It’s been awhile since we focused on punctuation, and given the misuse I regularly see, perhaps this advice is overdue.
Colons. These (:) are most commonly used before lists.
- The walls in my living room/dining area/kitchen feature four colors: red, purple, blue and gold.
Semicolons. Use these (;) either to bring clarity to a lengthy list or separate closely related independent clauses.
- My favorite American cities are San Francisco, CA; Boston, MA; and Chicago, IL.
- San Diego is pretty great as well; it arguably has the best weather.
Quotation marks. The most common usage for these (“) is to denote material that represents quoted or spoken language.
- Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo represented the Cubs at this year’s All-Star Game, with the latter saying, “we’re both happy to be here and happy to be here together, too.”
Using punctuation correctly can really enhance your verbiage. In upcoming issues, we’ll tackle apostrophes, brackets, parentheses, exclamation points, ellipses, periods, commas and more.
A or An?
A long time ago, you were taught to use “a” before words that begin with consonants and “an” before words that begin with vowels. As you matured as a writer, you may have realized there are exceptions to that grammar rule, and the a/an choice you make shouldn’t be based on spelling, but on the sound of the word. Thus, “an hour” is correct, not “a hour.”
One of the most confusing a/an situations involves the word “historic.” Have you been using “an” in front of it because a teacher told you to do so? Not so fast–both “a historic” and “an historic” are considered correct, but the former is more common. According to Better Writing Skills, American English has shown a strong preference for “a historic” since the ’40s.
It seems to happen to me almost every day; I receive e-mails that are either unsigned or end with just the sender’s first name. No harm, no foul, you say? I disagree. When you send business e-mails, it’s important to end them with a signature that includes your full name and title, your company, one or more phone numbers, and perhaps even your website address. By doing this, you’re ensuring recipients don’t have to hunt for that information; it’s right there at their fingertips.
What about when one e-mail turns into a lengthy back-and-forth “conversation”? In those instances, I make sure my full signature appears on the initial communication, but I use “A” (for Adrienne) to end subsequent e-mails. Recipients can scroll to find my contact information, but it doesn’t appear over and over again.
adriennemoch.com • email@example.com • 619-291-4645