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By JUNE CASAGRANDE | September 9, 2009
Everyone knows how to use commas ? right up until the moment they think about them. As if on autopilot, most people will put commas in ?It was a dark, stormy, scary night,? just as they?ll leave them out of ?It was a bright green convertible sedan.? Just don?t ask them why. Put these two sentences next to each other, ask the author why the first has commas and the second doesn?t, and there?s a good chance he will have no idea. There?s even a chance that the next time he?s writing a sentence like this he will do a worse job of using commas, not better.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | March 9, 2013
There's a cartoon about commas going around on the Internet. The first panel reads: “With the Oxford comma: We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.” The illustration shows four people: two men, one bearing a resemblance to JFK and the other to Stalin, and two women in G-strings and high heels. The second panel reads: “Without the Oxford comma: We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin” above an illustration of just two people: men resembling JKF and Stalin, who themselves are wearing G-strings and high heels.
NEWS
By JUNE CASAGRANDE | January 25, 2006
Like everyone who lives in and around Los Angeles I sometimes read scripts. Friends' scripts. TV scripts. Movie scripts. Unfortunate scripts. Painful scripts. How-can-I-everlook-my-friendin-eye-again scripts. It's a sad commentary on our culture that everyone with a Southern California zip code thinks he has the next great blockbuster, or 10, tucked away in a desk drawer. But sadder yet is the fact that these scripts, wretched as they are, are still better than any of mine. But I've found a way to save face, in my own eyes at least.
NEWS
By JUNE CASAGRANDE | February 7, 2007
Sex. Now that I have your attention, I'd like to discuss the fact that this sentence you're reading is not necessarily a run-on sentence because run-on sentences are not simply sentences that run on and on but instead are a specific type of rambling sentence in which punctuation that should be separating two or more independent clauses is omitted as is any conjunction that could otherwise link the two independent ? OK. That's enough of that. I'm putting myself to sleep. Moving on. There are actually several ways to create brain-numbingly long and bad sentences.
NEWS
By JUNE CASAGRANDE | December 27, 2006
Last week, I wrote about commas, and there was much rejoicing. But I ran out of space before I could cover all the bases. So to rectify a situation I dub "curl, interrupted," I'm following last week's column on commas with another column on commas. If you recall, last time we talked about these punctuation marks in a few specific situations. (I know you don't recall. Just play along.) But there are several comma situations I didn't talk about, including the one the stylebooks call a "direct address."
NEWS
By JUNE CASAGRANDE | February 28, 2007
I was taught that any little adverb like "too," "either" or "anyway" that appears at the end of a sentence should be preceded by a comma. I was also taught that saccharin is a smart choice. Take a sentence like, "I was told that steak is good for you, too." How do you like that comma before the "too"? I like it just fine. And so does the New York Times in most of the instances I found during a recent search. But I also found some sentences like this: "The music business is not the only thing that has changed in the eight years since Record Mart last sold a compact disc.
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By June Casagrande | April 5, 2013
These days, everyone's a writer. And a reporter. And an editor. Thanks to the Internet, you can report any "fact" you want, be it a UFO sighting in your rumpus room or incontrovertible evidence that Donald Trump has a full head of hair. There are benefits to this democratization of reporting. We get more information from a greater diversity of perspectives. But this comes with a downside: There's a lot of bad information out there, and it's on us to sniff it out. Say what you will about the bad old days of near media monopolies.
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NEWS
By June Casagrande | March 9, 2013
There's a cartoon about commas going around on the Internet. The first panel reads: “With the Oxford comma: We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.” The illustration shows four people: two men, one bearing a resemblance to JFK and the other to Stalin, and two women in G-strings and high heels. The second panel reads: “Without the Oxford comma: We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin” above an illustration of just two people: men resembling JKF and Stalin, who themselves are wearing G-strings and high heels.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | January 4, 2013
Remember boredom? Your No. 1 cause of unbearable suffering before you got your driver's license and fake I.D.? If you're like most adults, your boredom has gone the way of acne and 24-inch waistbands. Except for one very special time of year. Right after the holidays, when the stress of shopping for pre-indulged kids and cooking for judgmental in-laws is behind you, there comes a brief period of blissful boredom. It's a time to curl up with a mountain of stale snickerdoodles and listen to the test pattern hum between your ears as you stare comatose at a blank wall.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | May 5, 2012
Before I started teaching copy-editing courses, I assumed that one of the nice things about being a teacher would be sharing hard-earned expertise with wide-eyed students awed by my vast knowledge. Little did I know that I'd be the one getting the lesson, or that the lesson would be this: My knowledge isn't as vast as I thought it was. I figured this out recently when my class was learning about commas. In this course, we tell students to place commas between adjectives like the ones in “He was a nice, respectful, polite, pleasant man.” But do not, we tell them, put commas between adjectives like the ones in “He wore a light yellow collared shirt.” Here's how we explain the difference.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | March 3, 2012
Put on your editor's cap for a moment and see if you can find the typo in this sentence: “Healthy doses of pepper spray and adrenaline were among the on-hand accouterments wielded by the two dozen Norfolk officers that responded to the embarrassing scene on the National Mall - a fracas occurring far closer to the Capitol than was considered safe in the judgment of the respondents' commanding officers.” The mistake, which any editor would be...
NEWS
By June Casagrande | September 8, 2010
Peevishness is always a bad idea. The minute you say out loud "my pet peeve is," you're choosing to let something annoy you. And in a world full of annoyances like movie theater texters, bed bugs and Ty Pennington, that's a recipe for round-the-clock rage. But in grammar, peevishness is especially unwise. By letting other people's speech bother us, we're not just obsessing over something beyond our control. There's a good chance that what we're obsessing over happens to be something we ourselves are wrong about.
NEWS
April 7, 2010
Last week in this column, I talked about one of the common comma misperceptions that, on a recent copy-editing job, created a lot of frustrating busywork for me. (Those of you who read it can bill me for your therapy services.) There?s a reason I discussed only one comma misperception: That?s all I could fit in the column. But the truth is there were several other comma errors that cropped up over and over again in the list of professionally written author biographies. And, because one week later I?
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