My posts here at Just Edits won’t always be crafted to teach you grammar, punctuation, and spelling lessons—sometimes, I’ll break from convention to give away free stuff. Granted, the prizes I award will usually be somehow linked to words and language. You know, prizes like books. Yes, books.
Thanks to Simon and Schuster for advancing me three giveaway copies of “Dog on the Roof: On the Road With Mitt & the Mutt.” Perfect for a spot on your coffee table and sure to evoke a hearty chuckle or downright disagreement, this election-season book, written by a couple of political satirists, chronicles the time Mitt Romney’s dog (Seamus) was strapped to the roof of the family car during a cross-country adventure. So what if the story is 30 years old and embellished a bit—it’s still cute, so why not try to win copy? Here’s how:
Why do you want to win? Leave a comment and let me know.
Leave a comment no later than 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on 6/17/12.
You may enter only once.
Open to 18-or-older legal residents of the United States.
Three winners will be selected in a random drawing via random.org.
Three winners will each receive one book, valued at $12.99.
Winners will be notified via future post, so be sure to check back.
If you have trouble locating the comments section, just click on the post timestamp above the post title.
There are a few errors in this (sorta) sentence, which was spotted on a gas station pump in Gainesville, Fla. Can you find and fix the flubs? Visit the Just Edits Facebook page to submit your corrections.
University of Florida President Bernie Machen to Retire in 2013
Yes, University of Florida President Bernie Machen will retire in 2013, which is pretty newsworthy stuff for those of us here in Gainesville, Fla., but I am posting about Machen not to summarize this announcement—I want to highlight how there are no commas surrounding the words Bernie Machen in my title, University of Florida President Bernie Machen to Retire in 2013.
Because he is my youngest son (not just any son), and his name is Danny. The words youngest and son in this sentence identify Danny and only Danny—that’s why commas are necessary.
What about this sentence:
I am reading the book “Tangerine” with my oldest son, Joey.
No commas for “Tangerine” because it is not the only book in the world, comma before Joey because he is the only oldest son in this instance, and no comma after Joey only because his name ends the sentence.
The lesson here: Only use commas when the name identified is totally unique, and nothing else can fit the bill.
I can’t wait to watch my favorite TV show, “Modern Family.”
(I have only one favorite show, and it is “Modern Family.”)
I watched the TV show “Modern Family” last night.
(There are many TV shows, one of which is “Modern Family.”)
To check your work, ask yourself if the identifier makes sense in the sentence on its own. If it does, then the name is nonessential, and you need the comma(s). If it does not make sense solo, then the name is essential, and you do not need the comma(s). Nonessential means the sentence can do without what sits inside the commas, and essential means the wording is necessary for the meaning of the sentence to be clear.
I can’t wait to watch my favorite TV show, “Modern Family.”
(The sentence makes sense with the identifiers only, so commas are necessary. The name of the TV show is nonessential to the meaning of the sentence.)
I watched the TV show "Modern Family" last night.
(The sentence does not make sense with the identifiers only because the reader does not learn which TV show was watched. In this case, commas are not necessary. The name of the TV show is essential to the meaning of the sentence.)
How about an exception (but just one for now):
When the words a, an, some, or a number precede the identifier, use commas.
A local farmer, Mr. Brown, shared vegetables with his neighbors.
(It’s possible there are many local farmers. Still, commas are used because of the word a.)
A whole slew of fifth-grade safety patrol kids departed Florida in the wee hours of the morning today for the nation’s capital, where they will spend several days touring, learning, and making memories to last a lifetime. Seems only appropriate, then, that I tell you this: When the context requires you to distinguish between the state of Washington and the federal district, you should write Washington, D.C. or District of Columbia. The postal abbreviation you want is DC.
Maybe you don’t find yourself in the scenario to use the word necktie very often. I know I rarely say the word—tie usually gets the point across just fine. But my oldest kid graduated from fifth grade yesterday, and he wore a necktie (the exact one pictured above, in fact), which prompted me to school myself on the word’s proper spelling.
A comma splice happens when a comma is used to join two independent clauses when another form of punctuation should be used. An independent clause has its own subject and verb and can stand on its own as a sentence.
My friend is outgoing, her sister is shy.
See the two clauses that can stand alone?
1. My friend is outgoing, 2. her sister is shy.
To fix the comma splice, just keep the comma and add a conjunction—or use a period, a semicolon, even a dash.
My friend is outgoing, and her sister is shy. (comma and conjunction) My friend is outgoing. Her sister is shy. (period) My friend is outgoing; her sister is shy. (semicolon) My friend is outgoing—her sister is shy. (dash)
"Has the bell rung?" I asked a third-grade teacher this morning at school drop-off. I vaguely remember her telling me the bell had sounded, but I confess I was not entirely focused on her response because I was preoccupied with a moment of panic—was rung the proper word choice?
Now that I’ve collected my thoughts, I realize that rung is right.
So that you won’t fumble with ring, rang, and rung, just remember:
The word ring is used for the present tense.
The word rang is used for the past tense.
The word rung is used for the past participle form—used with has or had.
Did the bell ring?—present The bell rang.—past The bell has rung.—past participle
Some sources say the words toward and towards are interchangeable. AP Style says to use toward, not towards. Search towards in the AP default dictionary, and you’ll find no such word shows up—but toward does. Search the word in the APA default dictionary, and toward pops up again, with the notation, “also towards.”
AP spelling is doughnut, and because most media outlets use AP Style, that’s why you’ll see this version of the word in news stories. The AP default dictionary does recognize the spelling donut for informal use, and so does the APA dictionary, where both words are listed (donut is called a variant of doughnut). The website devoted to this fine holiday also uses donut, and I guess we know which spelling is preferred by the creators of Dunkin’ Donuts, which happens to be giving away a freebie today with the purchase of a beverage. Krispy Kreme will also give you a free doughnut today—no purchase necessary.
So, it’s doughnut if AP Style rules your writing. Otherwise, the choice is yours.