dash is the width of a capital M in said font, and they both have different usages.

Em Dash (in HTML: —)
You would use an em dash instead of a comma or brackets as it helps give emphasis and is the typographical equivalent of the dun-dun-da music. Just make sure you never have space on either side of an em dash.
The race was almost over—but it was only really beginning for Sam.
The race was almost over—it has been a hard hour for all—and it was only down to a few contenders.

En Dash (in HTML: –)
The en dash is used between a range of numbers, while kept closed, and is best used when the span is part of a list.
1—5 runners are expected to fail.
10—25 runners will be hurt.

However, if the span is part of running prose, then it’s generally nicer (phonetically and typographically) to use from and to, but use your own judgement on this.
One to five runners are expected to fail.
The mini-Olympics will run from the 29th until the 30th.
The temperature is expected to have a top of 20—25 degrees on the day of the race.

Another use of the en dash is when you want to offset a phrase, but without the sudden hit of an em dash. Use it with a space either side.
Winning a race can be very hard work – I knew I could do it.

Tip: An easy way to easily insert the correct dashes into your writing, if using a CMS or something similar is to type out — for en dashes, or — for em dashes. Then perform a find and replace and presto, you’re done.

Numbers

This is nice and easy – numbers up to ten are typed in full, 11 and beyond are numerical. However, sometimes it’s nicer to spell them out.
Runners eight and 17 broke their legs.
The first place winner won two million dollars, second place received $158.

Conclusion

There you have it! A quick list on how to use some basic grammar that will set you apart from most schlumps who don’t know their ems from their ens. This list is quite basic and isn’t enough for perfect writing, but it’s enough to make you look like you actually care about your content, and you do care, don’t you? Yeah, that’s what I thought. The two books I used for guides, both of which you should already own or pick up eight copies of each of were;

Type it Write. A Voice project.
The Elements of Typographic Style – Robert Bringhurst.

I’m willing to bet you own the second book, or currently waiting for it to arrive (seriously, this thing is the typographic bible), but the first may be a little obscure to some of you. It’s a small book that was put together by the Voice group from Adelaide, Australia. It’s an awfully handy little thing and well worth grabbing a copy, whenever you see it.

29/08/2008 – A very special thank-you to those in the comments for letting me, and anyone else who is reading this article, know of the mistakes originally made. It is greatly appreciated!

188 Brilliantly Fantastic Responses

    Matt`

    Typo in the “en dash” section; a till is something used in a shop, ’til is short for until.

    So “The mini-Olympics will run from the 29th till the 30th.” should be “The mini-Olympics will run from the 29th ’til the 30th.”

    David

    I believe that the phrase “Another use of the en dash is when you want offset a phrase…” would read better if it were…
    “Another use of the en dash is when you want to offset a phrase”.

    Just a suggestion.

    Alex Charchar

    Hey everyone, thanks for noticing all the stuff ups, it’s damn helpful!

    Andrew
    Personally I quite prefer to have the s removed as it is a bit too much visually, in my opinion.

    Leon
    What you said about the UK school children being told to never have an apostrophe is interesting. I had a teacher when I was younger who ‘preferred’ we didn’t do it, but said it was his personal taste, but it stuck with me. However, the more I write, the more I find there are times when it just feels odd without it.

    And thank-you for picking up on that type-o!

    Matt
    You got me thinking, sir! I at first thought that you were wrong, to be completely honest, but I went back and read my dictionary again and realised I misinterpreted the usage of till in this instance. It says that it’s ok to use ’till’ in an instance where it’s being used in place of ‘up to’ and indicates the end, specifically of a time period.

    David
    Thanks for that, fixed that one up too.

    In all honesty, I didn’t write this article because I felt my grammar knowledge was sound. I actually did it because I felt quite the opposite. I wrote it because I wanted to learn all these rules as best as I could, and you few people haven’t let anything slide, so thank you for helping me out.

    Alex Charchar

    Johno
    Thanks for the kind words! I really appreciate then, especially coming from the man behind one of my favorite sites

    Steven
    Thanks for the tip! Obviously I should have researched just a little bit more in regards to the more readable codes, very handy – I’ll update the article.

    In relation to the space around the em dashes; when I was writing and researching this article, I noticed this is one of those things that is actually slightly dated. I haven’t got my copy on me, but Bringhurst’s Bible says not to space it out, but I seem to remember reading that for the British (and I’m Australian, so inherit a lot of their typographic bits and bobs) do space it out from time to time, although not so strictly these days.

    With no space around it, it makes the impact of the sudden phrase a little stronger, I feel. Although I completely see where you’re coming from, I hated the spaced ems till I loved them, so to speak

    Andrew

    I have read, although I forget where, that skipping the s in the apostraphe-s combo because a person’s name ends with an s is now considered to be a remnant of an elitest policy and not done.

    johno

    A sound list, and nice to see that there are still people who care about such things.

    Steven Hoober

    If you don’t want to memorize funny codes, there are slightly more human-readable versions of em and en dashes: & mdash; and & ndash; [remove the space after the &]

    P.S. I, and those I know (some of whom have typeset for decades) always add spaces around all use of dashes; it just looks funny not to have the space.

    Leon P

    Yes, rule 1 is ‘be consistent’ (as long as you’re not confusing the meaning of your writing), rather than getting hung up on the ‘correct’ way of doing things.

    In UK primary schools kids are often taught to NEVER use a comma before ‘and’, which is plain wrong. When it comes to using commas before co-ordinating conjunctions it’s often a matter of tone, pace and style, although some conjunctions take the comma more than others.

    Sorry to be a pedant, but ‘She ran as fast as her body would let her yet, it wasn’t enough.’ is surely a typo (although you could maybe wring some meaning from it if you changed the comma to a semi-colon).

    @Andrew – I teach both ways and I’m not aware of any elitism attached to any particular method. Students prefer ‘s’ apostrophe ‘s’ because it sounds clearer.

    andre.W

    “She felt she couldn’t summon the energy to run the fastest, she was wrong.” is incorrect.

    check it.

    Paris Cheffer

    Thanks so much for the informative site- great graphics too!

    Recruiting Services

    I really thought that double spaces documents were standard. Who wants to read something single spaced?

    Geramy

    Could you fill us in on the proper use of the ‘ ; ‘ mark? (semi) That’s always been a source of conversation between my wife and I. :)

    sakamoro

    Hope hes just kitting!
    Seriously. Double spaces, single spaced? I guess we are talking about different concepts here.
    The way I read it, double spaces are typed using twice the space-bar, double spaced (documents) are set using a leading equal to two lines of text.

    Roger Wilco

    I just don’t know if I can trust an article about grammar and punctuation from a man who uses “dumb” instead of “smart” quotes.

    Bae

    Not bad, but please, please rewrite some of those examples. Your writing outside of the examples seems to be fine- I didn’t examine it that closely- but any example sentences you write *are* going to be examined very closely; it’s in your best interest to get them right. For instance:
    “She felt she couldn’t summon the energy to run the fastest, she was wrong” This is a run-on sentence.
    ” The race was almost over—it has been a hard hour for all—and it was only down to a few contenders” You’ve got your tenses confused here.
    I believe there may be a few other grammatical errors or awkwardness here and there.

    Ben

    Very Comprihendable :)
    Just thought I’d let you know that when it comes to speech marks, we English do actually tend to use doubles for speech and singles for thoughts…so we would infact use singles inside doubles :)

    Samantha

    Great list! I think that there is a comma missing in the examples in the “Quotation Marks” section, though. A comma should come after the word “need” but before the ending quotation mark.

    Also, to those of you who are uncertain, “double spaced” means the space between lines of text is doubled. Teachers and editors ask for double spaced (or to skip lines when writing) so they have room to put edit marks and comments. Speeches are TRIPLE spaced so that it is easier for the speaker to read without losing his place. Typewriters had a switch for single, double and triple spaced lines.

    Tracy Lee

    Excellent resource!

    Being a bit of a grammar warden and also a graphic designer, I know there are quite a few people I will be sending here to read your well written page.

    Thank you!

    Alex Charchar

    Roger
    I know, the dumb quotes drive me nuts. While it’s because of the CMS I’m using, I need to find a way to make sure all my quote marks are smart ones, other than putting them in manually

    Ben
    I looked this up quite a bit actually, and it seemed like the more I looked into it the more confusing it became. Some say that the single quotes first is correct for the British (and Australian), while others say that it is an old way of writing. I had a look at the Australian Style Guide (a ‘definitive’ Government written guide) today, and even that said ‘meh, whatever works for you is fine’ so really, I guess it’s a personal preference more than anything.

    And to everyone
    I must say thank you very much for either enjoying the article or finding fault with it. Like I said earlier, I originally wrote the article because I wanted to improve my writing skills, so you’ve all been very helpful! I’m going to go back and edit the original article to fix up my silly little mistakes when I have some time to sit down and verify/fix everything I can.

    Roger Wilco

    …or who makes the “do not notify” so hard to make happen. ;) Kidding, kidding…

    Samantha Wright

    I’d also recommend adding a note about the possessive pronoun “its,” and its lack of an apostrophe, since people get tend to confused over it very readily.

    There should probably be a comma after “Ah” in “Ah the lovely comma.”

    “… his muscles burnt, his face dripped.” is incorrect grammar unless you mean to use “burnt” and “dripped” as adjectives, neither of which are appropriate in this case. Every comma except the first one in that example should actually be a semicolon, because they separate independent clauses. (Although the MLA says you shouldn’t have more than one semicolon in a sentence unless it’s a list.)

    The rule about sticking an apostrophe after a terminal “s” originates from plurals only, as in “the Smiths’ dog” and not “Mayor Swanks’ speech.” The current standing rule is that there isn’t one. Wikipedia’s apostrophe article covers this rather well.

    The comma you have in your first quote example isn’t absolute—including such commas within quotes or leaving them outside of quotes is an American vs. British habit, respectively, originating from typesetters, and has no actual basis in syntax.

    Keep poking, though!

    Bae

    I must disagree with you, Samantha, on the “he ran faster and faster, faster still, his muscles burnt, his face dripped” sentence. Only one semi-colon is needed to make it a good sentence: “He ran faster and faster, faster still; his muscles burnt, his face dripped.” (Well, technically you could say that “his face dripped” needs “sweat” or something of the like after it, but I think that’s understood.)

    Just a note to the author and anyone else who may care: You might try reading some high quality books (grammar- and style-wise) and pay close attention to how the sentences sound. Eventually grammatically correct sentences will just sound better and, for the most part, putting commas and semicolons and everything else in the right places will become instinctual.

    Samantha Wright

    Well, let us try switching out the two clauses about ‘he’ with two different and unrelated sentences:

    “His wallet was stolen, the doorman came.”

    These are both independent clauses; “his wallet was stolen” stands on its own, as does “the doorman came.” Independent clauses cannot be joined by a comma without a conjunction or a semi-colon. It’s true that commas and semi-colons largely become instinctual, but they do each have very specific definitions relating to the orientation of clauses. (Though the punctus, used in the Middle Ages, was solely about breathing, and can be used · however · you · want. If your audience is made out of paleographers.)

    As far as the comma and semicolon are concerned, there is no difference between “he ran faster and faster,” “his face dripped,” and “his muscles burned.” (Not ‘burnt,’ which is an adjective.) “faster still” is a relocated adverb of “he ran faster and faster,” so a comma is appropriate there, but the others can stand on their own and so require the Big One.

    Wikipedia is fairly nice about all this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma_(punctuation)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semicolon_(punctuation)

    Mcstunnah

    I graduated from college with a degree in graphic design, and a concentration in typography. I love typography and it gets to me when things aren’t typeset properly. This article does a great job of laying down the basics so the rest of us can do it right! Good Work.

    I prefer to use single quotes rather than double, but quotes can also be set in italics which allows for a nicer flow. They key to it all is really rule 2. BE CONSISTENT! To a point you can typeset as you wish, choosing to follow or break rules along the way, as long as you don’t change your ways halfway through. If you do it once, do it every time.

    Oh, and in some other parts of the world(I’m in the US) children are taught at least basic typography throughout their schooling. It makes sense to me.

    Rosli Sareya

    Its very good if have some note for everyone wants to start learnd good english.

    Mark

    Is it worth mentioning the Oxford comma?

    Samantha Wright

    All those who do not will be beaten, mutilated, and severely harmed. There was a trend in the 20th Century towards punctuation minimalism that has made matters even worse. (Although, for bonus points, can you guess what the Cambridge comma is?)

    Rogier Maas

    Hi!

    A very nice article indeed. Yet, I would like to see something about the use of the comma. I often see texts like these:

    Before you can enter ,you need to say the password.
    and: I have gotten a pear,an apple, and some vegetables.

    Obviously, in the first sentence, the comma is preceeded by a space.
    In the second sentence, the first comma has no spacing and the second comma shouldn’t be there at all.

    Perhaps you could enlighten us more with a more comprehensive explanation on when to use the comma and how, and when not.

    Regards,
    Rogier
    The Netherlands

    Justin

    Actually, I believe when using commas in a series that the final comma is required. Otherwise, the section would be referring as the final two as a pair.

    Example 1
    “Ben brought an apple, chips, nuts and berries, a sandwich, and applesauce to lunch.”

    In the sentence above, “nuts and berries” is referred to as a single item (not the best example, but I’ve seen this kind of thing before).

    Example 2
    “Ben brought an apple, chips, nuts and berries, a sandwich and applesauce to lunch.”

    In this, the final comma is missing which not only losses the separation of the last few items, but actually makes them seem like another pair. Visually it looks better, and when speaking you still have the slight pause where the final comma would be anyway.

    Nice article by the way, interesting tidbit about the quotations. I had no idea :).

    David

    He ran faster and faster. His muscles burnt and his face dripped.

    You have an error. There should be a comma before the and. Reading: “He ran faster and faster. His muscles burnt, and his face dripped.”

    Ginny

    I think you got the possessive apostrophe rule wrong. If someone’s name ends in an s, you do indeed add an ‘s to indicate a possessive. For example, ‘Cas’s toys were strewn about.’ If you are indicating possessive plural, however, you need only add the ‘. ‘The kids’ toys were strewn about.’

    Samantha

    Ginny: The rule is presently ambiguous. Certain speech patterns in the American midwest started pronouncing “the Wrights’ horse” as “the Wrights horse” (instead of “the Wrightses horse”), and due to poor education the habit spread to other cases as well. Wikipedia makes a firm note of this. You have it historically correct, however.

    David: The comma is strictly unnecessary. Two independent clauses can, indeed, be joined by a conjunction without a preceding comma. Also, “burnt” is an adjective, which you may find amusing.

    Justin: A list in which the last two elements are a pair would be indicated with two “ands”:

    I need a test-tube, a beaker, a hotplate, and a mortar and pestle for my chemistry project.

    Because of this, the comma isn’t strictly necessary, and is viewed as optional in the wake of reformers.

    Rogier: the comma in English should always be followed by a space, and never have a space before it. It is used in the following manners:

    1. Parenthesis. To indicate something inserted in the middle of a sentence. Em-dashes and parentheses can also be used for this, but are considered stronger. Examples:

    This was, indeed, a very strange idea.
    This was—indeed—a very strange idea.
    This was (indeed) a very strange idea.

    2. To separate items in a list. Adding a comma before the final element in the list (before the “and,” “or,” &c.) is optional, and is called the Oxford or Cambridge comma. It is viewed as a traditional decision, but is very much valid:

    Tea, jam, and waffles.
    Tea, jam and waffles.

    3. To indicate the end or beginning of a relocated clause:

    “He ran, quickly, up the stairs,” instead of “He quickly ran up the stairs.” These commas are becoming rarer, but can still be important for clarity if the relocated clause is more than one word long.

    4. To separate two conjoined independent clauses. In this case, the comma is usually followed by a conjunction such as “and” or “but”:

    I am going to the store, and my friend is going to the park.

    This comma isn’t always necessary, but can help break things up.

    5. To separate a dependent clause from an independent one (a dependent clause is something that wouldn’t make sense to be used as a fully sentence.)

    Indeed, it was big.
    That is a silly thing to say, like everything else you say.

    6. To indicate the person being addressed (the vocative):

    Sir, what are you doing?
    Jane, is that a banana or a plantain?

    And that is how you use commas in English.
    Most of the time, however, like in rough notes, you can just pretend you’re using the comma’s ancestor: the punctus was used in mediæval manuscripts to indicate a pause.

    Semicolons, just for reference, have two uses:

    1. To weld two complete sentences to each other without using a conjunction:

    That man is on fire; I hope he doesn’t die.

    2. To separate list items where the list items themselves can have commas in them, and the results would be ambiguous:

    We don’t have many options. We could run out of the building to save him, and risk catching on fire ourselves; we could try throwing buckets of water at him from a window, and risk wasting our water; or we could just run around like chickens with our heads cut off, and do nothing.

    The Oxford comma (here an Oxford semicolon, just before the “or”) is particularly important for clarity, but could easily be left out in a list where the items in it were not so complex.

    Consider your text pointed.

    David

    So you are implying that “muscles burnt” is just a noun plus an adjective? Then why would there be an and in between? If it was indeed that his muscles were burning, it’d have to be “His muscles burnt, and [rest of sentence]” as they’re both independent clauses. That’s a comma splice.

    http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk.html#4

    Samantha Wright

    Sorry, I was going to insist that the proper past-tense of “to burn” was “burned,” and that the sentence should have been “his muscles burned, and his face dripped,” complete with splices and commas and everything. Turns out I was mistaken; “his muscles burnt, and his face dripped” is entirely legitimate. There you have it!

    Affordable Web Design

    Wow, I’ve been looking for something like this for quite some time! Thank you for posting a quick and easy guide.

    lorem ipsum

    You all are so tied up in tradition, and being proper that you don’t see the beauty in something new, something progressive, something aesthetically dependent on time. Embrace the awkwardness of a new environment and do your thing.

    Marukosu

    Brilliant!

    Jesse

    OK, dumb-ass, the reason the teachers told us to double space isn’t because they are dumb-asses like you, it is so they can correct the essays easier, instead of having to squeeze in the words between them. So do not falsely accuse teachers of being wrong, when in fact it is you who is wrong.

    Adrienne

    The absolute best part about this are the grammar nazis who have chewed this concise and lovely post the hell up.
    Or should that be “is”?

    Get a, life, yeah (?)!

    Alex Charchar

    Wow Samantha, you’ve been an amazing help. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge! I do hope you come back again and read the updated (or new) article to see if I get your tick of approval.

    Jesse
    This is all for writing that isn’t done within the classroom. Should your teacher want you to double space between words or sentences, then it is up to them to tell you it should only be done within a classroom setting. It isn’t correct to do so. If you were talking about between lines of text (and I wasn’t), then absolutely it can be done, extra leading can greatly improve the feel and texture of a block of text.

    Lorem
    Although I doubt you’ll be back, I have to say that I disagree with you. Ideas becomes truly beautiful when the text that sews them together doesn’t come away at the hems. Exercise poor punctuation and grammar and you are picking at the seems.

    Adrienne
    Thanks for the kind words, but I’m happy that people have come along and made me aware of all my mistakes. There’s no point in living in the dark, is there?

    Lorem Ipsum

    Charchar, I respect your ideas and opinions and am grateful for individuals like yourself and others who thoughtfully post. I’d like to throw out an idea I think this post hasn’t discussed. When abstract expression debuted in the 1940′s, the movement was thought to be tearing at the hems of art. Many suggested that it was destroying art, that it was irrational. It didn’t look like the art people were use to. It didn’t feel like the art people were use to. And it didn’t communicate the way art use to. But without it’s simple existence and temporal effect, many genres of art and literature would have never been. This current phenomenon of ‘bad grammar’ and ‘bad art’ (i.e.; abstract expressionism) is a result from the rise of accessible communication and the inevitableness of social and cultural progression. It will by no means destroy and nullify any sense of intrinsic beauty that exists in current, past or future ideas. If anything, it will catapult our construction, composition, and creativity. Twain would be unimpressed with the formality and myopia of this blog, with all due respect.

    Geramy

    Unsubscribing

    Jesse

    I’m sorry if I offended anyone with the last comment, I just felt like yelling and getting mad at someone online. I get these kinds of cravings often. Honestly I was kidding with my last comment. But thank you for not getting angry and being a good sport about it. I swear I’m not usually a jerk like that.

    Samantha Wright

    Putting a double space after a sentence-ending period was standard practice in all typesetting venues until the digital age encouraged a new level of sloppiness. (I must admit that the article itself originally sounded like it was talking about line spacing.) Like all spacing, however, it is done only for readability, and the person typing the text should probably consider it on that merit alone. Although if you’re writing a résumé for a university English department, you may want to do it anyway.

    As for bad grammar being a form of evolution—nobody’s picking on anything like netspeak here; the punctuation rules that are being discussed are presented in the form they are because it provides the most exacting form of clarity, without requiring a writer to be a god of syntax in order to get things done. Really, English is fairly readable without any punctuation at all, and that can have merit, but it’s hard to imagine how using a comma when a semicolon is more appropriate is going to benefit the art world—or any world at all, really.

    It’s plausible to say that the semicolon might eventually disappear, and just be replaced by more commas: after all, most people only use colons when starting a list or giving a direct example, whereas in the 19th Century they could be used to fuse sentences in ways we currently hide under em-dashes and reduce to semicolons. But such a disappearance wouldn’t be a good thing for language, only for convenience. A broader range of punctuation, provided that its meaning is understood by the audience, gives the author more powerful to communicate the point he or she wishes to make.

    That being said, poets, who positively love ambiguity, have been constructing their sentences in fashions that make them easy to read in multiple ways since the 7th Century BCE, and they most definitely didn’t punctuation then, either (nor do they feel compelled to do so today if it suits them), so I don’t think the art world or the design world is really threatened by the existence of proper rules. Indeed, a good and rich set of grammatical and punctual rules allows a poet more freedom *because* they get to pick what conventions they want to use or ignore. The better the audience understands these rules as well, the easier it will be for them to recognise the author’s choice to omit such devices—and, let me assure you, the kinds of people who insist you use proper grammar and punctuation in everyday life certainly aren’t trying to get in the way of that.

    Samantha Wright

    Well, I dare say I disagree. The “monospaced-is-hard-to-read” argument makes little sense when you realise that a period hardly takes up any room at all, leaving you with a larger-than-average space before the next word, not a smaller one.

    I did some digging on Wikipedia and got this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_spacing

    It appears that the tradition was to use an em space after periods, a 1/3 em space after words, and a 1/4 em space after miscellaneous punctuation marks. There are even supposed to be spaces around quotation marks, though a comma or period before a closing quotation mark doesn’t have a space after it. For the excitingly detailed connoisseur, there are additional rules for placing smaller spaces around en-dashes and, if you’re French, even smaller ones around em-dashes. The double-spacing rule is actually a simplification!

    Alex Charchar

    This spacing thing is starting to get awfully interesting.

    Typographically speaking, a double space between sentences is considered to have risen from the nineteenth century which ‘was a dark and inflationary age in typography and type design’. This practice stuck through to the typists.

    My feeling on it is that visually you’re putting holes in your blanket when you have extra spacing. It introduces rivers which slows down reading and makes the text block uncomfortable. From a typographic/design point of view, it’s a massive no-no, which I think is why you almost never see it in professionally typeset text.

    Also, I feel that monospace is hard to read not because the period (and other punctuation) takes up little space, but because it makes the text block boring. The text doesn’t flow visually and instead appears in a strict grid, which may make it easier to navigate a programming language, but when reading long pieces of text is nothing but jarring, don’t you think?

    Oh, and I’ve been meaning to ask Samantha, what is your background that gives you such an interest in all of this? You’re damn knowledgeable and it’d be interesting to find out why?

    [The quote is from The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst]

    Samantha Wright

    I’m still going to have to resist your arguments for the nineteenth century, I’m afraid:

    1741 copy of Cicero, printed in Amsterdam: http://books.google.com/books?id=VWcVAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=date:1500-1750&lr=&num=100&as_brr=1#PPP14,M1

    It’s clear in the non-italic text (starting with page 4) that a wider gap is being used after each period.

    1683 book on surgery: http://books.google.com/books?id=jCD4-fAL2v0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=date:1500-1750&lr=&num=100&as_brr=1#PPP11,M1

    There are very few periods not at the ends of paragraphs, but one is quite visible at the page marked “* 7 quod” of the dedication. The space following it is significantly wider than the other spaces on the line. This doesn’t seem to simply be the printer’s preference, as he clearly has enough different sizes of space to balance the line out more evenly (the space in “in hoc”, the last on the line, is smaller than any of the other spaces).

    More prominently, in this same text, on page 1 of the main subject matter, in Observatio I, (marked “A ?ympto-” at the bottom), on the second-last line, a clear preference for adding space after periods is demonstrated. Similar preferences for semicolons are also shown a few lines up and throughout the rest of the book. Given that this book dates to the seventeenth century, I think it would be a little bit incorrect to blame it all on typewriters—though I certainly understand the reasons given for not using them today. Rivers can be nasty.

    I’ve got a minor, zero-budget hobby for old and historical typesetting practices and a fascination with linguistics. And maybe a bit of calligraphy. Nothing too special and nothing professional. I guess I read a lot. The Internet is great for this stuff.

    Smivey

    I’m always a fan of these grammar-related posts, but when I saw your very first rule had a grammatical error of its own, I kind of lost interest in the article.

    In the Double Spaces section, you have a sentence that reads:

    “Your high-school teacher was wrong, don’t ever use them.”

    This is, in fact, two sentences separated by a comma, also known as a “comma splice.”

    Term Papers Writers

    I think it is a really good guide, especially for beginners. You are right that every country has different set of rules for grammar, but this guide is really helpful generally.

    I like to read about all guides related to writing and love learning something new every day. Good work and keep it up.

    Octopus

    Great Article. I wish a lot more people were conscientious about good grammar and proper use of punctuation. The web is rampant with misuse and just plain ignorance.

    There are a lot of rules where there are certainly differences in opinion, even if you check with the authorities. Commas in lists is a big one for me.

    With regards to the apostrophe, there is at least one case where you would not use an apostrophe to indicate possession; when writing the pronoun “it”. So, “the dog caught its own tail,” is correct.

    Rebecca

    Yeah, I don’t know if I can give up the double space habit – it’s ingrained. It is frustrating to think you have been doing the improper thing all of these years, and I have taught my son to type that way only to learn I was WRONG!

    thomgrub

    nice work fella!

    chicken recipes

    semi-colons are my least favorite of the punctuation marks

    Marie

    Though you might have done this for artistic purposes, I think the second sentence is a fragment.

    There you have it! A quick list on how to use some basic grammar that will set you apart from most schlumps who don’t know their ems from their ens.

    I also have a question about the following statement: “Ah the lovely comma.” I don’t know if it is necessary, but a comma after the exclamation might draw more attention to your statement.

    You site is nice :) and I have no idea if I am right about any of this. Thanks!

    Just thought I'd point somethi

    In reading the first paragraph, I’ve already noticed a few mistakes. It’s “different from,” not “different than.”

    Harry Roberts

    Nice article, however I noticed that when you discuss quote marks, you are in fact using prime marks — something altogether different ;)

    Kris (from Australia)

    With regard to:
    The British will use single quotes, then double quotes, when there is a quote within a quote.
    ‘I can’t forget I “can run as fast as lightning” for as long as I need’ Samantha told herself.

    While the Americans will do this the other way around.
    “I can’t forget I ‘can run as fast as lightning’ for as long as I need” Samantha told herself

    I don’t care which way the quotation marks are used, please don’t forget to put a comma at the end-before the end quotation mark-if you are to continue commenting, as above, or a full stop if it’s the end of the sentence, and NEVER have nothing there…

    Richard Reddy

    Great article. It’s amazing that we need to be reminded about these points!

    Jamie Brown

    Excellent summary, thanks! I’m going to be sharing this around the office. Disappointly few Brits are able to use their own language correctly. Having said that, I always get my commas wrong, and I always use double spaces, so I’m not sure that I can complain too much!

    john

    2.Use with and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.
    She ran as fast as her body would let her, yet it wasn’t enough.

    shouldn’t this be only if the thought would be a sentence after the fanboys?

    Phil

    Double-spaces rule. I will never give them up, and I will always be frustrated that HTML (XML, XHTML, whatever) can’t handle the fact that I’m pressing the space bar twice.

    No need to repeat Samantha Wrights comments on the topic.

    Other than that, nice work.

    Jess

    This was great, I really enjoyed this post.

    Tana

    Nice work, Mr. Charchar.

    1. Ditto on emphasizing “its” and “it’s.” It’s so simple to think of the possessives: “his, hers, and its.” Are bare-bottom spankings in public too much to ask for offenders of this SIMPLE rule?

    2. Serial commas: I learned to omit the last one, and now have taken to adding it back. The best example someone gave mem to do so? “I’d like to dedicate this book to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.” Heh.

    3. My own understanding on the double-space thing is that it became obsolete with the invention of the personal computers, and whenever I see double-spacing, I think, “Luddite. The poor dear: they probably have a dial telephone and a VCR.”

    4. I do not believe that telling someone “thank-you” is ever appropriate, unless you say, “I am going to write a thank-you note.” It does not do to say, “Thank-you for your incisive, but minor, criticism of an otherwise very intelligent and useful post about how to massage the uneducated or inattentive into using better punctuation.” Of course, this may vary from your English to mine (American),

    Cheers, Mr. Charchar, from the central coast of California.

    P.S. You ought to look more closely at deleting comments that are clearly left to pimp websites. Generic “great post” comments are rarely approved on my blog: why reward those people?

    GoCatGo

    Although I disagree with Phil in regard to the “one or two spaces” issue, I absolutely love his comment.

    I also liked Lorem’s – and others’ – comments about feeling free to explore the written word “deconstructed.”

    “Language is a virus.” No?

    Alex Charchar

    thanks for the comments everyone :)

    Truth be told, this is an article that’s been on my mind since I first wrote it. It’s often a sore point for me actually, because of the mistakes that are found throughout (which some of you nicely pointed out, while others weren’t so nice).

    I’m hoping to find some time to go through all the comments and edit the article a little bit to tighten up those silly mistakes and, where possibly, highlight the differences in opinion/country and such!

    And thanks tana, your comment made me chuckle!

    Alexander Melhuish

    This is a useful article, and I’m sure I’ll refer people here when I dispute their use of grammar. I’m pleased to see that it takes a typographical point of view as well. There seems to be little teaching about typography here in the UK, and as I’ve slowly picked up these points, I’ve found myself more-often annoyed by other people’s mistakes!

    With respect to quotations in the UK, common teaching is to use double-quotes in all cases; the single quote just doesn’t exist. Pick up any printed novel, however, and all quotations are as you stated in this article. Also, I’ve always believed that the continuing punctuation mark at the end of a quote belongs outside of the quote, as it was not in the original quote. However, this is only my personal belief, and I realise it’s unorthodox.

    As for &lquo;double spacing&rquo;, I immediately assumed you were referring to two spaces after a full stop; I’ve detested this practice for years. Yes, look in any correctly typeset book and the spaces after a sentence will be slightly bigger, but this was laid out by a professional typesetter who knows how to use the correct sized spaces! The reason for this is readability, but not directly: it’s the least obtrusive place to add a space to justify a block of text.

    If you explicitly type two spaces, you’re suggesting that you know better than the typesetter, whether that’s a professional, a DTP package or your word-processor. In this digital age, typographical spacing is surely one of the easier things for a computer to manage. Granted, some software programs fall short in this respect (all text editors and web browsers), but those designed for good textual appearance will handle it.

    Robbie Mitchell

    My educational rap music company made a song about these rules called “Dots and Dashes (Punctuation)”. Part of the Language Arts CD. If you like these rules, you’ll love the song.

    http://bit.ly/punctuationrap

    sean

    this is great stuff.Ive just been thinking a lot about this stuff recently.

    Jerre M. Hill

    I certainly disagree about the single space after a period. The double space looks much better. My English teacher was right!

    Carlos

    Nice page. I’ve linked it to my blog.

    Daniel

    I’m a graphic designer, often typesetting the works of respected academics. As much as I dislike (and dutifully amend) double spaces, they’re nowhere near as frustrating as random-spacing, whereby sentences are seperated by two, three, sometimes five (!) spaces. Frustratingly, this is a technique that only seems to be used by Professors – who would probably mark you down for such typographic offences!

    Another good grammar/typographical resource is Typography for Lawyers. Ignore the title – it’s useful to everyone. http://www.typographyforlawyers.com/

    Peter

    Nice, in my objection to your rules on apostrophes, I misused an apostrophe.

    Robert K. Tompsett

    Were was this when I flunked my college Journalism class????

    Nick

    You got the quotations part backwards, in the UK it is ” outer and ‘ inner.

    jonas

    it’s a great work of reference – thank you for publishing

    Grammar Teacher

    A really useful list written in a fun and easy to use way.

    Bildbearbeitung

    Very impressive ! And thanks for your useful tips regarding the cheat thing!

    Freelancealot

    Interesting insight to Australian grammar.

    The word ’till’, in UK English, is an informal synonym for ‘until’. There’s no apostrophe. The OED advises not to use it at the start of a sentence and to use it less than ‘until’.

    In quotes, a comma falls inside the final quote when it’s part of the quote or when the quote is introduced by a punctuation mark. When there’s no introductory punctuation mark then the closing punctuation is outside the final quote mark. When the quote is unnaturally broken (‘They opened’, croaked Helsing, ‘the lid.’) the punctuation (comma) is outside. In US English it’s always inside the final quote.

    Double or single quotes are a matter of choice. English publishers currently tend towards the American-style of double-first, single embedded. I prefer single with embedded doubles.

    In UK English you would be confusing your dash styles. An em rule ought to be used as a parenthetical dash (pair or singular). The en rule (informally depicted as a double hyphen) with spaces either side is an alternative symbol to the em rule; the styles ought not to be mixed. The use of an en rule for a range is the same. There are other significancies to the short dash, such as association (The Toney–Couture fight).

    Great to see such an interest in the precision that grammar can provide.

    Bunty Purkayastha

    An awesome site. Will definitely help to solve the silly mistakes and problems we do or face. Thanks a lot.

    dev0347

    With respect to:

    She felt she couldn’t summon the energy to run the fastest, she was wrong.

    Surely, that comma is just wrong, as it’s a splice? Those are two independent clauses and therefore you have the choice of using a semi-colon, which would imply only a casual link between the two; a colon, which would imply a direct relationship between the two (this would certainly be my preferred option); some kind of conjunction – although use of ‘however’ would, in British English at least, require a semi-colon again; or, of course, use a full stop/period and leave them as two robust and perfectly complete sentences.

    She felt she couldn’t summon the energy to run the fastest; she was wrong.
    She felt she couldn’t summon the energy to run the fastest: she was wrong.
    She felt she couldn’t summon the energy to run the fastest; however, she was wrong.
    She felt she couldn’t summon the energy to run the fastest. She was wrong.

    Also, athlete’s foot,/strong> definitely needs an apostrophe.

    And, not to prolong this further but is this

    ‘They opened’, croaked Helsing, ‘the lid.’

    not, in fact, direct speech and therefore in any version of English should have the comma inside the quotation marks (double or single at your preference, Freelancealot)? Reported speech would look something more like:

    ‘They opened’, as Van Helsing once noted aptly in Stoker’s classic, ‘the lid.’

    And, yes, then I would agree that the comma stays without the punctuation to maintain the integrity of the original quote.

    I need to get out more.

    dev0347

    Bugger. Poorly-formatted HTML. I am ashamed.

    Freelancealot

    To Dev0347,

    No, I don’t believe that’s correct (for UK English, at least). Oxford’s New Hart’s Rules gives the example ‘Go home to your father’. It says: ‘When presented as direct speech would be punctuated as follows:’ and provides ‘Go home’, he said, ‘to your father.’

    In my example the original — stake-wielding fellow correctly identified btw — would have been ‘They opened the lid.’ This is what the man said.

    Reporting this speech would be: Helsing said that they had opened the lid.

    Stay in some more, pour another drink and check your grammar, and if you still feel I made an error would you please cite a grammar guide so I (and others) can read it?

    [No attempt at HTML]

    Freelancealot

    Oh, and ‘poorly’ is an adverb so no hyphen is needed. Ought to have been ‘Poorly formatted HTML’.

    Only use a hyphen with an adverb in the phrase ‘newly-wed’. I’ve no reasonable and logical explanation as to why this exception exists.

    dev0347

    Indeed, poorly is an adverb and needed no hyphen. The HTML stramash threw me off. Again, mea culpa.

    There’s a useful few paragraphs on the whole commas inside/outside debate within Trask at http://bit.ly/dmmUrW

    He refers to it as a debate between logical and conventional practice, while I would argue that, actually, it’s a bit more complex than that. In the humble Scottish school system in which I was taught – in the days when they had Laws of Syntax and they made children learn them as immutable, so this was not yesterday – we were taught that there is a difference between conversational direct speech (e.g. in a work of fiction) and quoted/reported direct speech (which is what I should have said in my original post instead of ‘reported speech’). We were obviously taught some weird situational hybrid of the two styles Trask mentions.

    In conversational speech, we were taught that a piece of fiction would look like this

    “They opened,” croaked Helsing, “the lid.”
    “Good God, man!” replied Harker, unaware that he was one of the least compelling lead characters in the history of the written word.

    If, however, you were quoting text from Dracula in a non-fictional context, the construct should be

    ‘They opened’, as Van Helsing once noted aptly in Stoker’s classic, ‘the lid.’

    It was that stark: if it’s two people talking, double inverted commas and all punctuation tucked away; if it’s a quotation, it’s single inverted commas and punctuation firmly on the outside.

    The only remotely authoritative online guide I can find is the Oxford dictionaries (non-US English) site at http://bit.ly/9nfw0A but this is increasingly looking like it may turn out to be an evolving matter of convention and taste.

    Trask’s Guide to Punctuation [http://bit.ly/bYS4Cv] usually works as a go-to bible for most things, but this conversation is prompting me to make a lunch-time trip to Waterstones – other fine bookstores are available – for a new copy of Fowler.

    [HTML traumas avoided by sticking with plain text]

    dev0347

    Please assume that I said ‘There are a few useful paras…’

    Saúl Haro

    I’m no pretty sure if combining numbers and letters about the numbers is correct.

    For example, you say that “numbers up to ten are typed in full, 11 and beyond are numerical” and following your rule the next sentence is correct:

    “Mike is ten yers old, Marcy 16, William three, Rob four, John 15 and Nick eight”.

    I prefer to be more “consistent” within the text like:

    “Mike is 10 years old, Marcy 16, William 3, Rob 4, John 15 and Nick 8″.

    What do you think?

    By the way, do you any exercises I should perform to improve my redaction, because it sucks :p

    Thanks in advance.

    Erynn

    Excellent quick guild, but I do see one mistake. When two numbers are in the same sentence, they should both we present by their numbers, regardless of their numerical value.

    Example: We are expecting between eight to 17 people.
    Should be: We are expecting between 8 to 17 people.

    Lee

    When I came to the apostrophes section, I thought I knew what was coming—I was wrong.

    I can’t believe you didn’t mention its and it’s. This is probably one of the main problems I come across on the web (and elsewhere). I admit that I’m often guilty of mixing the two up, but just to clarify it for others:

    Its—Used to convey ownership (without the apostrophe!), as in:
    The dog wagged its tail.

    It’s—Used to combine the two words ‘it is’, as in:
    It’s easy to see why dogs are cute.

    At least those are American rules. I don’t know about British or Australian.

    But thanks for the section on En and Em dashes. It was very informative. I just wish you had included some information on semicolons—they’re so misunderstood. :(

    Joseph

    If everyone’s done with dissecting this wonderful post and pointing out the grammatical mistakes, I’d like to lend some information that may actually prove to be useful (rather than inciting debate and impressing everyone with my incredibly long comments).

    You can type an en-dash on a Mac by doing alt+hyphen and an em-dash by hitting alt+shift+hyphen.

    Demonstration ofthe em-dash:

    A chocolate chip cookie—his favorite snack—comprised his evening meal.

    Demonstration of the en-dash:

    He at 8–10 cookies for his supper.

    No HTML code annoyance!

    Milena

    @David, re: till/ until

    till (tills plural )
    1 prep In spoken English and informal written English, till is often used instead of until.
    They had to wait till Monday to ring the bank manager…, I’ve survived till now, and will go on doing so without help from you.
    Till is also a conjunction., conj
    They slept till the alarm bleeper woke them at four.
    2 n-count In a shop or other place of business, a till is a counter or cash register where money is kept, and where customers pay for what they have bought.
    (BRIT)
    …long queues at tills that make customers angry.
    in AM, use cash register
    3 n-count A till is the drawer of a cash register, in which the money is kept.
    (AM) usu the N
    He checked the register. There was money in the till.

    Vincent Pollard

    Under the Apostrophe section, a good addition would be a mention of it’s versus its. A very common mistake.

    Eric

    What sort of dash/hyphen would you use if you had a list and wanted to separate an artist and track.? For example:

    1. Artist Name – “Song Title”
    2. Artist Name 2 – “Song Title 2″

    etc.

    Joseph

    @Eric, I believe it should be the en-dash because of the usage – it’s like offsetting a phrase from a sentence.

    Drew Clarke

    Quotation marks:
    I’m British. At work, our house style and it seems sensible is not as you suggest with British and American, but this:

    If it’s a quote from a book or something written, then single quotes thus; ‘Gordon Brown never did any good..’ (The Sunday Times) whereas if it is a spoken quote; “Gordon Brown never did any good” said Tony Blair. This seems to identify simply to difference.

    I also try not to split infinitives but this rarely works and sems clumsy.

    Sam

    ‘This is nice and easy – numbers up to ten are typed in full, 11 and beyond are numerical.’

    There’s a space on both sides of ‘–’.

    What about this sentence of yours– ‘Just make sure you never have space on either side of an em dash.’?

    Toby

    “An en dash will be the width of the capital N in any given font, while the em dash is the width of a capital M in said font”

    This was never true. (You can confirm it by looking at any font on your system, or any font on this page.) The em is the “body size” of the font. En is half of an em.

    Freelancealot

    @Dev0347

    [Hyphen excused, as is the plural/singular typo (especially as you’ve added ‘stramash’ to my vocabulary)]

    ‘Hmm,’ slobbered Renfield, ‘that’s opened a cask of worms.’

    I followed the links. Trask – given some credibility by the university association – does indeed make a distinction between direct quotation of a non-fictional source and direct quotation of what I shall call, for want of a less confusing term, ‘fictional’ (rather than ‘reported’) speech.

    I don’t like this. Why would a writer continuously remind the reader that a work is fiction? This doesn’t seem to get behind the spirit of enhancing a suspension of disbelief. To my thinking, any advantage in discerning the fictional nature is outweighed by the birchable sin of adding punctuation to speech where there wouldn’t be any without an unspoken (unnatural) interruption.

    I’ve checked with Fowler’s and it echoes Hart’s – even down to the same example: ‘Go home’, he said, ‘to your father.’ [I am deeply envious of your access to any fine bookshop btw.]

    I was ready to dismiss this as a peculiar style best known to Larry Trask, but my partner grew up in Ghana and tells me she was taught a distinction in the use of double or single quotes according to the nature of the material quoted. Unfortunately, she cannot recall where she was taught to place commas in unnaturally interrupted direct speech. It’s probably coincidence, but the leader of the coup in 1981 had Scottish ancestry. Could this be a Scottish grammar style for the English language? How then would we differentiate what is currently called UK-English from other-nation English? Worms galore!

    Dev0347, to save boring everyone else you’re welcome to contact me through my website to continue this discussion.

    If anyone knows of a style guide (other than Trask’s) recommending such a use of quotation marks then please post a link.

    And if anyone feels I’m breaking forum etiquette by posting a long reply then this forum shouldn’t have raised such an interesting and controversial point — and you shouldn’t have read this far.

    vinay

    Nice article thanks for share.

    Theraisa K

    Great article. I guess you really can learn something new every day! Thanks.

    Ryan Kelly

    “She felt she couldn’t summon the energy to run the fastest, she was wrong.” That sentence has a comma splice. To fix this, one can change the comma to a semicolon or a dash, use a coordinating conjuction (but), or perhaps make the first clause dependent on the other. A comma splice is only acceptable in a sentence such as, “his muscles burned, his face dripped,” because the two clauses are similar in composition.

    Chilliwack Design

    Excellent post and definitely a good refresher. I especially like the tip about keeping your paragraphs to five sentences. Most people skim a page when they read, so by keeping your paragraphs short and creating a catchy subtitle, you’ll help lazy people find what they’re looking for.

    Brent Alexander

    I would have to agree with Devo, and Ryan Kelly on the comma splices.

    I only skimmed a few other sections, but make sure you correct those comma errors.

    Optimator

    This is a really well written and amusing article. English is not my native language (danish), and this helps me a lot when I’m writing in english. Thank you very much!

    Kaonashi

    Well-written and concise summary, but you might want to look into this:

    “Just make sure you never have space on either side of an em dash.”

    “When you know the correct way to structure a sentence, the world becomes a scary place — you start to notice how many people get it painfully wrong.”

    There seems to be spaces around the em dash in the second sentence.

    Personally, I think it looks much better with spaces around em dashes, but it seems like noone else does.

    Nick

    Ironic that you made a grammatical error in the apostrophe section!

    Owners…??

    Method 21

    This is brilliant! I will never understand how there are so many people expressing themselves all over the internet who don’t have a grasp on the simplest of grammar rules.

    If I see “your” in place of “you’re” one more time, I swear I’m gonna hurt myself!

    Another one that surprises me is how many people think the plural of CMS (content management system) should be “CMS’S”. Really?

    It’s to the point where I have just stopped reading user-generated content.

    Stewart Feldman

    Thank you! This is a great guide for my clients, especially when I edit their material and they disagree. Keep up your excellent work!

    Charles Bivona

    At the very least, you managed to get a lot of people talking, thinking, arguing about language. You should applaud yourself for that, and many other things you did right in this article. I’m troubled by your added preface, explaining your feelings re: other people’s reaction to this piece. “The fact that it got some attention mostly bothers me, to be honest…”

    I think you were just exercising your mind, developing your obvious talent, on a public stage. It’s that kind of bravery that helps great writing evolve. If others misinterpret your efforts, see it as authoritative, or attack the work as such, when you never made such claims, well, people have hang ups about all kinds of things my friend. You can’t take responsibility for them all. Do keep writing. I like the voice you’ve developed so far. It would be a shame if you stopped now.

    Nikunj

    This is really awesome, Love the way you presented the whole Grammar Idea, Love it. Would definitely share it with my friends.

    Zack

    Amazing, nice guide, these tips are basic but really useful, it will definitely improve my English writing skill, thank you very much.

    Alan

    In html you can also use the much easier to remember “—” and “–”.

    Adam

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