Bet you didn’t know you had a reason to celebrate today, right? And of all things, punctuation.
Well, dang it, why not? After all, where would we be without. punctuation; to Keep us, straight!?
Okay, so grab a celebratory cup of hot tea and chunk of chocolate. Then take this little test to see if you’re truly a Punct Punk.
Can you find the errors in each sentence? (That is, if there are any.) *Spoiler alert: answers at bottom.
1. Joe’s favorite era of music was 1960’s Motown back when he was 15. He loves to share his CD’s with his BFF’s.
2. Watch out for the quicksand; it’s enough … to make you desert your dessert … in the desert.
3. Andrea yelled, ‘I’m leaving’, as she slammed the door. ‘I hate it when people use “quotations” incorrectly’.
4. Listen gordo if I’d wanted to see lisa in Vermont; I would have called her.
5. I’d like to thank my parents the Pope and Mother Teresa.
6. “Hello John;” she said. “Do you have all your ‘ducks in a row’?”
7. I hate it when you think you “own” my opinion.
8. It’s beginning to snow. I’d better bring the potted plant inside before it freezes it’s new leaves off.
9. Whoa doggies! What a hoot! I can’t believe you said that!
10. Oh no. How many times have I told you not to… it’s been at least three-thousand-fourteen …
1. Apostrophes denote possession (Joe’s) but are not needed for dates or acronyms (1960s, CDs, BFFs). Also, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, numbers under 100 within dialogue should be spelled out (fifteen) because we don’t speak in numerals; always spell out numbers that start a sentence.
2. Ellipses denote pauses longer than a period (and are not appropriate in this sentence), em dashes denote interruptions. Semicolons go between two independent but connected clauses and the one here is used correctly. (A little word fun at the end there – sort of like polishing the Polish furniture.)
3. Double quotation marks (“) are used at the beginning and end of quoted phrases; single quotation marks (‘) are used for a quote within the quote. Commas and periods should be inside the quotation marks (unless you’re writing in England, where it’s the opposite). Use italics instead of quotation marks around single words to emphasize them (don’t capitalize or bold them either – stick to italics unless you’re a billboard painter).
4. Names and proper nouns are capitalized and set aside by commas: Listen, Gordo, if I … (in other words, put commas around the name of the person spoken to). The semicolon in this sentence should be a comma.
5. Speaking of commas, if used incorrectly, they can scandalously alter the meaning of a sentence. Like this one versus “I’d like to thank my parents, the Pope, and Mother Teresa.”
6. There should be a comma after addressing a name/noun (Hello, John). The use of single quotation marks for ‘ducks in a row’ is appropriate here (a quote within a quote) and the question mark is correctly placed between the single quotation mark and the double. However, semicolons go outside quotation marks (although in this case a comma would be in order).
7. Again, better to italicize own for emphasis than to place it in quotes.
8. It’s (with an apostrophe as a contraction for it is) is correct in the beginning of this sentence, but toward the end of the sentence its little leaves is appropriate (no apostrophe for a possessive pronoun).
9. Three exclamation marks in a row is overkill. Overuse of any stylistic device (especially exclamation marks!) dilutes the emphasis you’re hoping to achieve. Plus it appears that you’re trying too hard to elicit emotion from your reader.
10. Oh, no should have a comma. One set of ellipses (the first) is appropriate here (three dots only with one space before and after). Numerals (3,014) should be used for numbers over 100 for better reading flow.
So how’d you do, my friend? How punct-savvy are you?
Hey, don’t let it ruin your day if you’re not a Punct Punk … even professional writers depend on editors (who are paid to be Punct Punks) to catch all the riffraff.
So tell me – what’s your most common punctuation mistake?