Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Commas, Dashes, Ellipses—Oh My!

Yes, dear ones, just because school is out for summer vacation does not mean you are excused from minding your grammar! At the request of a very concerned Seeker (no, not Myra this time, although she is also quite disturbed by the general deterioration of proper grammar), I am calling a special remedial class on punctuation.

So take out pencil and paper and get ready for a pop quiz. And no peeking at your neighbor’s paper!

Choose the correct form of punctuation from the list below, then insert in the space designated by brackets in each of the examples that follow.
  1. . (period)
  2. ? (question mark)
  3. , (comma)
  4. ; (semicolon)
  5. ! (exclamation point)
  6. — (em dash)
  7. – (en dash)
  8. - (hyphen)
  9. : (colon)
  10. / (forward slash)
  11. . . . (ellipsis)
  12. “ “ (double quotation marks)
  13. ‘ ‘ (single quotation marks) 

Pop Quiz

  1. Ruthy needed a change of pace[ ] she decided to bake more cookies.
  2. “Wait!” Audra shouted. “Don’t leave without[ ]“ But the car sped away.
  3. Sandra opted for an RV park[ ]pickleball vacation.
  4. Cara will be signing her books at nine forty[ ]five.
  5. Debby may try writing about a suspense character with a Jekyll[ ]Hyde personality.
  6. Mary examined the elements of her opening scene[ ] heroine, villain, rifle, gunshot.
  7. Tina asked if anyone would like a lemon from her backyard tree[ ]
  8. [ ]If you need help with your spreadsheet, just ask,[ ] Pam offered.
  9. “Don’t close the suitcase yet. I still have a few things to pack for ACFW[ ]” Janet told her husband.
  10. Missy is  ] well, she’s a bit frazzled with everything going on this summer.
  11. “Sorry, Julie,” her editor stated, “but [ ]novella length[ ] means your story can’t be 100,000 words long.”
  12. Reading her revision letter, Glynna gasped. “No changes? Wow[ ]
  13. Will Myra ever be able to read or write anything without Grammar Queen looking over her shoulder[ ]

Ahem! Obviously, number 13 is rhetorical.

All right, students, you may now check your papers against the answer key at the end of this post. We’re on the honor system, so I’m trusting you to grade yourselves fairly. Surely each of you passed my little quiz, but in the event that anyone requires further clarification, we shall now take a closer look at each of these punctuation marks. 

1. The humble period. We should all be well versed in the use of periods to end a declarative sentence. Or even an incomplete sentence. Which fiction writers are prone to use.

2. The question mark. Does everyone know to place the question mark at the end of a direct question? I certainly hope so. The question mark should also be used within a sentence containing a direction question.

Should Audra stay or go? she wondered.

However, an indirect question requires a period, not a question mark.

I wonder if my students will comprehend this point.

Don’t bother asking why.

3. The comma. This teensy little punctuation mark, according to The Chicago Manual of Style, “indicates the smallest break in sentence structure. It denotes a slight pause.” When the comma is used to separate two independent clauses joined by a conjunction, the comma is inserted before the conjunction.

Mary wanted to go sightseeing, but Ruthy preferred to work on her novel. 

Commas also separate items in a series. When a comma is placed before the “and” or “or” in a series, that comma is known as the Oxford comma, and its use is highly favored by both GQ and CMS to avoid ambiguity.

4. The semicolon. More than a comma, less than a period, the semicolon is most often found between two independent but related clauses not joined by a conjunction. The semicolon may also be used in a series when one or more of the series elements include commas, as in the following example:

Janet decided to wear her short, green blazer; long-sleeved, striped blouse; and gray slacks.

5. The exclamation point. Exceedingly popular in Seekerville and social media commentary, the exclamation point follows a strongly emphatic statement or outcry. In all other cases, use in moderation!!! The exclamation point may also take the place of a question mark when the question is actually more of an exclamation.

When will my grammar students ever learn!

6. The em dash. The em dash serves a variety of purposes. One common usage is to set off explanatory or amplifying words or phrases.

The workshop speakers—Seekers Missy, Julie, and Mary—will take questions after the presentation.

Fiction writers often use em dashes to indicate interrupted speech or an abrupt change of thought.

“But I thought—” Cara began. 

Glynna said she couldn’t meet us for dinner—wait, I think she changed her mind again.

7. The en dash. Although we don’t see the en dash nearly as often as other forms of punctuation, this bit of punctuation—not as long as an em dash nor as short as a hyphen—serves a necessary purpose and should be used appropriately. In prose writing, it is found most often in compound adjectives where one of the elements is already a compound.

Myra’s Till We Meet Again series takes place post–World War I. 

The en dash should also be used to take the place of “to” or “between” in phrases indicating time or location.

Ruthy’s book signing, 11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m., will be held at the library.

BUT never, ever, ever use the en dash if time or place is preceded by “from” or “between”!!!! This is a crime against parallel construction and demands the use of several exclamation points for emphasis!!!!!

WRONG: The library is open between 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
WRONG: I shall be on vacation from September 3–15.

Although heaven knows after trying to explain all this, I shall certainly need a vacation!!!

8. The hyphen. Very simply, the hyphen connects the parts of a compound term. When a compound adjective precedes the noun it modifies, use hyphens.

a long-tailed dog
a yellow-beaked bird
a three-year-old child


the child is three years old (NO hyphens!)

When spelling out times, hyphenate as in these examples:

eight forty-five (hyphenate minutes only)
four fifteen (no hyphen)

9. The colon. The colon typically introduces sentence elements that illustrate or amplify the preceding phrase. When used within a sentence, do NOT capitalize the first word following the colon (unless a proper name). When used to introduce two or more sentences, capitalize the first word of each sentence as you would normally. 

Mary had three choices: She could meet Ruthy at the airport. She could let Ruthy catch a cab. Or she could pretend she never got the message.

Use the colon after phrases such as “as follows” or “the following.”

Do NOT use the colon before a series introduced by a verb or a preposition.

WRONG: For lunch Pam had: a sandwich, carrot sticks, and a glass of sweet tea.

10. The forward slash. This one is fairly straightforward—ha ha!—and is used to signify alternatives.


11. The ellipsis. The two primary uses of the ellipsis are (1) to indicate omitted words from a quoted passage, and (2) at the end of a deliberately incomplete thought. The latter is what we see most commonly in fiction.

“I was thinking we should . . .” Audra began. “On the other hand, it’s probably not a good idea.”

12. Double quotation marks. In American usage, place double quotation marks around character dialogue and other quoted material. When referencing shorter works (magazine articles, poems, chapter titles, individual episodes of a TV series, etc.), enclose the title in double quotation marks. Longer works (book titles, movie titles, TV series titles, etc.) should be italicized.

Tina’s short story “Music of Love” appeared in a recent issue of Woman’s World.

13. Single quotation marks. When an element that would normally be enclosed by double quotation marks appears within already quoted material, use single quotation marks instead.

Julie asked, “Did Myra really say, ‘No, I absolutely will not go to the mall with you, Sandra’?”

In the above example, please note the placement of the question mark, which correctly punctuates Julie’s question rather than the statement attributed to Myra. In this case, a period should not be used to end Myra’s quoted words. Compare to the example below:

Sandra replied, “No, Julie, Myra’s exact words were, ‘Sorry, but I can’t go to the mall with you today.’”

In the above example, the period goes inside both sets of quotation marks.

Lest I overwhelm you with so much information that your dear little heads explode, today’s lesson includes only the briefest explanations of each of these forms of punctuation. If specific questions arise during the course of our discussion, I shall be happy to answer on a case-by-case basis (note correct hyphenation of compound modifier).

Now, who is brave enough to post your quiz results? Anyone? Participants in today’s class are eligible to be entered in a drawing for one of two giveaways. I am personally offering a copy of The Best Punctuation Book, Period: A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson. Myra is also generously contributing a copy of the Seekers’ recently released novella collection, Love Will Find a WayJust mention in your comment if you would like to be entered in either or both drawings.

Hit the hiking trail as award-winning authors Cara Lynn James, Myra Johnson, and Sandra Leesmith whisk you away to three of America’s most beautiful outdoor settings: scenic northwest Connecticut, the rugged Big Bend Country of West Texas, and the expansive vistas of the Grand Canyon. Romance, faith, and adventure combine in these inspiring stories where love always finds a way!

Myra also threatened to lock away my entire collection of grammar reference books unless I provide all you dear, attentive students with her online links. So please, GO OUT RIGHT NOW AND BUY ALL OF MYRA’S NOVELS!!! And purchase extra copies for your family and friends!!! 

Twitter: @MyraJohnson and @TheGrammarQueen (that is I!)


  1. I'm bracing myself for the yard stick smack on the hand or maybe even the BIG RED F on my paper!!!! *cringes*

    Five out of thirteen......

    I'm quietly going back to the dunce corner......

    Pretty please with sugar on top Grammer Queen, please add my name for Myra's novella collection....thank you so much :-)

  2. Oh goodness....maybe I need to wear the super dunce cap today....I misspelled grammer....OY!! That's suppose to read Grammar Queen.

    There I was the first student out the gate, the comments may now commence....

  3. Don't feel badly, Trixi. The one I got wrong was the one I knew the best! I teach it, so I know that forty-five needs to be hyphenated. But I read too fast (something I am always warning my students NOT to do) and was thinking 9:45 so I used the colon instead. DUH!

    Smack me, Grammar Queen.

    Or maybe I should just go to bed.

  4. Going to bed, now that has a lot of appeal Cate! Maybe I'll dream I got all these answers correct....

    I'll be back in the morning to check if someone put the coffee on, maybe I'll bring some kind of pastries from our local bakery to appease the Grammar Queen. Think that'll work? :-) Goodnight y'all!

  5. Punctuation can be a nightmare. Even as a reader I am called upon to be correct at times.

    Count me in for the giveaways thank you.

  6. I love it when the Grammar Queen makes a visit.

    I am surprised I did as well as I did on the quiz. Maybe more guessing than remembering. The one I missed was #2 em dash.

    May you all be blessed today!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  7. Welcome, Grammar Queen! Although my editor may never believe this,I only missed one.
    Great stuff...thank, Myra!

  8. Oh, my face is red. I only answered eight questions right. Please, put my name in for the drawing for the book, The Best Punctuation book,Period. Looks like I need it. Thanks for the fun and informative article.

  9. Hi Grammar Queen
    I got ten questions correct. Apparently I do not understand the proper use of em and en dashes, nor the ellipsis. *sigh* Those were the questions I missed.

    I did better than I thought I would. It's the small things in life. I just won a Myra book, but may I be selfish and have my name in both draws? I'm bookmarking this post for future reference. Hooray for Grammar Queen visits. I actually feel smarter for having read today's post.

  10. Hello GRAMMAR QUEEN! I will sit quietly in the corner reading a book as punishment for failing the Pop Quiz.

    Please put me in the draw for Myra's Love Will Find a Way.

  11. Oh, groan. I had difficulty with en dash, forward slash, and hyphen. Ugh. Ten correct out of thirteen. Double Ugh. I'll be printing the Grammar Queen's helpful post.
    Please put my name in for the punctuation book. It looks like I need the help. I already have the novella collection waiting on the TBR stack. I'm looking forward to it.
    Thank you, Grammar Queen.

  12. I got six right I have put myself in the corner. Looks like I need to print out this lesson. Please put me in the drawing for the punctuation book.

  13. Good morning, dear students! So glad to see some early birds already have attempted the quiz. However, as many of you are already aware, GQ is not a morning person. We are still sipping our Earl Grey and finishing the morning paper. (Yes, I used the Royal "we" for obvious reasons).

    So keep up the fine work, and I shall return shortly to review your quiz scores and chat with you about proper punctuation.

    Ta-ta for now, dear ones!

  14. I think I might be the only person in the world who has actually read The Chicago Manual of Style from cover to cover--the 14th edition. Yes, I'm weird. Now most publishers use the 16th edition, as do I, but some are still using the 15th edition. Are your eyes glazing over yet? As an editor, I still refer to CMS while editing a manuscript. As an author, I still mess up and read over my mistakes. My advice? Buy a copy of CMS, do the best you can, and make your deadlines. There's a reason God made editors on the 8th day. ;-)

  15. I did pretty well. I only missed number 10!!! My husband always calls me the grammar Nazi; I'm always picking out grammatical errors. Thanks for the fun!

  16. All I can say is, Thank God for Editors!!!!

    This is such good, useful information that used to be taught in schools... and is clearly on the decline if you've ever read college papers.

    But that's off-topic, and I don't want to be slap-dash about such an important subject.

    I love that editors catch my gaffes now, but back in the day, it was all on me, and that can get dicey.

    Myra! Thank you for this, oh wise one.

    Oh, wait, I mean Myra's friend The Grammar Queen.



    That's who I meant!

  17. Coffee is here.... I started a new story this morning, and I love it, and I forgot to bring the coffee over."


  18. Barbara Scott, I'm laughing at that!

    The funny thing is that each house I work with (at last count "5" publishers, how blessed am I?????) does it a little bit differently, so I've grown beyond worrying and now I do my best, nail the story and know we can iron out details in the ground work.

    And 8th Day Editors rock!!!

  19. At last--eyes are open and the royal brain is functional!

    TRIXI, my dear, perhaps you did not study hard enough for my quiz. Were you able to determine where you went awry? If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask.

  20. Alas, dear CATE, reading too quickly is the downfall of many a student. I am glad to know that you did know the correct answer even if you marked your test paper incorrectly. I shall award you three-fourths of a gold star for your honesty.

  21. Oh, there you go, TRIXI, bribing GQ with goodies! What a thoughtful gesture!

  22. MARY PRESTON, do you suffer from the same compulsion as I to mentally correct every grammatical faux pas you come across in your reading material?

  23. Good morning, CINDY W! Yes, I thought the answers to my little quiz should be obvious in context, and I'm glad you did so well.

    The em dash is quite a useful little tool, one that most fiction writers truly appreciate—although it can be overused if one is not careful.

  24. My dear JILL, I'm sure your editors will be delighted to know how well you performed on the quiz. Would you like me to send them my personal recommendation on your behalf?

  25. You are quite welcome, THERESA. GQ is always glad to assist in the development of her students' grammatical skills.

    Now, go forth and study the finer points of punctuation!

  26. DEB H, GQ is thrilled to play a part in your grammatical enlightenment!

    Yes, there can be confusion concerning em dashes, en dashes, and ellipses. It may help to think of the flashy-looking em dash as an interruption, and the gently flowing ellipsis as a pause.

  27. CARYL, my dear, did you fail to study for the quiz? Alas, it happens to the best of us (although rarely to moi). I do hope the book you carried with you to the corner has something to do with punctuation rules.

  28. Ten out of thirteen is not horribly disgraceful, BARBARA FOX. Do you feel more enlightened after having read through my helpful explanations?

    MYRA, SANDRA, and CARA will be so pleased so learn you already have their new collection in your TBR stack. Bless you, my dear! You have helped to save me from having Myra confiscate my grammar reference books!

  29. Dear WILANI, I'm so sorry the quiz gave you such difficulty. But we learn something new every day, do we not? Take heart, my dear, for tomorrow is another day!

  30. Oh, BARBARA SCOTT, you are a girl after my own heart! I confess Myra and I are still referencing the 15th edition (those books are so expensive!), but we do our best.

    On the eighth day God created editors? Interesting concept. Where would one find this in scripture--or is it a passage from CMS 16, perchance? ;D (Yes, GQ did just use an emoticon. I am a modern woman, after all.)

  31. Congratulations, KELLY! However, your title as "Grammar Nazi" is just a wee bit scary. I much prefer my royal designation.

    You may curtsy now.

  32. Of course you meant GQ, RUTHY, and you have my forgiveness for mistaking me for my lowly alter ego. I do my best to keep Myra in line, but . . . alas, she is always complaining about me. Can you imagine anyone being annoyed by my constant presence in her boring little life?

  33. Dear Editors of Jill Weatherholt,

    I wish to inform you that her grammar is exceptional, as proven by her outstanding performance in my Seekerville grammar classes. Should you find any grammatical errors in her next manuscript, please excuse her (and, of course, gently correct her).

    Royally yours,
    Grammar Queen

  34. Yes, O Grammar Queen, I think you can find that passage about God creating editors on the eight day in the little known apocrypha of CMS. Tee-hee!

  35. As I suspected, BARBARA SCOTT. I shall have to add the CMS apocrypha to my collection and use it to bash the heads of anyone brash enough to argue with GQ!

  36. “Sorry, Julie,” her editor stated, “but [ ]novella length[ ] means your story can’t be 100,000 words long.”

    Ooooooo, low blow, GQ ...

    Okay, move over, Barbara Fox, because I missed 3 out of 13 too, which makes me hang my head in shame since I used to be a proofreader! But in my defense (and a CDQ always has one!), I don't consider my choice of a comma instead of an ellipsis for #10 wrong because frankly, I use soooooo many ellipses at the end of my sentences, that one in the middle is a little overkill for me ...

    And, yes, hard as it is to believe, I DO get to the point of "overkill" like normal human beings at times ...

    Confession time! I never, EVER use en dashes. NEVER! I use hyphens instead. So I guess I am now banned from further GQ posts???

    BARBARA SCOTT SAID: "There's a reason God made editors on the 8th day. ;-)"
    LOL ... and THANK GOD!!


  37. Oh great. I see GQ is already laying it on thick this morning. I restrained her as long as I could--even considered brewing another pot of Earl Grey--but she wasn't to be deterred.

  38. I suppose, dear JULIE, that one's inflection on number 10 could affect one's decision on whether to use an ellipsis or a comma. GQ was going for the longer, more thoughtful pause than a mere comma would suggest.

    And GQ must ask why you would choose a hyphen over a perfectly useful and appropriate em dash. The alternative to the em dash, as we—ahem—writers of a certain age will recall, was to type two hyphens with no spaces before, amid, or after. Thanks to the invention of computers and word processors, however, we can now insert our very own em dashes to our heart's content (or our editor's patience).

  39. Excellent information! I'm printing the post to use as a cheat sheet.

    Please enter my name for both drawings!

  40. Thank you, EDWINA! You are most welcome to print off my lecture for future reference. Bless you, my dear!

  41. As predicted, I got the first four WRONG!

    I must get this book. ARRRGH!!

    Thank you, GQ for all this!!

  42. The em dash is my favorite punctuation mark. It was also my nemesis until some kind soul took pity and explained how to do it on a Mac.

  43. Okay, seriously, I just ordered the book.

    EM dash is the one that is under symbols on a PC, right? GQ is a Mac girl.

  44. Okay so the old em dash was --. Good to know I am not totally off the mark.

  45. I need to read the comments. Great info, GQ!

    The en dash is something I don't use. Need more review.

    In the following sentence, could commas be used around Tina's title?

    Tina’s short story, “Music of Love,” appeared in a recent issue of Woman’s World.

  46. I don't know if there is an easy way to em dash, but once I learn one way, dagnabbit it toys with my mental acuity to try and change.

    Now I can change ice cream flavors.

    But my dashes are engraved on my brain like brands on cattle.

    (No allusion to my fun Double S Ranch cowboy series, of course!)

  47. Long live (use of) the Oxford comma!

    To my astonishment, I had 12 correct answers on the quiz (although that deserves an exclamation mark, I will refrain). If I had only utilized the process of elimination ...

    Your examples were so much fun to read, GQ. What a wonderful teaching post (no question mark). Thank you!

    Nancy C

  48. As predicted??? TINA! You should have more confidence in yourself. Or, apparently, study harder. Yes, dear, this new punctuation book I have just come across is quite handy.

  49. Yes, CATE, em dashes can be a writer's best friend—in moderation, of course. It typically isn't hard at all to set up an auto-correct feature on one's computer to automatically change two hyphens to an em dash. Or, as Myra has done, create her very own keyboard shortcut combination.


  50. Jane did her 'boogey dance.'" right or wrong?

  51. Seriously??? There are 3 kinds of dashes??? I went to good schools, & I never knew that!

    You are so Smart, GQ- Scary but Smart! (And that is totally messed up isn't it?) :)

    *Please enter me in the drawing!I obviously need it! :)

  52. A non-punctuation question, Your Highness.

    I was taught pronoun after proper name (Jake and I) and pronouns referring to self after pronouns referring to others (he and I). For several years, I've noticed sentences like "Me and Jake ate at Yankee Belle Cafe" or "The ladies at Yankee Belle Cafe were very nice to me and Jake." I've noticed this construction in books published by well-respected publishing houses. Should I give in to what seems to be common usage?

    What say you, prithee?

    Nancy C

  53. So true, DEBBY, we don't often think of using the en dash, but it does have its proper place.

    As to your comma placement question, WITH commas indicates the story is TINA's only short story ever, when we know for a fact she has had many stories published in Woman's World. I know the terms are confusing, but think restrictive and nonrestrictive. Nonrestrictive elements ARE set off by commas because they are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Restrictive elements are NOT set off by commas because they provide necessary clarification.

    So in your example, do NOT use commas because we need to know WHICH of TINA's many excellent stories you are referring to.

  54. So, dear RUTHY, are you saying, essentially, that one cannot teach an old dog new tricks?

    Not that GQ would ever call you an "old dog." Ever. Not in a million years.

  55. Bless you, NANCY C! And I concur—long live the Oxford comma! The comma is such a teensy little punctuation mark. I cannot imagine why anyone would choose to save space by eliminating it.

    Congratulations on 12 correct answers! A semi-gold star for you, my dear!

  56. TINA asked: Jane did her 'boogey dance.'" right or wrong?

    GQ must ask, what purpose does the lone double quotation mark serve? Without a double quotation mark to begin the sentence, it is meaningless. In which case, GQ would eliminate the single quotation marks around "boogey dance" and simple enclose it in double quotation marks. When your punctuation book arrives, refer to p. 81 for clarification.

  57. JANA, my dear, yes, three kinds of dashes—who knew!

    And I'm terribly sorry to frighten you so. I truly am a nice person. Mostly.

  58. No, no, a thousand times NO, NANCY C! Never, ever, ever give in just because certain usage grows more commonplace.

    First of all, whether to use "I" or "me" is entirely dependent upon whether the pronoun is used as a subject or direct object.

    Jake and I dined at the Yankee Belle Cafe. [subjective case]

    The hostesses were so nice to Jake and me. [objective case]

    And sheer politeness requires that we put ourselves second to our companion.

    Naturally, when writing dialogue for uncouth characters, one may use faulty grammar and even be rude and thoughtless. However, always know the rules you are breaking, and break them with cautious intent.

  59. The Grammar Queen said...
    MARY PRESTON, do you suffer from the same compulsion as I to mentally correct every grammatical faux pas you come across in your reading material?

    I have an 1897 book titled "Manual of Proofreading -- A Practical Course in Seven Lessons." A previous reader went through it and made proof marks all through the text. One of GQ's ancestors, perhaps? :-)

    Nancy C

  60. Oh my, all this talk of Jake has brought to mind my wonderful adventure with dear Jake MacKillian on the virtual Seeker retreat a few years ago! I do miss that man! RUTHY, what do you hear from Jake these days?

  61. That is highly possible, NANCY C. Grammar police lurk everywhere, unbeknownst to most of the population unless you run afoul of them.

  62. The Grammar Queen said...
    No, no, a thousand times NO, NANCY C! Never, ever, ever give in just because certain usage grows more commonplace.

    Thank you. I just love being a rebel :-)
    Nancy C

  63. Of course, I love the grammar. Isn't it wonderful to come someplace where others love the grammar as well? But I think I particularly enjoy all the examples with the Seekers. :-)

    Please enter me into both drawings. Thank you!!!

  64. Ah, yes, MEGHAN, I do take fiendish delight in using the Seekers as examples in my pop quizzes. It is my favorite form of revenge for how they scorn me the rest of the year!

  65. Oh, give us a break, GQ. As RUTHY would say, pull up your big-girl panties and get over yourself.

  66. Thank you, oh wise one! Now I will worry about being too restrictive. And I thought I understood commas. :(

  67. Thank you, Grammar Queen. I actually did better than I'd thought on your quiz. However, now I'm nervous as I type this post because I'm fearful of making a mistake!
    You're so kind to share your expert knowledge with us, and I'm adding this to my Keeper File.
    Would it be terrible to admit I'm giggling at MYRA JOHNSON'S recent comment to you? ;) If her comment did not set well with you, then please soothe yourself with a helping of warm Georgia Peach cobbler! :)
    With respect, Patti Jo

  68. Ehhh, better reader!! I never did like English class. I can usually catch a mistake but I certainly wasn't good at filling in the blank.
    Toss me into the novella collection drawing please.

  69. Oh, PATTI JO, you are such a dear, dear lady! And you must never be nervous around me. Truly, my bark is worse than my bite!

    Besides, I am easily bribed with Georgia peach cobbler, especially if you don't mind topping it with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream!

    Don't worry about Myra, either. I will settle the score with her eventually. I KNOW WHERE SHE LIVES!!!!

  70. DEANNA, how could you not like English class? Oh, the joys of diagramming sentences, conjugating verbs, analyzing adjectives and adverbs! Be still, my heart!

  71. I missed 2. Not bad for a kindergarten teacher who only teaches basic punctuation, right? As for my alternate personality, the writer, I'm shaking my head. I should've gotten those. Especially after taking Pamela Tracy's workshop on commas and grammar. Rats!
    And this is the second time I've heard about Patti Jo's peach cobbler. Seriously, I need some!

    Thanks for the wonderful post!

  72. Peach cobbler can make up for all kinds of disappointments, LEANNE. Do try some of PATTI JO's delicious cobbler at your first opportunity!

    And remember, there is always next time. This will certainly not be GQ's final visit to Seekerville.

  73. Me and GQ are fixing to break for lunch. Use all the crummy grammar y'all want while her and me is gone.

  74. I think I passed the quiz.
    The trouble is, my editors have probably given up teaching me and just fix it. So I will go on....confident....regardless of truth.

    ps Grammar Queen is scary!

  75. Oh, oops. I can check my quiz answers? Uhoh. sigh, must go face the music!

  76. pss I think of you often when I'm writing. I'd email you for help but I'm afraid. (Okay sometimes I do that anyway)

    When I use ... ellipses or -- M dashes to end a sentence where a quotation mark is required
    ex: "But Grammar Queen I thought you said lay down meant sleep and lie down meant setting something on the--"

    Okay, my point, when I use M dashes or ellipses to end a sentence the quotations marks don't behave, it faces the wrong way. So I type ...m" or --m" Then delete the M. The quote mark behaves and if I can only remember to delete the M I'm good.

    Once in a while in revisions I do find a random M but one had never made it into a book...I hope!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  77. PSSS I'm bringing a crown to ACFW. In case Grammar Queen shows up and we need a photo op.

  78. I missed... three problems- yeah I'm a little ashamed of myself... I got the em and en dashes mixed up and, when I was looking over the options to choose from, my eyes must have skipped over the hyphen... My Mennonite English teachers would skin me alive if they ever find out! I spent ten years learning this stuff and I still failed! Yeesh, please no one contact Rod and Staff and notify them of my failure. I would never be able to live it down...

  79. Hi Grammar Queen. Sure love learning about the commas. My editor will love it too since that is the biggest issue when editing my manuscripts.

  80. GRAMMAR QUEEN, I bow to your expertise. You really should be teaching a workshop at ACFW. Though rapped knuckles may be frowned upon at a Christian Writers Conference. I will take the test when I return from an appointment. I hope there's no punishment for being tardy.


  81. 10 out of 13 and boy did I learn a lot. Put me in for the grammar book drawing please.

    Question: If I am referencing a book title where I cannot italicize (like in blog post commenting), how would handle that?

    Thanks for the great info Grammar Queen.

  82. Perhaps, MARY, your editors are as frightened of you as you are of me!

  83. MARY, I know exactly what you mean about the quotation marks facing the wrong way after an ellipsis or em dash. I will not even begin to try to explain to you how to do this, but I have made a keyboard shortcut for closing quotation marks. So when I get to the end of a line of dialogue with ... or — that needs closing quotation marks, my fingers have the keyboard combination memorized and I just do it.

    There. Very helpful, huh?

  84. You are fortunate, NICKY darling, that I do not have contact information for your previous grammar instructors. You may count today's class as your refresher course, but do not be guilty of making the same mistakes again!

  85. Good day, SANDRA! Yes, I hate to say this, but you are not alone in struggling with proper comma placement. Study, my dear girl. Study, study, study!

  86. No, JANET, you may be excused for your appointment. All I ask is that you do not confer with your classmates before taking the test for yourself. I'm sure you'll do fine!

  87. Actually, LORAINE, there is a way to italicize in blog comments, at least in most cases these days. Simply enclosed the word you want to italicize with these symbols (I am deliberately placing spaces around each symbol so they will appear in this comment, but you would type them without any spaces at all).

    < i > your word to italicize < / i >

    You can also boldface words by replacing the i with a b.

  88. By the way, here is another grammarian's opinion about indicating italics when that option is not available, such as in a Tweet or on Facebook:

    Formatting Titles on Twitter and Facebook

  89. Okay, I took the test. I missed two. One a straight up mistake that I knew exactly was wrong the minute I saw the answer. I put a colon in the time sentence but I was just thinking numbers not words. 4:15, you know.
    The other was the Sandra pickleball thing. I went with a slash instead of a hyphen. I saw a second slash sentence later and that should have told me one was wrong because you didn't reuse any other symbol that I noticed.
    I may just want to use/misuse slashes overly maybe/maybe not.


  90. Missing only two is quite admirable, MARY! I shall award you a silver star.

    Just remember that the slash indicates an either/or combination. The en dash connects a compound element where something is both at once.

  91. Thank you so much, GQ. It is supposed to arrive on Wednesday.

    Thank you too, for the book referral.

  92. I was thrilled to see that the Grammar Queen was here today. As an editor, I love this post! Please throw my name in the hat for the grammar book, as it's one I'd like to add to my collection.

  93. Welcome GQ:

    I'd say I got a 100% on the pop quiz!

    In a live class I would have immediately asked if the punctuation marks could be used more than once and if we had to use each of them. A good way to trick unsuspecting students is to include answers that are not used!

    For example, I think an ellipse can be used equally well on #2 and #10. So I did!

    Also I believe that #3 does not require a punctuation mark. I don't want to slow down the reader with 'speed bumps' unless necessary to insure crystal clear meaning.

    As for #1, I used a colon. I was taught back in fifth grade, (I remember the lesson and the nun who gave it), that if you use a semicolon the sentence must contain a full sentence and a sentence fragment. If you are connecting two full sentences then you must use a full colon. I've followed this rule for over 60 years. Is this just Catholic grammar or is it really the case? I always thought the nuns were speaking in loco deus.

    A Question:

    When you have a quote within an internal quote do you still use single quotation marks or do you go back to double marks or is there a third option?

    For example:

    Julie asked, “Did Myra really say, ‘Shakespeare did not include the lines, "To be or not to be: that is the question," until the third publication of Hamlet.'"

    Also should we worry about quotation marks that face the wrong way?

    {From Q2: “Don’t leave without[ ]“ But}

    Well, that's it for now. I do have a comma splice question for later. Please include me in the drawing for the punctuation book.


  94. Greetings, LESLIE! Yes, we grammar aficionados must stick together. I think you would enjoy this new reference I've come across. Your name is in the hatbox!

  95. Thank you, Grammar Queen! I'm hiding here in the back row, hoping you won't ask about my score. At least I know what to study.

    I do have two questions. When a character reads a Bible verse aloud, how is that punctuated? When a character thinks about a Bible verse, how is that punctuated?

    As always, thank you for your royal advice!

  96. Hello, VINCE! So nice of you to drop by.

    First of all, I must disagree with you about the use of the semicolon. To quote CMS, "Its most common use is between two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction." So either you remembered your teacher's lesson incorrectly or she taught you incorrectly, so sorry to say.

    As for question #3, you may, of course, choose not to use the en dash in this case, but I personally believe it adds clarity. Sandra will be enjoying an RV park vacation AND a pickleball vacation simultaneously.

    You are correct about the internal internal quotation marks (if that makes any sense at all!). Simply alternate between double and single until you get down to the last quoted element--but be sure to close each set correctly.

    I personally do worry about turning quotation marks in the correct direction. I also very much dislike finding apostrophes facing the wrong direction, as in phrases such as "go get ’em." Of course, I'm pickier than most, I freely admit.

  97. Welcome, SHERIDA! Publishers' style sheets may differ on how to indicate passages from Scripture, but my rule of thumb is to enclosed the quoted passage in single quotation marks if the character is reciting or reading it aloud. If the character is thinking the passage, italics may be used (in which case quotation marks are probably unnecessary). Just be consistent in your manuscript and let the copyeditors worry about the final form.

  98. Hello everyone. Thanks to Grammar Queen for the review. I missed the first one on the quiz. I was in a hurry. That's my story and I'm sticking to it lol. Please put me (or rather my name) in for the Punctuation Book. I have the other one :))

  99. Yes, PAT W, being in a hurry will catch you up every time. But congratulations on doing so well on the other questions!

  100. I can't believe I got all of them correct. I'm seriously stunned. My past editors would be so proud of me right now. LOL. When I submitted my first manuscript in 2006 I soon discovered that my punctuation and grammar skills were T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E. There's nothing quite so humbling as receiving a round of edits covered in a gazillion red marks. Thank goodness I've gotten better since then. Thank you for the quiz, Grammar Queen! This was so much fun!

  101. You're most welcome, STEPHANIE! Congratulations on acing my little quiz!

  102. THANK YOU!! I love these posts. Great refreshers! And all in one place, too. Perfect!

  103. I'm patting myself on the back for getting 100% on the quiz, but I am still so thankful for editors!

    I'm with Ruthy - I'd rather worry about the story than the punctuation. :)

    Thanks for the fun quiz, Grammar Queen!

  104. GRAMMAR QUEEN, I took the quiz and missed two. Mixed up the en dash and forward slash. The keyboard just has the em dash and hyphen, right? I'm not sure I've ever used it but if it wasn't there, it would be hard to use it. :-)


  105. To get the quotation marks to face the right way after an em dash, I type a letter--I always use p--and the quotes mind their manners.


  106. GQ said: "And GQ must ask why you would choose a hyphen over a perfectly useful and appropriate em dash. The alternative to the em dash, as we—ahem—writers of a certain age will recall, was to type two hyphens with no spaces before, amid, or after."

    Let me set the record straight -- I absolutely LOVE em dashes, GQ. It's en dashes I don't use. :)


  107. I agree with Jules. I want the en dash to go away. It confuses me.

  108. You are quite welcome, MARY JANE! Thanks so much for your interest in punctuation!

  109. JAN, I know Myra agrees with you. And it truly is more important to get the story down first, and then concern yourself with correcting any grammar issues.

  110. JANET, I am not aware of an me dash key on my keyboard. Many systems will automatically turn two hyphens into an em dash.

    Good for you for finding a creative way to get the closing quotation marks to turn in the correct direction!

  111. TINA and JULIE, there are only rare occasions when you might find it necessary to use an en dash. I'm sure your copyeditors will make any adjustments required, so have no concerns whatsoever, my dears.

  112. Janet, on a PC you go to your TOOLBAR and click on INSERT. It will bring up a new TOOLBAR. Eyes right. The very last icon is SYMBOLS.It brings up a menu of different symbols.

    Look for EM DASH.

    Hover over it and if it says EM DASH-you have it. If you click on EM DASH it will auto-insert it wherever you cursor is flashing. So insert it in a sentence you want to highlight or put your cursor where you want it.

  113. I turned around number 3 and number 5. Punctuation is difficult even for those of us with an English teacher background.

    Please enter me in the drawing for both books.

  114. Hi GQ:

    As I remember it that class was talking only about the colon and how it differs from the semicolon. The teacher said that the semicolon was 'less powerful' and as such could only join an independent clause and a dependent clause. The colon, on the other hand. was stronger and had the 'power' to join two independent clauses.

    As such the teacher was not talking about the most common use of the semicolon. She was just going over when to use a full colon and when to use a semicolon. Doing just that alone is a lot to cover with fifth graders.

    The reason I remember this lesson so well was that it was so logical and easy to remember.

    Now the big question: if I follow this rule and use the semicolor just for 'depended plus independent' clauses and the colon for use only between independent clauses, would that produce grammatically correct punctuation -- even if this in turn limits my options in using these two punction marks in other ways?

    BTW: I kind of think that the teacher got it right and I might have made it more logical than it actually was in order to make the rule more memorable.


  115. I think I might be the only person in the world who has actually read The Chicago Manual of Style from cover to cover--the 14th edition. Yes, I'm weird. Now most publishers use the 16th edition, as do I, but some are still using the 15th edition. Are your eyes glazing over yet? As an editor, I still refer to CMS while editing a manuscript. As an author, I still mess up and read over my mistakes. My advice? Buy a copy of CMS, do the best you can, and make your deadlines. There's a reason God made editors on the 8th day. ;-)

  116. Thanks, Myra! We all need this from time to time. Grammar is often a lost art.

  117. Vince, I love that teacher by default.

  118. I use em dashes all the time.

    It's such a good thing for conversational English.

    En dash is kind of useless because no one besides a FEW people (Barb and G.Q., I do believe!!!) would even know it's not a hyphen....

    They're like Double Cousins, brother/sister marry brother/sister or whatever.

    That's the en dash and hyphen.

    Ix-nay on the En-Dash-Day.

  119. SANDY, I freely admit that grammar can be confusing. There are also some gray areas, and in such cases a writer must rely on her copyeditor for the final decision.

    However, GQ has been known to argue on Myra's behalf when we feel strongly about specific usage.

  120. Please forgive me, dear VINCE, but now you have utterly confused me! I shall simply refer you to CMS and let you read the explanations for yourself.

  121. Yes, CARA, too many have let proper grammar go by the wayside.

    Stand up for grammar, one and all! Your descendants will thank you someday!

  122. Where would the fiction world be without em dashes, RUTHY? We concur.

  123. GQ I also care about quote marks facing the wrong direction.
    It's annoying but it's necessary for it, when I'm slanging some word, young 'uns to make the quote mark face the word before, as if facing the missing part of the word.

    (Blogger quote marks are very clear so it doesn't show well)

    So to do THIS fast if I'm going to write a word like young 'uns
    Go get 'em
    I type the two words without a space young'uns. With the single quote mark in, then go back and hit space before the quote mark.
    It's facing the desired direction then.

  124. I had a newspaper editor say to me once, "The semi-colon is fairly antiquated and almost never used."

    I've just always remembered that when it comes to books and if I think a semi-colon is right, I usually just rewrite the sentence to get it out of there.

    Not sure if that's right (what my editor said) it's just one of those things that stuck with me.

  125. True, MARY, one doesn't often see the semicolon in fiction. It comes across as a bit presumptuous.

    But not nearly so much as if one used a colon to join two independent clauses. I have just opened my CMS to the section on the colon.

    "Between independent clauses it functions much like a semicolon, though more strongly emphasizing sequence. The colon may be used instead of a period to introduce a series of related sentences."

    So, VINCE, a colon MAY be used in place of the conjunction to join two independent clauses, just as a semicolon may be used for the same purpose (see my earlier response). But, so help me, if I EVER see you using a colon in place of a conjunction in a work of fiction, I shall choke on my tiara!

  126. Hey, you can subscribe to CMS online. I did this. Much easier than lugging the book. And yet I am still confused at times.

    What do I do?

    Email the Grammar Queen and then buy her a cup of coffee to say thank you!

  127. Right, this is why I'm not a writer, I'm sure any editor would be banging their head against their desk trying to figure out how to politely tell me my grammar stinks....lol!

    GQ....I think my problem was I've never heard of the en or em dash. I've only known about the hyphens,so therefore don't remember being educated on their existence nor how to properly use those. I also quite often get confused with the correct placing of a semicolon. And ellipsis....well I tend to overuse those! I thought I had single quotation marks down pat, but obviously I need more work!
    Please don't try to educate me, my head was already spinning reading this last night and trying to figure them out again today. Just accept my bribe of all the fresh made pastries from my local bakery that I provided you this morning.

    I think I'm going to sit in the corner with Caryl Kane and quietly read a book.

  128. Hi GQ:

    I agree with Mary's editor that the semicolon is antiquated. I think many average readers don't know what to make of the semicolon. It makes the text read more like a hard-to-read textbook.

    If you want to write close to the people, as fiction does, then it's best not to use the semicolon. Advertising copywriting is even closer to the people than fiction. (Some would claim it is fiction). Copywriters create our own simplified spelling and punctuation marks just to be more personal and direct.

    Something else that is antiquated is the hyphenated word. My father wrote 'to-day' all is life. Today words go from being hyphenated to becoming a single word in record time. For me 'backstory' is one word but Word puts a red line under it! Some old-timers even put a hyphen in the word 'semicolon'.

    Change can be difficult and for some droping a hyphen can be a bridge too far.


  129. Hi Ruth:

    I think you'd really like that nun. She is the only nun I ever knew with a man's name and that name was of a pagan philosopher! She also was over six feet tall! She was a Dominican.

    Well, I have to go now and see if the Yankees have any members on the All Star Team.


  130. Yes, TINA, and you are my very best friend in all the world.

    Next to MYRA, that is. I have to live with her, you know.

  131. Dear TRIXI, don't strain your sweet little head. Always remember, GQ is here to help anytime you need grammatical assistance.

  132. You make a good point, VINCE. Language does evolve. Just look at all the new words that have been coined as a result of the computer and iPhone generation!

    The key is not to get ahead of ourselves and make up our own rules as we go.

  133. Finally.

    Pigs have flown.

    Some unmentioned place has frozen over.

    Our political parties have...well, never mind.

    I earned 100% on GQ's test.

    In shock at the moment. It may be just a dream.

  134. Hi Myra,

    I know I'm a day late, but what a great post! I'm working early days this week so my head is still woozy, but I'll take your quiz tonight.

    Did some grammar rules change from the 1970s?


  135. Hi Seekers! Thanks for a great post! I know that I'm a culprit in mis-used punctuation. I had 3 wrong on the quiz, but could've easily gotten 5-6 wrong. Yikes! So feel free to enter me in both giveaways if I'm not too late. I could definitely use a book on punctuation, and how could I say no to another book by Myra? (Did I used that correctly?!)


  136. WALT! How absolutely clever of you! Congratulations and here is your gold star!

    Someone pinch him quickly to assure him he isn't dreaming!

  137. Good day, JACKIE! Yes, rules do seem to evolve over time, but clarity is always of utmost importance.

  138. Hello, JUST COMMONLY! Better late than never, as the saying goes. I'll pass along your compliments to Myra. She will be so pleased!

    And have no fear. There is always a next time, and I'm sure you'll do better on future quizzes!

  139. Years of teaching fifth grade grammar earned me 13 of 13. (Yes, I should spell out those numbers!).

  140. I have to admit that there were a number of these that I hadn't even heard of. I only managed to get 5 correct. But I did learn a few things so I will be able to do a better job on my blog posts now.

    I would love to be entered to win the novella collection. Thank you.