God save the Queen! God, save the Queen! The presence or absence of punctuation — particularly the ubiquitous comma — can change the meaning of a sentence. And it can have massive consequences. This BBC website article, Pocket: The commas that cost companies millions, tells about how the absence of a comma in a contract cost […]
This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,140) on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Hi, Last week’s question: Were there no Americans before 1776? An answer came in from newsletter reader and good friend Jane P: There were many Americans long before 1776, in the numerous Native American societies and groups across what became the […]
Deeply into the process of revising the eighth edition of Writing for the Mass Media into the ninth edition, I have just composed the following paragraph on exclamation marks. Listen to the audio below and read more by clicking on the headline above.
For media writers — people who make their living in this profession, however, the rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation and style are essential. Knowing those rules and being able to apply them consciously to your writing is the mark of a professional. What you don’t know about these things, you should try to learn as […]
Subject-verb agreement exercise 01 1. None of the members of the first team are playing in the fourth quarter. Words such as none, anyone, everybody, each, either, neither and one are singular when used as subjects in a sentence. In this case, none is the subject of the sentence, not members. The verb “are” is […]
Name This exercise consists of 10 sentences. For each sentence you should decide if the subject agrees with the verb. If so, type the word “Correct” in the space below the sentence; if not, write the sentence correctly in the box below it. Follow the directions of your instructor in completing this exercise. A link […]
Commas exercise 02 1. The girl stared at him with a sad, longing look in her eyes. When two equal adjectives appear before a noun, they should be separated by a comma. In this case, the adjectives “sad” and “longing” modify the noun “look.” Because there is no conjunction, such as “and,” they should be […]
Name This exercise consists of 10 sentences. Re-type each sentence inserting commas in the correct locations. Print this out when you have finished or follow the directions of your instructor in completing this exercise. A link appears at the end of the sentences that gives an explanation for each sentence. 1. The girl stared at […]
1. Abraham Lincoln was elected to his second term in 1864, but he did not serve out his full term. This is a compound sentence – a sentence with two independent clauses. They should be connected with a conjunction, and the comma should come before the conjunction. In this case, the conjunction is “but. 2. […]
When I taught at the University of Alabama, I would give a 100-question grammar, spelling, punctuation and diction exam to beginning writing students. The test was a difficult one, but students had to make at least a 75 on the exam to pass the beginning writing course offered by the College of Communication and Information […]
Two poems by Robert Louis Stevenson
In this week’s newsletter
Read about the new book Ole Bert: Sage of the Smokies that Jim has just edited and produced for the Blount County Public Library.
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