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The Great Grammar Compendium



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Sat Sep 14, 2013 5:46 pm
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barefootrunner says...



You! Yes you. Have you heard the good news? Are you in need of enlightenment?

You have come to the right place. This is the Great Grammar Compendium, where grammar gets real.
It's not about the nouns and the adverbs. It's not about the synonyms and the homonyms. It's about you, and what you're writing. I'm not going to waste your time with lists of terms, word analyses or sentence structures. What you are about to read is a practical guide to evading the numerous pitfalls of punctuation, tenses and typography, with a few extras in-between.

Are you ready for it?
Last edited by barefootrunner on Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 5:52 pm
barefootrunner says...



Contents:

I) PUNCTUATION
i. Full stop/Period
ii. Comma
iii. Dash
iv. Hyphen
v. Semicolon
vi. Colon
vii. Apostrophe
viii. Question mark
ix. Exclamation mark
x. Quotation marks
xi. Parenthesis
xii. Ellipses
xiii. Capital letters

II) TENSES
i. Most common tenses
ii. Tense usage

III) GRAMMATICAL PERSON
i. First person
ii. Second person
iii. Third person

IV) TYPOGRAPHY
i. Bold
ii. Italics
iii. Underline
iv. All caps
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 5:54 pm
barefootrunner says...



I) PUNCTUATION

i. Full stop/period:

1.) The full stop is used to end a sentence not ending with a question mark or an exclamation mark. When read, it usually causes a pause longer than that of a comma or semicolon.

2.) It is used in some abbreviations and acronyms. Abbreviations using lowercase letters tend to use full stops, whereas abbreviations using uppercase letters tend not to use them. (This is a tendency, not a rule!) The use of full stops in abbreviations often differs between American and British English, e.g. the use of a full stop in Mr, Ms and Mrs is encouraged in American English, but discouraged in British English. It doesn’t really matter which system you choose as long as you adhere to it consistently throughout your work.

Mr. and Mrs. Aberforth went to the elephant park.
(This is typical of American English.)

Mr and Mrs Aberforth went to the elephant park.
(This is typical of British English.)

Abbreviations in lowercase letters, e.g. e.g., tend to use periods.

Abbreviations in uppercase letters, e.g. USSR, tend not to use periods.


3.) A period is also used after an initial, e.g.
George W. Bush ate his lunch.
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:02 pm
barefootrunner says...



ii. Commas:

1.) Commas separate elements in series like this:
We bought eggs, ham and mayonnaise.
Sometimes they also separate the last two elements of the list, though you may have been taught that this is unnecessary. When this becomes important, is when the last two items may meld into one, e.g.
My mother went to the supermarket to buy fruit, onions, cheese, and cucumber sandwiches.
In this case, it is good practice to make sure that the sandwiches don’t grab both the cucumber and the cheese. A comma used to separate the last two items in a list like this is called the serial comma or the Oxford comma.
Remember that the elements in the list may also be actions or phrases:
He stopped at the robot, waited for the green light, and sped away.




2.) Commas separate parenthetical elements (added information) from the main sentence, e.g.
My cat, which loves tomatoes, has swallowed a red ball.




3.) Very often, clauses linked by conjunctions such as but, and, for, nor, yet, or, or so, are also separated by commas, e.g.
He would have to kick the zombie, or it would eat his brains.




4.) Commas are often used to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence. This is probably one of the more difficult comma rules, since it requires some judgement on the part of the writer. These guidelines will help, however:

a. If the introductory element is more than three words in length, a comma is recommended, whereas it is usually optional when the element is three words or less:
By the evening he had started to become afraid.
OR
By the evening, he had started to become afraid.
(A comma is optional here and depends on the type of rhythm and speed you want to create. Remember, more commas usually slow the reader down, whereas less speed them up.)
By the time the sun had gone down, he had started to become afraid.
(Here the comma is indisputable as the introductory element is long.)

b. If the element modifies the entire sentence and not just the element after it, separate it with a comma EVEN IF it is only one word long:
Unfortunately, the man fell into the lake.

Luckily, nobody was injured in the accident.


c. When a sentence starts with an absolute phrase or an infinitive phrase, it is usually separated with a comma. (Infinitive phrases use the infinitive form of the verb [to jump] and absolute phrases use a participle [jumping].):
In order to jump out of the window, I will need longer legs.

Jumping out of the window, I realize that it is hard to land with stilts.


d. However, when the absolute or infinitive phrase is acting as a noun, i.e. as the subject of the sentence, be careful not to place a comma there:
Being a qualified medical doctor is some achievement.

Jumping out of a window is difficult.


e. When the introductory element can merge into the rest of the sentence and confuse readers, separate it with a comma:
Inside the room was painted white.
vs.
Inside, the room was painted white.




5.) Also, however, otherwise, consequently, indeed, similarly, finally, likewise, then, furthermore, moreover, therefore, hence, nevertheless, thus and nonetheless are special words called conjunctive adverbs. Look at the uses of “however” as an example. Most of these guys can be used as in cases a-d, but not as in case e. That's a special "however" buddy.
a.
I went to the lounge to see what was making the noise; however, it was dark, and I could find nothing.

b.
I went to the lounge to see what was making the noise. However, it was dark, and I could find nothing.

c.
I went to the lounge to see what was making the noise. It was too dark too see, however.
(This usage is acceptable, but less common.)
d.
I went to the lounge to see what was making the noise. It was dark, however, and I could find nothing.
(It’s tempting to leave out the first comma. Don’t do it!)
e.
However hard I looked, I was unable to find the source of the noise.
(No comma in this case. Here, “however” only modifies the second word, “hard”, and not the rest of the sentence.)

Yes, this does mean that you are supposed to use your "then" and "also" with a semicolon or as a new sentence.



6.) Comma splices appear when two independent clauses are linked with a comma, without any conjunction. This is incorrect and can be avoided by using a semicolon instead, or separating the sentences with a conjunction or even a full stop in some cases.
a.
I love baboons, they are beautiful.
This is incorrect and should run:
I love baboons; they are beautiful.


b.
My headphones keep breaking, I wear them too often.
This is incorrect and should run:
My headphones keep breaking because I wear them too often.

See canislupis's article, Run-on Sentences, or Lavvie's Comma splices for more details.

Use the comma cautiously! There are many instances not covered by these measly six points, and many exceptions!
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:43 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:06 pm
barefootrunner says...



iii. Dashes:


1.) Dashes are quite similar to commas in many ways, but whereas commas are innocuous, dashes are strong punctuational elements that tend to draw attention to the words after or between them.


2.) To make a common em dash, hold down Alt + Shift + Hyphen on most keyboards. The em dash is the length of a regular M, and is used in most cases. Dashes have no spaces to either side of them, though most online resources use them with spaces for aesthetic or typographical reasons.

a. Use dashes to emphasize ideas:
Curing cancer—now that is a huge achievement!


b. Use them to offset parenthetical elements. Here the parenthetical elements are more emphasized than with commas.
The animals—all bought from the local circus—were kept in camps.


c. Use them to offset lists in the middle of a sentence, but never single elements:
All the paperwork—the books, records, files and manuscripts—disappeared in the night.

My father’s dog, Henry, jumped through the hoop.
(Use commas in this case, not dashes, as it is a single element.)

d. Dashes in dialogue indicate interrupted speech:
“But you—but I didn’t hear you!” he stammered.

“I really didn’t—” he started.



3.) To make a smaller en dash, hold down Alt + Hyphen. This dash is the length of an n and is used only in :

a. joining times and dates in a chronological range,
In the first decade the bicycle was used (1865–1875), its design was revolutionized countless times.

2:30–4:30 in the afternoon.


b. or joining letters and numbers in indexing,
Figure 52–b illustrates the metabolism of muscle triglycerides during exercise.


c. or joining elements that consist of more than one word each or hyphenated-word compounds.
The post-Victorian–pre-Modern era was fraught with difficulties.

The South Africa–Zimbabwean border is poorly patrolled.


In one-word-at-a-time compounds such as forget-me-not, normal hyphens will suffice.
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:07 pm
barefootrunner says...



iv. Hyphen:


1.) Hyphens are used to join two or more words that form a single adjective:
well-chosen words

hot-headed men


2.) Hyphens join compound numbers:
thirty-four

sixty-two


3.) Use hyphens in words you would usually write as one, but would cause an awkward combination of letters:
semi-absorbent

bell-like


4.) Use hyphens between letters/numbers and words or between prefixes and capitalized words.
U-bend

anti-Semitic

mid-1800s


5.) Use hyphens with self-, ex-, all-, and -elect:
ex-sprinter

all-important

mayor-elect

self-assurance
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:10 pm
barefootrunner says...



v. Semicolon:

1.) Semicolons are used to link closely related independent clauses, sometimes accompanied by a transitional phrase or conjunctive adverb (e.g. also, however, otherwise, consequently, indeed, similarly, finally, likewise, then, furthermore, moreover, therefore, hence, nevertheless, thus, nonetheless). When two clauses are linked using a semicolon and no conjunction, they are given equal importance; but when they are linked using semicolons in addition to conjunctions, one clause may or may not be subordinate to the other, depending on the conjunction:

a.
Humans are social beings; they crave interaction.
(Here the two clauses are equal in importance, or coordinate.)

b.
Humans are social beings; therefore, they crave interaction.
(Here, the conjunctive adverb “therefore”, subordinates the second clause and labels it a result of the first, leaving the first clause as a main clause.)

c.
Humans are social beings; that is to say, they crave interaction.
(Here, a transitional phrase is used.)

d.
Humans are social beings and crave interaction.
(Here, the clauses are still coordinate, thanks to the friendly “and” in the middle. No semi-colon is necessary.)

See Evi's article, Commas vs Semi-colons, for more details.


2.) Semicolons can be regarded as one level up from the comma, and as such, are used in addition to conjunctions to link long clauses, clauses with commas, or lists in which each element is so long that it contains one or more commas, to avoid confusion:

a.
The majority of the women wore shorts, shirts and headscarves; but some, for questionable reasons, were clothed in silk dresses.

b.
There are two ways to approach the problem: we educate the ants to stop eating sugar, which would be a long and arduous process; or we kill the ants, which are a nuisance.



3.) Never use semicolons when separating dependent clauses (where one of the clauses cannot stand alone):
a.
Since I never drink pineapple juice; I don’t know what it tastes like.
This is incorrect and should run:
Since I never drink pineapple juice, I don’t know what it tastes like.

b.
I hate pineapples; but I like most other fruit.
This is incorrect and should run:
I hate pineapples, but I like most other fruit.


It is very rare to see a correctly used “then” or “also”. See point 5 at Commas for more information on these tricky semi-traps.
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:13 pm
barefootrunner says...



vi. Colon:

1.) Use a colon to precede a list or an explanation, when the clause preceding it is independent, or can stand on its own. Therefore:

a.
The best players were Milton, Rembrandt and John.
vs.
b.
There were three good players on the team: Milton, Rembrandt and John.
(We see here that in a, “The best players were” cannot stand alone, whereas in b, “There were three good players on the team”, can, and it therefore takes a colon.)


2.) When should the word following a colon be capitalized? Unfortunately, nobody can agree. However, most experts do say that when the items following your colon consist of more than one sentence, they must all be capitalized. When what follows the colon is a quotation, it must also be capitalized. The rest depends on your preference. Just remember to stay consistent!

a.
I shall open my speech with my favorite quote: “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

b.
Two things are important: Firstly, nobody is perfect. Secondly, everybody thinks that they are.
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:17 pm
barefootrunner says...



vii. Apostrophe:

1.) Apostrophes can be used to form contractions of words such as don’t, would’ve, they’d and I’m.


2.) Apostrophes form possessive forms:
a. When the modified word is singular, use a simple ‘s on the end:
The dog’s bowl.

The horse’s hoof.


b. When the modified word is singular and ends with an s, you may do either of the following, as long as you stay consistent (though most people prefer the latter):
The boss’s men; James’s dog.

The witness’ eyes; Charles’ child.


c. When the modified word ends in a silent s or x, you may use either (though usually the latter is preferred):
Theroux’ works, Dumas’ novels.

Verreaux’s eagle, Illinois’s governor.


d. When the modified word is a plural ending in an s, just put the apostrophe at the back:
The animals’ cages.

The witches’ brooms.


e. When the modified word is a plural of a name, put the apostrophe at the back as with any other s-plural:
The Joneses’ lawnmower.

The Smiths’ house.


f. When the modified word is a plural not ending in an s, add an ’s:
The children’s books.

The women’s makeup.



3.) Apostrophes are rarely used for plurals:

a. Use when writing plurals of numbers ONLY WHEN they may be confused with letters:
Her 6’s look like her 0’s.
(Here 0s could be confused with Os. The 6’s apostrophe is for consistency.)

b. Use apostrophes when writing plurals of lower-case letters:
Don’t forget to dot your i’s.

Mind your p’s and q’s.


c. However, when there can be no confusion of the plurals with words such as when writing plurals of uppercase letters, acronyms, clear words or dates, don’t use an apostrophe:
He got two As and four Bs in his exams.

The two URLs are very similar.

The dos and don’ts of golf are highly elaborate.

The ins and outs of grammar are equally elaborate and more confusing.

They enjoy the music of the 1960s.



4.) Look at these two sentences:
a. The horse and the sheep’s feed must be bought.

b. The horse’s and the sheep’s feeds must be bought.


In a, two meanings are possible. Firstly, that a horse must be bought and the sheep’s feed must be bought. Secondly, that the feed belonging to the horse and the sheep must be bought (one type of feed).
In b, one meaning is possible: The feed for the horse (let’s say pony nuts) and the feed for the sheep (call it hay), must be bought.
In the first case, the single apostrophe s indicates joint possession, whereas in the second sentence, the two apostrophe s’s indicate separate possession.
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:19 pm
barefootrunner says...



viii. Question mark:

1.) Question marks are used to end direct questions:
a. Tag questions:
We should have been there long ago, shouldn’t we?

There were many vampire novels, weren’t there?


b. General questions:
Are there any scalpels around?

Where did you put the watermelon?


c. Questions embedded in statements:
They will do better, won’t they, if they work together?

There were raucous cries of, “What’s going on?”



2.) Never use question marks in indirect questions:
He asked them where they were going with the teabags.

I wonder if they will ever find the toothbrushes.



3.) Don’t use question marks with long, polite requests. When the request is short, you may use question marks according to your taste:
Would you please stop fidgeting and sit up straight while we’re waiting.

Would you please shut the door behind you before a skunk escapes.

Could you post this for me?
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:20 pm
barefootrunner says...



ix. Exclamation mark:

1.) Exclamation marks are usually avoided in prose except in dialogue, and has been described by F. Scott Fitzgerald as “laughing at your own jokes”. Consider:
He walked into the kitchen and suddenly a bag of flour fell on his head!
This doesn’t convey much style and looks amateurish.

2.) Exclamation marks are used to convey emotion or volume in dialogue:
“Don’t drop it!” the man yelped.

“We won!” they shouted.
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 2:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:25 pm
barefootrunner says...



x. Quotation marks:


1.) Quotation marks are always used in pairs to enclose words or sentences. They can be used to quote the names of songs, novels, poems etc., usually without any other punctuation, though they are usually replaced with italics in novels and short stories (see Italics, point 5):
a.
I love the word “oleaginous”.

b.
“Because I could not stop for Death” was written by Emily Dickinson.

c.
The title “The Aye-Aye and I” presents an interesting homophone.



2.) Quotation marks are used along with other punctuation marks to enclose direct speech, which is usually preceded or followed by words such as “to say”, “to shout”, “to whisper”, “to murmur”, “to remark” etc. See Demeter's article on Punctuation within Dialogue for details. Here are some additional rules in dialogue:

a. Each time another character in a work speaks, his dialogue is awarded a new line, e.g.:
“I’m not sure whether he’s here,” Malcolm muttered.
“Just look if his room is empty,” said Jenna. “It’s not that hard.”
“I don’t like his room, it’s creepy!” Malcolm replied. It had been years since he had been in his brother’s room, but the underpants experience had left him scarred for life. “I’m not going in there!”


b. When writing a long narrative by a single character, each new paragraph of speech starts with a new opening quotation mark, even though the only closing quotation mark is at the end of the entire speech.

c. Thoughts or “silent quotations” may be written in quotation marks, italics, or with no formatting, though italics is most common:
“What a day,” he thought to himself.

What a day, he thought to himself.

What a day, he thought to himself.


d. Here are two rules on punctuation with quotations in quotations:
1. If a sentence ends on a quotation which ends with a question mark or an exclamation mark, do not add another quotation mark after that to end the sentence:
Everybody stared when she asked, “Why are we here?”

Did they ask, “What is the meaning of life?”

Didn’t he command, “You must kill everyone!”

He shouted, “Let’s run!”


2. If a question ends with a quoted phrase that does not end in a question mark or an exclamation mark, the question mark follows the phrase:
Didn’t he command, “You must not follow me”?

Why did they say, “The trees are useless”?



3.) Quotes that are preceded by an independent clause use colons:
I wish to conclude with a quotation from “50 Years to Independence”: “There is no way to understand the mechanics of rebellion.”

My favorite quotation is by Steven Wright: “There is a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.”



4.) Single quotation marks sometimes entirely replace the conventional double quotes in printed matter, or …
a. Single quotation marks are used to enclose a quotation in a quotation:
“We watched ‘House of Horrors’ last night,” Becky said.


b. Single quotation marks may be used to ‘elevate’ special terms, e.g.:
It has been found that ‘ingroup’ members tend to regard ‘outgroup’ members as more homogeneous.



5.) Remember not to use quotation marks with indirect speech!
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:27 pm
barefootrunner says...



xi. Parenthesis:


1.) Use parenthesis () to include de-emphasized material or extra information:

a. When the parenthesis is inside a sentence, use no punctuation to offset it, except for a question mark or exclamation mark if necessary:
I found the keys and (don’t ask me how) managed to lose them again.

I found the keys (I lost them last week, remember?) and somehow managed to lose them again.

I lost my new set of keys (yes, again!) and can’t find them at all.


b. When the parenthesis is an entire sentence or more than one sentence, place it outside the other sentences and punctuate it on its own.
I lost my keys last week. (I’ve lost them often in the past.)



2.) Square brackets are used to enclose parenthesis inside parenthesis:
I found the keys in a tree (presumably carried there by mischievous monkeys [though nobody believes me]).
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:28 pm
barefootrunner says...



xii. Ellipses:


1.) Bet you don’t know how to make a real ellipsis! Nobody can agree—some style manuals prefer a space between each dot; others call for no spaces. The best way to compromise, is the universal ellipsis: Alt + Ctrl + . in Windows and Alt + ; in Mac.


2.) Ellipses indicate a pause in thought or speech, “trailing off”, or an omission. They are always surrounded by a space on either side, except as in example a.i., where direct speech trails off, in which case there is no space before the quotation mark:

a. When the ellipsis is in the middle of a sentence:
He walked and walked … and walked off a cliff.

“I didn’t mean to …” Gertrude moaned.


b. When the ellipsis is at the end of a sentence, the sentence ALSO gets a period.
There was nothing he could do… . They were trapped.


c. When the ellipsis is at the start of a sentence, the previous sentence retains its period!
She stopped to think. … How did it work again?
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:30 pm
barefootrunner says...



xiii. Capital letters:

1.) Capitalize the first letter in a sentence.

2.) Capitalize the pronoun I.

3.) Capitalize names of people, countries and nationalities, religions, deities and holy writings, businesses and brands, literary works and movies, wars … any proper nouns.
I come from America; I am an American.

They drink Coke.

He is a Christian.

We go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The Gulf War.


4.) Capitalize the first letters of titles:
Captain Jack Sparrow

Doctor Who

Professor De Wet

Lady Witherstones

Mr and Mrs Smith


5.) Capitalize acronyms:
He is HIV-positive.

WWOOF is a fascinating international organization.
Last edited by barefootrunner on Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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