I’ve written before about how I am no longer a teacher. How editors aren’t teachers. Perhaps I was hasty in making that statement (over the years–hasty like a tortoise). Continue reading “The editor as teacher”
I’ll bet I scared someone already with the last word in that title.
Let’s start at the beginning. This post came about because of a conversation on Twitter, begun by this tweet from Andy Bechtel (@andybechtel):
I’m not agreeing with that decision, either. Nor are many folks. But there are a few who don’t understand why it’s wrong. This post is for them. (Maybe it’s for you. I don’t know.) Continue reading “Back to basics: commas and appositives”
See that comma after the closed parenthesis in the title up there?
That’s where it belongs. This isn’t a style issue. It’s a mechanics rule in AmE. (I suspect it’s the same for BrE, but I couldn’t find an entry for it in my copy of the New Oxford Style Manual.)
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen someone write a sentence with a parenthetical intrusion and put the comma before the opening parenthesis, like this:
I was walking with my mom the other day, (doctor’s orders, you know, after her surgery) and we saw blah blah blah.
It looks so odd, I stop dead every time. Think about it like this. You’re talking along to a friend, okay? And you interrupt yourself mid-thought to add something, but that thing you’re adding actually belongs to what you just said, not to what you’re about to say. It’s semantically and syntactically linked to what came before. In my example, the comment about doctor’s orders is linked to walking with Mom, not to whatever thing we saw.
That’s why the comma goes after the closing parenthesis of the intrusion. We keep the related thoughts — the main one and the related intrusion — together by putting the comma afterward. Of course, this is assuming you need a comma. I’m not going into the variations that don’t. This post is short (remember the title?), pithy, and about commas.
See? I just did it again in the last sentence of the previous paragraph. That’s how it’s done.
What editors do to a project isn’t all GUMmy stuff. It’s not only grammar and usage and mechanics. Especially for those of us who work with fiction writers, a lot of the work is about appropriateness. Continue reading “It’s not all GUMmy stuff.”
While I’ve been less than perfect about posting here, I’m very active over on G+. In fact, most of my business is done there, whether it’s getting referrals or discussing projects. Because I spend so much time there, I’ve embraced the Collections feature and set up sixteen groupings of posts. I won’t link to all of them here (my Editing Projects, for example, aren’t really germane to everyone in the blogosphere, and the GRAMMARGEDDON! posts are already here, duh), but I’ll post a link to each Collection with a brief description of it so you good people can see the rest of my inspiring content. ::cough::
I just realized I’m posting at least a dozen links over the next few weeks. Rather like an editorial “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
But not. Anyway . . .
First up, in keeping with the theme of this blog, is my GUMmy Stuff. These are all about grammar, usage, and mechanics. Some of them are original content, some are links to other folks’ blogs, some are cartoons, but all are focused on GUMmy Stuff.
Here you go. Don’t get stuck in there. It can be messy.
Do you always need to separate a string of adjectives with commas?
The short answer: No.
Here’s a perfect example of when you don’t have to. Consider the phrase “blue polyester uniform pants.” (Thanks to Doug Metz for that!) Would you say “blue and polyester and uniform pants?” I sure wouldn’t. They’re blue polyester, and they’re uniform pants. Take it further. Would you say “blue polyester and uniform pants” if you were talking about that pair of pants? Again, I don’t think so.
The classic phrase often used as an exemplar is “little old lady.” Would you say “little and old lady?” Doubtful. Even if you add another adjective, you still are unlikely to use commas: little old blue-haired lady.
If you wouldn’t use “and” between the adjectives, you don’t need to use a comma, either. It’s a simple test that nearly always works. (I’m hedging a little because I’m certain if I were to make a definitive pronouncement, someone would comment “But Karen . . .” and blow it all out of the water.)
Let’s review possessives. Keep in mind I’m a Chicago gal (as in Chicago Manual of Style) so I use their conventions. If you use a different style guide, you can find those guidelines in your manual.
Michael Jones owns a car. It’s Michael Jones’s car. (Add the ‘s. You say it when you speak, so type or write it, too.)
Michael and Sarah Jones own a house together. It’s the Joneses’ house. (Joneses is the plural of Jones. Add just an apostrophe, because plural possessives don’t take the additional S.
Michael’s work is Mr. Jones’s job. Sarah’s is Mrs. Jones’s job.
And I’ll bet they have separate toothbrushes, so there’s Michael’s and Sarah’s toothbrushes. BUT, they probably own the TV in the parlor jointly, so that’s Michael and Sarah’s TV. (Or Sarah and Michael’s TV. Let them sort that out.)
If they have a friend named Jesus Garcia, and he’s got a car too, that’s Jesus’s car. If you’re talking about the Biblical figure Jesus, you don’t add the S; that’s considered a “classical or historical name,” and those take just the apostrophe. Moses’ tent. Xerxes’ troops. Jesus’ birth.
And I’ll leave it at that. If you have questions, comment and I’ll respond as I have time. It’s copy-editing day here.