Laura’s Competitive Edge Grammar Rules (page 4)

by Laura A. DeCarlo


Hyphenation: Consult the Chicago Manual of Style.
Simple rules:

An adverb/adjective combination in which the adverb ends in “-LY” is never hyphenated:

  1. e.g., “His necktie reflected his generally grotesque taste.”

Other sorts of adverbs are followed by a hyphen when combined with an adjective:

  1. e.g., “His long-suffering wife finally snapped and fed it through the office shredder.”
  2. The point here is that “long” modifies “suffering,” not “wife.”

When both words modify the same noun, they are not hyphenated.

  1. e.g., A “light-green suitcase” is pale in color, but a “light green suitcase” is not heavy.
  2. In the latter example above, “light” and “green” both modify “suitcase,” so no hyphen is used.

Adjectives combined with nouns having an “-ED” suffix are hyphenated.

  1. e.g., “Frank was a hot-headed cop.”

Hyphenate changes when there are adjective phrases involving a unit of measurement:

  1. e.g., “Her ten-year-old car is beginning to give her trouble.” A girl can be a “ten-year-old” (“child” is implied).

But there are no hyphens in such an adjectival phrase as: “Her car is ten years old.” Hyphens are generally omitted when such phrases follow the noun they modify except in phrases involving “all” or “self” such as “all-knowing” or “self-confident.”

Fractions and hyphens: Fractions are almost always hyphenated when they are adjectives.

  1. e.g., “He is one-quarter Irish and three-quarters Nigerian.”

But when the numerator is already hyphenated, the fraction itself is not, as in “ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredths.”

Fractions treated as nouns are not hyphenated.

  1. e.g., “He ate one quarter of the turkey.”

Hyphen vs. “em” dash: An “em-dash” is the width of the letter m, and is used to mark a parenthesis — like this — or an interruption. It is considered a substitute for the colon.

It is different from a hyphen – two “hyphens” create the em-dash or use the symbol for em dash.

Hyphen vs. “en” dash: The “en-dash” (shorter than an em dash yet longer than a hyphen) indicates “to” between figures or words that are not preceded by the word from.

  1. e.g., the years 1970-1973; pages 15-72; the PC- Macintosh rivalry.

Note: whether to place an extra space on either side of an “em” or “en” dash depends on house style.

Quotation Marks:
In standard American practice, commas are placed inside quotation marks:

  1. e.g., I spent the morning reading Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” which seemed to be about a pyromaniac.

Periods are also normally placed inside quotation marks (with the exception of terms being defined).

Colons and semicolons are preceded by quotation marks. If the quoted matter ends with a question mark or exclamation point, it is placed inside the quotation marks.

  1. e.g.,. John asked, “When’s dinner?”

But if it is the enclosing sentence which asks the question, then the question mark comes after the quotation marks:

  1. e.g., What did she mean, John wondered, by saying “as soon as you make it”?
Single Quotation Mark:
In standard American writing, the only use for single quotation marks is to designate a quotation within a quotation.
If your writing contains numbers, the general rule is to spell out in letters all the numbers from zero to nine and use numerals for larger numbers.
Repeated Prepositions:
In the sentence “Alex liked Nancy, with whom he shared his Snickers bar with” only one “with” is needed–eliminate either one.
Double Negative:
Not always wrong, but has no place in a resume.

  1. e.g., “He is a not untalented guitarist.”
Dangling Participle:
A present participle is a verb ending in -ing, and is called dangling when the subject of the -ing verb and the subject of the sentence do not agree.

  1. e.g., “Rushing to finish the paper, Bob’s printer broke.” Here the subject is Bob’s printer, but the printer isn’t doing the rushing. vs. the correct: “While Bob was rushing to finish the paper, his printer broke.”

Tip: Pay close attention to sentences beginning with When ——ing. One way to tell whether the participle is dangling is to put the phrase with the participle right after the subject of the sentence: “Bob’s printer, rushing to finish the paper, broke” doesn’t sound right.

Using Email and World Wide Web addresses in writing:
According to the text, “Computers and Composition”:

In acknowledgments, text, notes on reprints, author’s note and references, email and Web addresses appear within single angle bracket ending with a period if appearing at the closing of the sentence.

  1. e.g., Email: .
  2. e.g., URL: .
Capitalization: Common uses:
The first word of a sentence;
The first word in a line of poetry;
The first word in a line of poetry;
The major words in the title of a work;
Proper nouns (names), including most adjectives derived from proper nouns, 

  1. e.g., Spanish from Spain, Freudian from Freud;

Personal titles when they come before a name,

  1. e.g., Mr. Smith, Ms. Jones, Dr. X, Captain Beefheart, Reverend Gary Davis;

All (or most) letters in an abbreviation,

  1. e.g., NASA, MRI

It’s common to capitalize President when referring to one President of the United States, but you’d refer to all the presidents (no cap) of the U.S., and the presidents of corporations don’t warrant caps unless you are using president as a title.

Ordinal Numbers:
MS Word wants to make the letters that accompany ordinal numbers — the st in first, the nd in second, the rd in third, and the th in other numbers — superscripts.

However, NO professionally printed books use superscripts, so neither should you. Besides, most house styles say most ordinal numbers should be spelled out.

Punctuation and the Word Processor:
The traditional rule, and one especially suited to the monospaced fonts common in typescripts (as opposed to desktop publishing):

Put one space after a comma or semicolon;
Put two spaces after a (sentence-ending) period, exclamation point, or question mark.
Colons have been known to go either way.
For spaces after quotation marks, base your choice on the punctuation inside the quotation.

Using Book & Article Titles:
The titles of books and other long works are either italicized or underscored; the titles of shorter works (essays & articles) appear in quotation marks.

In most house styles, all the major words in an English title are capitalized — “major” meaning the first word, the last word, and everything in between except articles, conjunctions and prepositions.

  1. e.g., A Tale of Two Cities (preposition of gets no cap).
Split Infinitives:
An infinitive is the form of a verb that comes after to, as in to support or to write. A split infinitive occurs when another word comes between the to and the verb.

Some people prefer to keep the to next to the verb at all times, and though grammar experts are divided over this rule, it’s probably better to avoid split infinitives whenever possible.

  1. e.g., Instead of “Matt seems to always do it that way,” try “Matt always seems to do it that way.”

Adverbs often insinuate themselves between the to and the verb, as in “To boldly go where no man has gone before,” or “To always keep a watch on your bag.”

Non-Standard Typefaces other than Arial, Courier New, Helvetica

Condensed spacing between letters or lines

Boldface or italics that cause the letters to touch each other

Pictures or graphics

Vertical and horizontal lines, graphics, and boxes (including underlining)

Two-column format or resumes that look like newspapers or newsletters

Header and name not on top of page

Font size exceeding 18 points or below 10 points

Place your header at the top page one

(For key word scannability remember that nouns are the target, not verbs)