Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Writing Like my Teachers Taught

As it's been said before, "it's not quite like the old days" and certainly as I get older I actually forget what started this rambling in the first place. But, I already digress - grammar and punctuation has never been my strong point, particularly since when I was taught it, I a) didn't understand it, b) pay attention, c) care. Nowadays, you wonder if all those points apply to schools - if not, perhaps not every idiot kid would be getting 15 top A grades. Nowadays, any idiot with a computer and a blogger account, ahem, can be a published author but it doesn't help standards.

I recently came across grammar and punctuation rules again, and I was surprisingly interested - and even more surprisingly, some of the rules actually rung bells.

Since I use this as a place to dump ideas and badly punctuated reminders, it seems like a good place to remind myself of some basic punctuation rules.

The Apostrophe

The Contractive

This is the most basic of the rules - if you see it's it is not that it owns something, it is a contraction. Whenever you see that form, it is because letters have been dropped and contracted:
"it's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has"
"didn't" is a contraction of "did not"
If it is a contraction it is "it's", if it's not, then it is "its"

The Possessive

The next basic rule is ownership; the possessive.
The boy's camera (the camera that belongs to the boy)
Nice and simple. However, it starts to get complicated when it comes to plural possessives. When the possessive does NOT end in 's', then we treat it like the singular:
The men's camera
When the pronoun ends in 's', it becomes:
The mens' room (the room belonging to many men)
Care needs to be taken when dealing with pluarl vs singluar possessives:
The members' entrance (entrace belonging to many members)
The member's entrance (entrace belong to one member)
Time or quantity also need the possessive.
One week's time
Two weeks' time (time that is associated with with the period)

The Ommission

Sometimes words can be shortened by having letters dropped and usually a representation of speech.
N'castle (Newcastle)
S'ppose (suppose)

The Comma

Supplementary Information

When a complete sentence has supplementary information added, which can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence, a pair of commas can be used; just like that previous sentence.


Complete sentences can also be joined together using commas in conjection with and, or, but, while ..


Lists items are seperated by commas. Use them when you can substitute the comma with a and or or.
He was a speckled, skinny freak (he was speckled and a skinny freak)

Breaking Flow

One of the original uses for the comma was by printers to give indication of when to pause or to take a break. When literacy was the preserve of the rich and wealthy, the only way the masses got information was when it was read to them; commas were used to indicate flow or the text.

The Semi-colon

The semi-colon is meant to connect two related sentences without a conjunction (no "and" or "but"). However, it's quite closely related to a comma, but the difference is that the semi-colon is used when a comma would make the sentence ungrammatical.
We arrived into London; it was raining and cold.
Sure a "but" could be used but using the semi-colan drives the importance of the latter statement. Using the conjuction, in this case "but", seems to have less impact.

The Dash

What about dash? Isn't it used like the semi-colon? The dash is meant to be preserved for use when the connection is less apparent and used when a connection is wanted to be implied. However with the advent of the net, the dash is more commonly used to connect sentences where the semi-colon was traditionally used.

The Double Dash

This construct is similar to the paried comma in that it provides extra information, but in the case of the double dash, its used purely to interject; loudly.
With mintues remaining, the losing side resisted - why I ask, why?! - attacking the opposition.
This bracketting device is similar to the double brackets, but the written implication of the double brackets is much more stiffled.
With mintues remaining, the losing side resisted (why I ask, why?!) attacking the opposition.

The Colon

Statements that are apparently apposing/have no connection BUT are actually connected, are joined together using a colon:
There's only 3 things wrong with that statement: the begining, the middle and the end.
The use of the colon here implies theres a connection. Consider the example
He stayed at home. Newcastle had been relegated.
He stayed at home; Newcastle had been relegated.
He stayed at home: Newcastle had been relegated.
The first just gives 2 statements. There is no implication that one is connected to the other. The second statement implies that there could be a connection.

The third statement, using the colon, gives a direct connection between the two sentences.

I'm well aware that whilst this is a little bit of a rant, the irony of my own grammar has not passed me by.

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