Last week the Oxford comma made big news: a Maine trucking company was forced to pay overtime after the lack of a comma in a law was interpreted in favor of the truckers. Here is the blog post that talks about that article.
I researched a bit and found that there are several famous stories where punctuation has been crucial to interpretation of a law.
First, there is the “comma defense.” Was it going to be life in prison or the death penalty for Clifford L. Robinson? The federal sentencing code reads, “. . . death or life in prison, or a fine or both . . .” A fine for murder? Read more…
You see, the Oxford comma isn’t just a punctuation mark that academics, writers, and grammar trolls argue about. It’s not just something that gets you hundreds – thousands – of likes or shares on social media.
I think I have always spoken with pretty good grammar. However, I do remember when I was a little kid, I thought the past tense of bring was brang, and the present perfect tense (past participle form) was have brung. My parents, who spoke fairly well, told me that it was brought and have brought.
I haven’t heard too many people say brang and brung lately, but…
Flat adverbs? Is this yet another grammatical thing we need to know about? Well, yes and no, but it isn’t difficult.
Let’s start at the beginning. Adverbs are the part of speech that “describe” verbs. They usually tell how or when or to what extent. And they can also describe adjectives or other adverbs. And to review, adjectives are the part of speech that usually describe nouns (or pronouns), tellingwhat kind. Here are some examples of adverbs:
He talks quietly. (Quietly is an adverb that tells how he talks.)
We will leave soon. (Soon is an adverb that tells when we will leave.)
He talks extremely quietly. (Extremely is an adverb describing another adverb – quietly – that tells to what extent.)
She is really pretty. (Here, really is an adverb describing the adjective pretty, telling to what extent.)
You have probably noticed that many (probably most) adverbs…
You’ve read all the great editing books, went through the manuscript at least a dozen times, fixed the largest gaping plot holes and checked your grammar (manually). The beta readers have even given their blessing. Think your epic novel is finally ready? Before you hit the send button, check out these ten pointers to ensure your novel is really ready for publication…