Archive for the ‘Punctuation’ Category

Three for the day (Easter)

April 20, 2014

Today’s crop of cartoons includes a Bizarro, a Zippy, and a Mother Goose and Grimm:





Pesky capitalization

April 12, 2014

From Chris Waigl on Facebook, this image of a headline.

Among the most common functions of initial caps are marking the first word of a sentence and marking proper names. Both are, at least at first, here. But the ‘annoying memorabilia’ interpretation is very unlikely. Then you need to know that Johnny Pesky was a baseball player — a fact immediately made clear in the body of the story,

Today’s holiday

February 17, 2014

This is an odd American holiday. This Washington Post piece from yesterday — “Why Presidents’ Day is slightly strange” by Valerie Strauss — explains why.


Comma time

February 8, 2014

Today’s Bizarro has yet another version of the Comma Joke, repeated in many places over the years:

The contrast is between expressions that are tightly connected syntactically to the rest of their syntax (as in Kiss the cook) vs. those that are loose adjuncts of one type or another — vocatives or, as in this case, appositives.

(Note: this was originally posted under the heading Apostrophe Time. My mental gears slipped between apostrophe and comma, as several readers have pointed out. Some days I’m not very sharp.)

Apostrophe in plural

October 16, 2013

A friend wrote me yesterday with this punctuational query (edited here to cloak some details):

I am teaching an online course … this semester …  The course material is mostly pre-written for me, but I’ve been going through it myself, of course.  One thing I noted is that acronyms [what I would call initialisms; see below] are sometimes made plural with the letter s, sometimes with apostrophe s.  I guess what bothers me most is the inconsistency.

I was looking through Language Log and your blog for the topic of plural acronyms with and without apostrophes, but came up blank.  Do you know of anything on current thoughts on this topic, or have any yourself?

MBA (Master in Business Administration) is an initialistic name of a degree; is its plural MBAs (no apostrophe) or MBA’s?


Snarky spelling and punctuation

October 14, 2013

Three e-cards. The first is one in a long series illustrating the perils of going without punctuation — in this case, without commas that mark off syntactic constituents (in a way that receives expression in speech as well as on the page):



The apostrophe and a non-dangler

September 25, 2013

Katy Steinmetz on the TIME blog yesterday, in “Say It Aint So: The Movement to Kill the Apostrophe: On National Punctuation Day, here’s a look at efforts to obliterate the apostrophe and unleash a Wild West of unmarked possession”:

Today is the 10th annual National Punctuation Day, a high holiday on nerd calendars across these great United States. Its stated purpose is to be a celebration of underappreciated, misused marks like the semicolon and “the ever mysterious ellipsis.” But a better-known piece of punctuation has been getting some apocalyptic press and deserves attention on this day of celebration: the apostrophe.


Two from The Week

September 23, 2013

Two recent items from the magazine The Week: Neal Whitman on libfixes, James Harbeck on apostrophes. Both with humor.


Word divisions

July 12, 2013

Today’s Pearls Before Swine, in which Pig continues to have language problems:

So Pig gets the word division wrong. But the sign-maker isn’t blameless here: the sign is printed solid, rather than divided — and (like so many sign-makers these days) eschews apostrophes, so that the sign as printed is ambiguous. Goat gets it right: MEN’S WEAR.

Conversion, solidification, and externalization

February 3, 2013

A recent discussion on ADS-L combined three themes of enduring interest on this blog: conversion of N to V and vice versa; the alternation in spelling between separated, hyphenated, and solid spelling of compounds (see recent discussion by Mark Liberman on Language Log about the V + Prt compounds build out, build-out, and buildout); and the inclination to externalize inflection in compounds that have come to be viewed as unitary lexical items (see a collection of V/N = V + Prt examples here).

The ADS-L discussion was about mouse over / mouse-over / mouseover, which I’ll refer to as MO in what follows.



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