Space Cadet

When I was learning to type, I was taught to use two spaces after end punctuation. Later on, I learned that using two spaces was really essential when typing on typewriters, but it’s no longer necessary when typing on a computer. Is it actually incorrect now to use two spaces, or should people just do […]

The Irrelephants of Style

Clearly fiction and poetry bring with them a different set of rules (i.e. basically none) to grammar and style, how does one deal with the challenges presented there? Is there any point at which an author’s decision to subvert grammatical norms goes beyond stylistic playing and becomes just plain aggravating? First, I should explain for […]

Test Your Mettle

Can you refer me to your favorite online copy editing test? I may have an in-person editing test for a new job next week, and I think I’ve developed some bad habits after seven years with the same company. I’d like to give my brain a workout beforehand. Thanks! –Brian Well, I can’t really refer […]

Semicolon vs. Colon

You talked about separating independent clauses with semicolons, but when would you use a colon to separate independent clauses instead? Are the uses completely different, or does the author get a choice? –Stephen That’s an interesting question. When a semicolon joins two independent clauses, it’s basically saying, “Here are two equally important bits of information […]

Dash It All

Can you please break down dashes and hyphens? When do we use an em-dash? When do we use an en-dash? Do we put a space between the words on either side of a hyphen or not? Help! –Matthew Hoo boy! This is kind of a big topic, so I’m going to try to give you […]

What Should I Do With the Joneses’ Stuff?

Say you have a name that ends in S, like Millis. If Ms. Millis owns something, like a book, is it Ms. Millis’ book or Ms. Millis’s book? The short answer is “consult your style guide.” Style guides exist precisely to make a ruling on issues like this, where there’s more than one acceptable answer […]

What the…?!

When ending a sentence where you want to add a question mark and an exclamation mark at the end, is it “?!” or “!?”? I always use the latter because I feel it looks better, but I see the first version used most of the time. Is the question mark plus exclamation point even acceptable? […]

The Serial Comma

The tag line in the title banner has a comma after “writing.” I thought that last comma before “and” in a list is unnecessary unless “and” is used elsewhere in the list. For instance, I would use that last comma in a list that includes items like “oil and gas, cake and ice cream, and […]


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