e.g., i.e., etc.

Here’s some advice I read about preparing for an earthquake:

• Know your safe spots in your home, i.e. against inside walls or under tables.

• Maintain emergency water, food, and other supplies, i.e. first aid kits, flash light, etc.

My topic today is the difference between e.g. and i.e.

These two abbreviations are not synonyms.

For the Latin buffs, e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means ‘for example,’ while i.e. stands for id est and means ‘it is.’

In short:

e.g. = for example (followed by one or more examples)
i.e. = in other words/namely/that is (followed by a definition or description)

If you can replace it with ‘for example,’ use e.g.; if you can replace it with ‘namely,’ use i.e.

Note that both abbreviations are followed by a comma.

Let’s return to our original example:

• Know your safe spots in your home, i.e. against inside walls or under tables.

Try replacing the abbreviation with ‘for example’ or ‘namely’:

(a) Know your safe spots in your home, for example, against inside walls or under tables.

(b) Know your safe spots in your home, namely, against inside walls or under tables.

Option (a) means there are various safe spots during an earthquake but these are just two examples. Option (b) means that there are only two safe spots indoors during an earthquake: against inside walls and under tables.

The correct option really depends on what was meant. (Here’s where as an editor you might want to check with the author to find out what they meant to say.)

My guess for now is that the first choice was meant since a google search tells me there are other safe spots, such as under desks, in a doorway, in a hallway, and under a bed. Thus, the sentence should be corrected to:

• Know your safe spots in your home (e.g., against inside walls or under tables).

(Note that I also prefer to use parentheses to set the list of examples apart more clearly.)

One last point: when you give a list of examples, use either e.g. at the beginning or etc. at the end, but not both.

So, to come back to the second example at the top:

• Maintain emergency water, food, and other supplies, i.e. first aid kits, flash light, etc.

What are the two problems with this sentence?

First, it uses i.e. when it should use e.g. (because there are many other kinds of supplies that one needs besides first aid kits and a flash light).

Second, it also ends the list with etc., which is really redundant.

Either of these corrections would be fine:

• Maintain emergency water, food, and other supplies (first aid kits, flash light, etc.).

• Maintain emergency water, food, and other supplies (e.g., first aid kits, flash light).

Let’s close with a quick exercise. Take a look at these sentences. What abbreviation would you use?

1. Do not let the batteries come into contact with water ( ____ sea water) or other liquids.

2. We shall not be liable for any damage to this product caused by the malfunction of non-genuine accessories ( ____ a leakage and/or explosion of a battery pack).

3. E.I. sickness benefits fall into a “second payer” position ( ____ they are paid after other sources of disability income).

4. E.I. benefits will be reduced by other benefits, ____ Workers’ Comp, CPP, Group disability.

Here’s what I would do:

(1) e.g. (salt water is mentioned as one example)

(2) e.g. (because this is only one example of damage from a non-genuine accessory)

(3) i.e. (because this is a definition of what is meant by the phrase “second payor”)

(4) e.g. (assuming there are other benefits)

Have a good day!

(And don’t forget to take precautions for earthquakes and other disasters.)

Dirk

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hyphen-connected participles

Today’s topic is the use of hyphens with phrases made from participles (such as in my cleverly devised blog title—but not in this sentence, as you will see why).

Participles

Participles come in two flavours: present and past.

Present participles always end in -ing. You can change any verb and make it into a present participle. Here are some examples:

biking, flying, diving, skiing

Past participles are the third form of the verb. You probably remember memorizing these forms—the last one is the past participle.

go-went-gone

drive-drove-driven

In regular verbs, the past participle is the same as the simple past—as in these examples:

make-made-made

enjoy-enjoyed-enjoyed

We often combine a participle with another word to make a compound phrase. The whole phrase can then describe a noun. Here are some examples:

(1) dish-washing detergent

(2) self-inflicted wounds

(3) horse-drawn carriage

(4) money-saving techniques

(5) clinically-proven results

Which of the above five examples are formed from present participles and which from past participles? (Answer: (1) and (4) are present; the others are past participles.)

When to hyphenate

Compound participle phrases are always hyphenated when they come before the noun they describe (as in the five examples above).

When they follow the noun they describe, hyphenation is optional—though never wrong.

The wounds were self inflicted. Or: The wounds were self-inflicted.

The results were clinically proven. Or: The results were clinically-proven.

If a participle is preceded by an adverb that ends in -ly, the compound is never hyphenated:

recently discovered fossils

badly managed accounts

Exercise

In the following sentences, (1) find the participle phrase and the noun or noun phrase it describes; (2) hyphenate as needed; (3) indicate whether the participle is a present or past one.

Answers follow. Number (1) is done by way of example.

1)  A variety of food preserving methods are used to prevent bacteria from spoiling food.

Answer: food-preserving methods (present)

2)  All early airplanes were powered by gasoline driven piston engines that spun propellers.

3)  Fiberglass reinforced plastic combines the flexibility of a plastic with the strength of the fiberglass that is embedded in the plastic.

4)  The most commonly used type of primary cell is the zinc carbon battery or dry cell.

5)  The shock absorbing properties of rubber make it useful for car suspensions.

6)  Most of the world’s 25 fastest growing cities are in the developing world.

7)  Today, the main uses of steam turbines are in power plants and for the propulsion of nuclear powered ships.

8)  Microphones turn sound into an electric signal that can drive a groove cutting machine.

9)  Modern radio telescopes scan the sky with huge, bowl shaped dishes that reflect radio signals onto small horn antennae.

10) Cheap, factory made wristwatches made time available to everyone by the beginning of the 1900s.

Answers:

2)  gasoline-driven piston engines (past)

3)  Fiberglass-reinforced plastic (past)

4)  most commonly used type of primary cell (past)

5)  shock-absorbing properties (present)

6)  fastest-growing cities (present)

7)  nuclear-powered ships (past)

8)  groove-cutting machine (present)

9)  bowl-shaped dishes (past)

10) factory-made wristwatches (past)

Dirk

Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

The ten sentences for the exercise were taken from: Taylor, Charles, ed. The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia. Boston: Kingfisher, 2000.

Serial comma on the loose

You may not have heard about it before, but the Serial Comma is a hot topic among editors: either you love it or you don’t.

So, what is it all about?

The serial comma is used with a series of items. In fact, it’s the final comma in a series of items before a conjunction (and, but, or). Here’s an example sentence:

The belted kingfisher can be found near rivers, lakes, ponds, and marshes.

Without the serial comma, the sentence would read:

The belted kingfisher can be found near rivers, lakes, ponds and marshes.

If the serial comma is omitted, the last two items may appear to form one single unit, as in this example:

Oil-fouled common loons drown, die of exposure or are poisoned by the oil they swallow.

In this sentence it may appear that loons can “die of exposure by the oil they swallow” and “are poisoned by the oil they swallow.”

Adding the serial comma avoids that misinterpretation:

Oil-fouled common loons drown, die of exposure, or are poisoned by the oil they swallow.

Now it’s clear that there are three possible causes of death: 1) drowning; 2) death by exposure; and 3) poisoning by swallowing oil.

The serial comma is a matter of style: both the sentences with the serial comma and those without the serial comma are perfectly grammatical.

Whether you use the serial comma or not is up to you. What matters is that you’re consistent throughout your document, or—if you have a document that appears regularly, like a newsletter—that you are consistent from issue to issue.

The serial comma is replaced with a semicolon (;) if the items in the list have their own internal punctuation. The semicolon helps to set apart the items in the series more clearly than a simple comma would. Here are some examples:

Three types of egrets found in North America include: the snowy egret, found in the western United States; the cattle egret, found in the eastern United States; and the great egret, also found in the eastern United States as well as California.

The calliope hummingbird measures 3–3¼ in.; the ruby-throated hummingbird, 3–3¾ in.; the rufous hummingbird, 3½–4 in.; and the blue-throated hummingbird, 4½–5 in.

Note how these sentences would have been more confusing if we had used commas rather than semicolons.

Three types of egrets found in North America include: the snowy egret, found in the western United States, the cattle egret, found in the eastern United States, and the great egret, also found in the eastern United States as well as California.

The calliope hummingbird measures 3–3–3¼ in., the ruby-throated hummingbird, 3–3¾ in., the rufous hummingbird, 3½–4 in., and the blue-throated hummingbird, 4½–5 in.

The semicolons more clearly separate the items in the series.

Here’s a quick exercise to round off the lesson. Identify the serial comma in the following sentences.

1. As the ivory-billed woodpeckers retreated to the most impenetrable of cypress jungles, man followed with axes, guns, and bulldozers and destroyed the creatures, scarcely knowing they existed.

2. When it is feeding, resting, or aloft, the wood stork moves with an air of dignity and courtliness.

3. Shortly after the ice retreats, adult Pacific loons court, nest, and raise their young in double time—as quick as an Arctic summer.

4. The yellow-breasted chat may mimic the rattle of a kingfisher, the whistle of a yellowlegs, the cawing of a crow, or even the bleat of a car horn.

5. Some Canada geese may have as long as 20 years together before succumbing to disease, a hunter’s bullet, or a predator.

See answers below.

Dirk

dirk_kievit@editors.ca
www.DirkKievit.org

Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos. Please understand that I cannot vouch for the appropriateness of all images on their site.

The example sentences for this post were either taken or adapted from Cassidy, James, ed. Book of North American Birds. Reader’s Digest General Books. Pleasantville, NJ: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1990.

Answers:

1. serial comma after “guns”

2. serial comma after “resting”

3. serial comma after “nest”

4. serial comma after “crow”

5. serial comma after “a hunter’s bullet”

Commas with dates: Lessons from Queen Victoria

A belated Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canadian readers.

In today’s lesson we’ll review the rules for punctuating dates—specifically, the use of commas with dates. (The Canadian history lesson is bonus.)

1. To express a specific date, use a cardinal number (1, 2, 3, etc.), even if the number is pronounced as an ordinal number (first, second, third, etc.)*

Canada Day is observed on July 1 unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case July 2 is the statutory holiday.

2. An exception to this rule is when a day is mentioned by itself, without the month or year; in that case, use an ordinal number and spell it out.

The Charlottetown Conference began on September 1, 1864. It adjourned on the ninth.

3. In the month-day-year system (American), use a comma before the year; in the day-month-year system (British), do not use a comma.

The federal Dominion of Canada was formed on July 1, 1867.
The federal Dominion of Canada was formed on 1 July 1867.

4. In the month-day-year system, use a comma both before and after the year if it occurs in the middle of a clause; in the day-month-year system, do not use any commas.†

The Dominion of Canada came into being on July 1, 1867, upon royal proclamation by Queen Victoria.
The Dominion of Canada came into being on 1 July 1867 upon royal proclamation by Queen Victoria.

5. If only the month and year are given (without a day), do not use a comma (this applies to either system).

British Columbia joined Confederation in July 1871.

6. When the day of the week is added and the date is essential, don’t add a comma after the day of the week. If the date is non-essential, add a comma after the day of the week.‡

By Wednesday September 7, 1864, the delegates from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island gave a positive answer to the Canadian delegation to join them.
Since July 1 fell on a Sunday this year, the statutory holiday was Monday, July 2.

7. If a specific day (such as a holiday) is given with a year, do not use a comma (in either system).

Canada Day 1980 marked a special occasion because this is when “O Canada” was established as Canada’s national anthem.

8. To avoid ambiguity, do not use all numerals for dates in text (such as 7/1/1967—which in the US means July 1, 1967, but elsewhere January 7, 1967); instead, spell out the month.

not: The British North America Act was presented to Queen Victoria on 2/11/1867.
not: The British North America Act was presented to Queen Victoria on 11/2/1867.
but: The British North America Act was presented to Queen Victoria on February 11, 1867.

9. If a date comes at the beginning of a sentence, use a comma after the date.

On March 29, 1867, Queen Victoria gave her royal assent to Confederation.
On 29 March 1867, Queen Victoria gave her royal assent to Confederation.
On March 29, Queen Victoria gave her royal assent to Confederation.

10. Finally, always use numerals for a year unless the year begins a sentence, in which case spell it out (because you never start a sentence with a numeral, as we saw earlier).

Canadian Confederation refers to the formation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867.
Eighteen sixty-seven can be considered the year Canada was born.

Standing guard for proper punctuation,
Dirk

dirk_kievit@editors.ca
www.DirkKievit.org

These ten rules were compiled from various paragraphs in the Chicago Manual of Style. The example sentences were either taken or adapted from the following online sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Confederation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_Day

*Unfortunately, Queen Victoria did not heed this rule when she proclaimed on March 29, 1867:

“We do ordain, declare, and command that on and after the First day of July, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty-seven, the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, shall form and be One Dominion, under the name of Canada.”

Of course, she’s excused since I hadn’t posted this blog yet.

(She also spelled out the name of the year in the middle of the sentence, which breaks rule #10—not to mention her excessive use of capitalization.)

†Note that I said in the middle of a clause, not the middle of a sentence, for even in the day-month-year system, the year may be followed by a comma if the date occurs at the end of a main clause:

The Dominion of Canada came into being on 1 July 1867, when three British colonies united and became Canada’s first four provinces.

(see also the example with rule 9)

‡Admittedly, this distinction between essential and non-essential is somewhat fuzzy. I haven’t been able to find a better explanation, however. Any advice, anyone?

(Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos. Discretion is advised when using this website.)

Crediting sources: The author-date method

Crediting sources is an important element of writing.

In today’s post, I describe one method that’s common in the humanities. Chicago* calls it the author-date system.

Here is a quick overview. (Today’s examples are from a linguistic article I wrote about Tigrinya for the Journal of African Languages and Linguistics.)

Overview

The author-date method of crediting sources has two main components:

• A list of references at the back of the book (or at the end of the article), which gives the full reference details of the sources.

• Parenthetical notes in the text, which correspond to the relevant entries in the references by citing the author and date (and the page number(s) if needed).

For example, an entry in the references might read as follows:†

    Bossong, Georg. 1991. Differential object marking in Romance and beyond. In Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, Dieter Wanner and Douglas A. Kibbee (eds.), 69: 143-170. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publ. Co.

In the text a corresponding note might read:

    This phenomenon, known as differential object marking (DOM), is attested in about 300 genetically diverse languages (Bossong 1985, VIII).

Specifics
Let’s get into the specifics regarding the format of both the references and the notes.

The reference list

• Title it “References” or “Works Cited” (not “Bibliography,” because a bibliography generally includes works not cited in the document).

• List all works referred to either in the text or in the footnotes.

• List only those works referred to in the document (whether in the text or in the footnotes).

• Invert the author’s (or editor’s) name and alphabetize the list by authors’ (and editors’) last names.‡

    Comrie, Bernard. 1981. Language universals and linguistic typology: Syntax and morphology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Givón, Talmy. 1978. Definiteness and referentiality. In Universals of Human Language, Joseph Greenberg (ed.), 4: 291-330. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Mason, John, ed. 1994. Tigrinya grammar. Lawrenceville, NJ: First Red Sea Press, Inc.

• Indicate the year of publication immediately following the author’s name.

    Comrie, Bernard. 1981. Language universals and linguistic typology: syntax and morphology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

• Separate the parts of the entry with periods (see examples above).

The notes

• In parentheses, give the author’s last name followed by the year of publication and, if required, a page number. A comma and space separate the year and the page number.

    Foundational to our study of DOM is the following observation from Comrie’s study of language universals (Comrie 1981, 121).

• If the name of the author is already mentioned in the sentence, it is not necessary to repeat it in the note.

    The paper will assess the contribution of Tigrinya to the universal tendencies of DOM as posited by Aissen (2003).

    This agrees with Aissen’s observation (2003, 436n3) that topicality is also relevant to DOM.

    Weldeyesus (2004, 6) claims that Tigrinya has a split pronoun system.

• With direct quotations, the note normally appears after the quotation and before a final punctuation mark.

    These findings contradict another claim by Weldeyesus, namely that “the two related object-marking phenomena always coexist” (Weldeyesus 2004, 10).

• If it sounds natural in the flow of the sentence, the note may be placed before the quotation.

    Mason (1994, 79) too states, “When it [nɨ-] is used, the verb will have a pronoun suffix that corresponds to the object.”

Final note for editors

If you’re editing a document that uses the author-date system, it’s very important to cross-check the notes and references. Here’s a checklist:

1) Check to make sure that each note (both in the text itself and in the footnotes) has a corresponding entry in the references.

Whenever I encounter a note, I highlight the corresponding entry in the references; by the time I’ve worked my way through the whole document, all references should be highlighted. I compile a list of any notes without corresponding entries in the references. I send this list to the author and ask him to supply the needed references.

2) Check to make sure that each entry in the references is referred to somewhere in the document, either in the text or in the footnotes.

Any references that are not highlighted after step (1) are in trouble. I ask the author what he wants to do: either remove these entries or, if he really wants to keep them, to make an explicit reference to them somewhere in the document.

3) While checking off the notes against the references, make sure that the note and the corresponding reference match exactly in the spelling of the author’s name and the date.

Again, note any discrepancies and question the author if necessary.

Dirk

dirk_kievit@editors.ca
www.DirkKievit.org

*Chicago=The Chicago Manual of Style

†The reference examples should be indented after the first line but unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to do that in this blog.

‡In a work by two or more authors, invert only the first author’s names: Waltke, Bruce K. and M. O’Connor (1990). An introduction to Biblical Hebrew syntax. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

(Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos. Discretion is advised when using this website.)

Breaking up words and URLs at the end of a line

Earlier, we talked about soft hyphens vs. hard hyphens (see my post on hyphens).

Hard hyphens are permanent (as in the word twenty-five); soft hyphens are used only at the end of a line to break up a word.

Here are some principles to keep in mind when breaking up words at the end of a line:

• don’t break up a word so that only one letter occurs by itself

    not:
    a-
    bove

• try to break up a compound word where there’s already a hard hyphen without adding a second, soft hyphen

    not:
    three-quar-
    ters

    but:
    three-
    quarters

• never break up single-syllable words

    not:
    gasp-
    ed

(even though it has two parts, gasp and -ed, gasped is pronounced as one syllable)

• break up words at a syllable break

    not:
    dram-
    atic

    but:
    dra-
    matic

Some dictionaries indicate where words may be divided. For example, the Canadian Oxford Dictionary uses dots:

    eu•phem•ism

URLs

Because each character in a website address is crucial, URLs have their own set of rules for where you may break them. Here’s an overview:

1) for starters, never insert a hyphen in a URL

So, while you can break up a URL at the end of a line, you never add a hyphen when you do so. The reason is that it creates confusion whether the hyphen is part of the URL or not.

2) break a URL after a colon (:), a slash (/), a double slash (//), or @

Likely, people will realize that this is not the end of the URL address and continue reading on to the next line.

3) break a URL before a period or any other punctuation mark or symbol

This is to avoid giving the impression that the URL ends at the end of the first line.

4) if the URL already contains a hyphen, never break after the hyphen; you may break before the hyphen

Again, the reason is to avoid ambiguity whether the hyphen is part of the URL or not.

5) if you have a long stretch of text, break at a syllable break

Ready for a test?

Which of the following URLs have been broken up correctly? (The first line has the unbroken URL; below that is the URL broken up.)

(a) URL: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org

(b) URL: http://www.sil.org:8090/silebr/2012/silebr2012-007

(c) URL: https://reviewediting.wordpress.com/

(d) URL: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/?CTT=97

(e) URL: http://www.wycliffe.ca/wordalive/

(f) URL: http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca/city/pages/bc-81_metric_e.html

(g) URL: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts %2012&version=KJV

Answers:

(a) is incorrect: break should come before the period

(b) is correct: break occurs after colon

(c) is incorrect: never add a hyphen when breaking up a URL (without the hyphen the break would be OK because it occurs at a syllable boundary)

(d) is incorrect: break should come before the hyphen, never after the hyphen

(e) is correct: break occurs before the period

(f) is correct: break occurs before the underline

(g) is incorrect: break should come after slash

Dirk

dirk_kievit@editors.ca
www.DirkKievit.org

(Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos. Please understand that I cannot vouch for the appropriateness of all images on that site.)

Punctuation: “Inside,” or “outside”, that’s the question

Which one is correct, (a) or (b)?

    (a) Leadership is like parenting . . . “do as I do” is much more compelling than “do as I say.”

    (b) Leadership is like parenting . . . “do as I do” is much more compelling than “do as I say”.

The difference may be small but it’s important: does the final punctuation mark (in this case a period) go inside the quotation marks, as in (a), or outside, as in (b)?

We’ll address that question today.

Two methods

When it comes to quotation marks, there are in fact two methods of punctuation: American style and British style.

In American style (which we also follow here in Canada), commas and periods go inside the quotation marks, as in these examples:

    “We Gypsies are a poor people,” Pastor Walter explained.

    In John 3:16 it is “for,” in 2:17 “indeed,” in 3:19 “because,” in 3:24 “of course,” in 3:34 it is left untranslated.

    Leadership begins with “being” but ultimately turns to “doing.”

Semicolons always go outside of the quotation marks. Thus, the second sentence above could also have been written as follows:

    In John 3:16, it is “for”; in 2:17, “indeed”; in 3:19, “because”; in 3:24, “of course”; in 3:34, it is left untranslated.

When it comes to question marks and exclamation marks, their placement depends on whether they were in the original quote. If they belong to the sentence being quoted, they go inside the quotation marks, as in these examples:

    The fundamental question for leaders is, “How can I move people to do what needs to be done?”

    Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!”

Contrast that with these examples (and yes, as you can see, I’m also a parent):

    How many times have I told you already “Go to bed”?

    I don’t want to hear you say at bedtime “I’m still hungry”!

British style differs from American style in the placement of the commas and periods. It places these outside the quotation marks. (British style also uses single quotation marks rather than double quotation marks, reserving double quotation marks for quotations inside quotations.) So, to go back to the examples above, British style would punctuate these as follows:

    ‘We Gypsies are a poor people’, Pastor Walter explained.

    In John 3:16 it is ‘for’, in 2:17 ‘indeed’, in 3:19 ‘because’, in 3:24 ‘of course’, in 3:34 it is left untranslated.

    Leadership begins with ‘being’ but ultimately turns to ‘doing’.

British style is followed in the UK and in the Commonwealth countries (though not in Canada).

Knowing your audience

So, to come back to our initial question as to which one was correct, the answer is: It all depends!

If you’re writing for an American audience, you’ll want to follow (a); if you’re writing for a British audience, you’ll want to follow (b).

Here is a good illustration of the importance of defining your audience as a writer (or editor). (See my earlier post.) I just helped edit a newsletter for a Bible translation organization in Papua New Guinea. Since Papua New Guinea is a Commonwealth country, we (the local editors and myself) decided to use British spelling and follow the British style of punctuation.

If you’re editing for an international organization, and especially if the publication is going to be posted online, you may have some flexibility depending on the author’s own preferences.

In any case, remember the Golden Rule of Editing – be consistent throughout your document – and follow either the American or British style of punctuation throughout.

Happy writing (and punctuating)!
Dirk

dirk_kievit@editors.ca
www.dirkkievit.org

(Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos. Please understand that I cannot vouch for the appropriateness of all images on that site.)

Commas with descriptive phrases

Welcome back to my blog. Today’s lesson is commas and how to use them when you have two ways of referring to the same person or place.

Let’s start with a warm-up exercise and you’ll see what I mean.

(By the way, all my examples today are taken from today’s news stories from various online sources.)

Insert commas in the following sentences where needed. (Some sentences may not need any commas.)

    1) Science fiction author Ray Bradbury dead at 91.

    2) David travels to Sendai the city nearest the epicenter of the quake where he witnesses the dynamic relationship between science and nature.

    3) The suspect a Caucasian man in his 40s stomped out of the store and drove away in his blue Ford pickup truck.

    4) The storm quickly tracked north, said CBC Calgary meteorologist Danielle Savoni.

    5) Ray Bradbury a giant of American literature who helped popularize science fiction with works such as “The Martian Chronicles” died on Tuesday at age 91.

In each of these examples, a person or place is described in two different ways: often a proper name and some kind of descriptive phrase. For example, in sentence (1), which is the heading of an article, the topic of the story is described both by his proper name (Ray Bradbury) and by a descriptive phrase (science fiction author).

Let’s review the rules for using commas in such situations.

Rule 1: If the title or descriptive phrase precedes the proper name or main phrase, do not use commas.

This applies to examples (1) and (4) above, where a descriptive phrase or title precedes the name.

    Science fiction author Ray Bradbury dead at 91.

    The storm quickly tracked north, said CBC Calgary meteorologist Danielle Savoni.

Here are two more examples, both correctly punctuated without commas:

    I think we’ve played some good hockey and the bounces haven’t gone our way,” said Devils forward David Clarkson.

    “We think the new phones can compete against cheap Android models,” said Pohjola analyst Hannu Rauhala.

Rule 2: If the title or descriptive phrase follows the personal name or the main phrase, use a comma before and after the phrase.

This applies to examples (2) and (5) above.

    David travels to Sendai, the city nearest the epicenter of the quake, where he witnesses the dynamic relationship between science and nature.

    Ray Bradbury, a giant of American literature who helped popularize science fiction with works such as “The Martian Chronicles,” died on Tuesday at age 91.

It also applies to example (3) where the person is identified simply as “the suspect” and further described as “a Caucasian man in his 40s.”

    The suspect, a Caucasian man in his 40s, stomped out of the store and drove away in his blue Ford pickup truck.

Of course, if the descriptive phrase comes at the end of the sentence, close it with a period rather than a comma, as is done in this example:

    Bradbury published more than 500 works including “Fahrenheit 451,” a classic novel about book censorship in a future society.

Bonus question:

News editors don’t always get it right.

What’s wrong with these sentences? (The first one is a caption that appeared with a photo.)

    David in conversation with his friend, Keibo Oiwa, cultural anthropologist, writer and a keen observer of Japanese life.

    Singer John Mayer … said he was “really humiliated” by the song “Dear John,” written by his former girlfriend country-pop star Taylor Swift.

(See answer below.)

Dirk

dirk_kievit@editors.ca
www.dirkkievit.org

(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Please understand that I cannot vouch for the appropriateness of all images on that site.)

Answer to bonus question:

In the first sentence, the comma before the proper name should be removed. Correctly punctuated, the sentence should read:

    David in conversation with his friend Keibo Oiwa, cultural anthropologist, writer and a keen observer of Japanese life.

(The phrase “cultural anthropologist, writer and a keen observer of Japanese life” also describes Keibo Oiwa and since it follows the proper name, it is properly separated from the proper name by a comma.)

In the second sentence, a comma should appear after girlfriend. Correctly punctuated, the sentence should read:

    Singer John Mayer … said he was “really humiliated” by the song “Dear John,” written by his former girlfriend, country-pop star Taylor Swift.

The main phrase “country-pop star Taylor Swift” is correctly punctuated without a comma: the descriptive phrase “country-pop star” precedes the proper name. But this whole phrase describes the phrase “former girlfriend” and should, therefore, be set apart with a comma.

Ellipsis

Sometimes when you’re quoting someone else you may not want to quote a whole sentence or paragraph. That’s when you will want to call on the ellipsis. (The word ellipsis comes from the Greek word meaning “to leave out.”)

The form

First a note about the form. The ellipsis consists of three dots with or without spaces between them:

    In the beginning God created … the earth.
    In the beginning God created . . . the earth.

Either way, there’s always a space before the first dot and after the last dot. So whichever way you choose (and make sure you stick with your choice throughout your document—if there’s one thing editors hate, it’s inconsistency!), don’t do this:

    In the beginning God created…the earth.
    In the beginning God created. . .the earth.

To insert an ellipsis in your document, use the shortcut Ctr+. (hold down the Control key and type a period).

We’ll use the following two paragraphs as our original to work with today*:

    A great way in which to do this on a consistent basis is to surround yourself with like-minded people who are already well down the pathway you have chosen to take. The more of these positive and supportive people you have in your life, the faster you’ll be able to proceed towards your dreams. I call these people dream-supporters.

    Dream-stealers do their best to steal your energy and your confidence by distracting you with reasons why not to do something, while dream-supporters conspire to help you make it happen.

Different methods exist for using the ellipsis. Here I will discuss what is known as the three-or-four-dot method.

The rules

1) Use three dots when the ellipsis occurs in the middle of a sentence:

    A great way … is to surround yourself with like-minded people who are already well down the pathway you have chosen to take.

Here the ellipsis indicates that part of the sentence has been omitted.

2) Use four dots when you omit an entire sentence or more than one sentence. In this case, the first dot is actually a period and is followed by a space.

    A great way in which to do this on a consistent basis is to surround yourself with like-minded people who are already well down the pathway you have chosen to take. … I call these people dream-supporters.

Here the period followed by the ellipsis indicates that an entire sentence has been omitted. Note that we keep the period before the ellipsis and that we still have a space before and after the ellipsis. If the first sentence had ended in a question mark or an exclamation mark, we would have used that mark instead of the period before the ellipsis.

3) Capitalize the first word after the ellipsis that begins a new sentence, even if it’s not capitalized in the original.

    A great way in which to do this on a consistent basis is to surround yourself with like-minded people who are already well down the pathway you have chosen to take. … Dream-supporters conspire to help you make it happen.

Note here that we have omitted the first part of the last sentence and so we have capitalized “dream-supporters.”

4) If you don’t quote the entire sentence before the ellipsis, you can cut it off earlier but be sure to still add a period (or whatever the sentence-final punctuation mark was).

    A great way in which to do this on a consistent basis is to surround yourself with like-minded people. … I call these people dream-supporters.

Here we have deleted the last part of the first sentence but we have simply moved up the period of the sentence and put it after “people.” Note that the part before the ellipsis is still a complete sentence.

5) If you omit the first part of a paragraph, use three dots and indent the paragraph. (Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out yet how to indent paragraphs on this blog.)

    … Surround yourself with like-minded people who are already well down the pathway you have chosen to take. The more of these positive and supportive people you have in your life, the faster you’ll be able to proceed towards your dreams. I call these people dream-supporters.

Note that we removed the first part of the sentence. We still have a complete sentence but since “surround” now begins the sentence we have capitalized it.

6) If you omit an entire paragraph, use four dots (a period followed by the ellipsis) at the end of the paragraph before the omission.

    A great way in which to do this on a consistent basis is to surround yourself with like-minded people who are already well down the pathway you have chosen to take. The more of these positive and supportive people you have in your life, the faster you’ll be able to proceed towards your dreams. I call these people dream-supporters. …

    By the end of this book, you’ll know the key action steps and turning points that these successful investors used to start living their dream.

Here the ellipsis indicates that one or more paragraphs have been omitted.

7) Do not use an ellipsis if you are omitting the first or last part of a quotation. This is especially relevant to Bible verses. Let’s say you’re quoting this verse:

    Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. (Matthew 6:13)

You could say that Jesus taught that “the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction” (Matthew 6:13). There is no need to use an ellipsis at the beginning or end of the quotation.

A final warning

Ellipsis is a means of indicating that you have omitted part of a quotation in order to focus on that part of the message you want to highlight. But be careful that you remain true to what the original author intended. For example, although the following quotation is taken word-for-word from the original, it manages to contradict what the author actually said.

    A great way in which to do this on a consistent basis is to surround yourself … down the pathway you have chosen to take … with reasons why not to do something.

If you’re an editor and have access to the original source, it may be a good idea to check and make sure the author has preserved the original meaning when using an ellipsis.

To your writing success!
Dirk

dirk_kievit@editors.ca
www.dirkkievit.org

For further uses of the ellipsis, see the Chicago Manual of Style (sections 11.51–79 in the 15th edition and 13.48–13.58 in the 16th edition).

(Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos. Please understand that I cannot vouch for the appropriateness of all images on that site.)

___________________________

*Quotation taken from Campbell, Don R. 2008. 51 Success Stories from Canadian Real Estate Investors. Mississauga, Ont: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd. p. x.

Apostrophe catastrophe-part 2

Let’s start today with a warm-up exercise. Rewrite these phrases following the example in the first line.

the office of the doctor -> the doctor’s office
the headquarters of the franchise ->
the epistle of James ->
the experiences of other people ->
the opinions of the experts ->
the nursery of the children ->

Today’s topic is the apostrophe and how we use it to show possession.

(If you haven’t read my previous post, you may want to do so first.)

singular nouns

In the singular, the simple rule is: add an apostrophe plus s.

the judge’s gavel
the boss’s wife

Some people don’t add an s if the word already ends in an s sound but that’s your choice. So, both of these are acceptable:

Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

plural nouns

To show possession in the plural, the same rule applies: add an apostrophe plus s.

Only this time, what was optional before is now mandatory: if the word already ends in an s (as many plural nouns do, of course), we never add another s.

all the deer (plural) -> all the deer’s antlers
the two customers -> the two customers’ complaints

It’s irregular nouns and personal names where we see so many “apostrophe catastrophes.” Just keep in mind this simple formula:

(1) make the noun plural -> (2) make the noun possessive

This is how it works:

mouse -> mice -> the mice’s droppings
person -> people -> the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Kievit -> the Kievits -> the Kievits’ newsletter

quiz-time

Now that you’ve mastered the English possessive, can you correct these washroom signs I saw the other day?

The one sign said ladies and the other sign said mens.

If ladies refers to more than one lady, then mens must be more than one men, right?

Can you fix these two signs (ladies and mens) using apostrophes? Send in your answer using the comment feature below (click on the word comments at the end of this message below my signature) or e-mail me at dirk_kievit@editors.ca. Along with your answer, try to explain your corrections.

And before you go, here are the answers for our warm-up exercise:

the office of the doctor -> the doctor’s office
the headquarters of the franchise -> the franchise’s headquarters
the epistle of James -> James’s epistle
the experiences of other people -> other people’s experiences
the opinions of the experts -> the experts’ opinions
the nursery of the children -> the children’s nursery

Till next time.

Dirk

dirk_kievit@editors.ca
www.dirkkievit.org

(Image at top courtesy of Keattikom.)