Basic Grammar
Granny's Groaners
Resume Writing


If there were no such thing as punctuation we wouldnt be able to understand as completely what the writer is trying to tell us we could easily get confused no one would know when one thought ended and another began how would you know when to take a breath


The following punctuation marks are well known, but their proper uses are not. First, Granny will show and explain the punctuation mark, followed by a sentence using the mark incorrectly, and finally, a sentence will demonstrate the correct use.

The period - a simple dot, at the level of the line of writing, used at the end of a sentence, or after a number or letter in a list. A. Like this. B. And this. C. Final item in this list (period). It seems simple enough, yet many people put periods in inappropriate places, or forget to use them at all. This stems, I believe, from not understanding what a complete sentence is.

  • Incorrect use: The man and his dog. Went for a walk. Dogs are our best friends I prefer cats.
  • Correct use: The man and his dog went for a walk. Dogs are our best friends. I prefer cats.

The comma - a period with a tail, basically. It is located at the line of writing, like this, and is used to separate items, ideas and phrases within a sentence, as well as to denote a pause. A common misuse of the comma is to place it between two complete sentences when a period (or semicolon) would be more correct. Unfortunately, the comma is also frequently overused.

  • Incorrect use: The man, and his, dog, went for a walk, dogs are our best friends, I prefer cats.
  • Correct use: The man and his dog, a large German shepherd, went for a walk. He saw a few cats, which he chased.

The apostrophe - Looking like a comma floating high above the line of writing, the apostrophe (Ah POSS tra fee) has several uses. It also is one of the most frequently misused punctuation marks of all, according to Granny's observations.

  • To denote "ownership," or possessiveness. Incorrect: Bobs house. Correct: Bob's house.
    This means Bob has a house. But if two guys own the house, it becomes the guys' house.
    If there is only one owner to denote, the apostrophe appears at the end of the word, followed by an S (Bob's). If there is more than one owner to denote, the apostrophe follows the added S (the guys').
    Also incorrect: The Smith's. This is seen often on family name signs in front of homes. There is NO apostrophe needed. In fact, it's wrong. If the family Smith lives there, it's likely there are several, or at the least two, Smiths in there. The sign should read The Smiths.
    An apostrophe should never be used to denote plurals. It's never correct to write the dog's, the cat's, the car's, etc. when referring to more than one of each. It's OK to write "the dog's dish," or "the cat's bed," but never never, "We have three cat's."

  • To denote a contraction of two (and sometimes more) words. When combining two words, such as do not or it is, at least one letter will be left out. The apostrophe lets us know that something was left out, as it replaces that spot.

    Examples: It is = it's�� Do not = don't �� Does not = doesn't�� Let us = let's

    Incorrect: The cat slept on it's bed while the three dog's ignored their's. Let's not say the owner let's them do that.
    Correct: The cat slept on its bed while the three dogs ignored theirs. Let's not say the owner lets them do that.

Quote marks - These look like double apostrophes and are used to indicate words being said by someone other than the writer, or they may designate words being spoken. Or they also can be used to denote a word or phrase that may mean something else. Examples:

  • Quoting someone - She said, "I don't think so."

  • Other meaning - He said he was "tired." In this case, he really wasn't tired. The quotes let the reader know he was lying, or possibly teasing. If he's really tired, no quotes are needed. Just say he's tired. Period. Or, if he's really, really tired and it needs to be emphasized, there are other options, such as underlining it, setting the font in italics or bold, or saying so, as, "He's really, really tired." A story writer might want to go into some detail, such as, "He was so tired he fell asleep in the middle of his pizza. It was the kind of tired that only young boys know, when they've played so hard all day they can hardly stay awake to eat."

  • Single quotes - These look like apostrophes, but they are used as quote marks when double quotes have already been used in the sentence. Example: She said, "He told me, 'Don't worry about it.'" In other words, this is a quote within a quote.

  • Position of quotes with other punctuation marks - Quotes always enclose the words between them, along with the punctuation marks that apply to them. Examples:
    Incorrect: He said I shouldn't play with the ball that belongs to the "weirdo". (Notice the period is outside the quote marks.)
    Correct: He said I shouldn't play with the ball that belongs to the "weirdo." (Now the period is correctly inside the quote marks.)

  • Up or down? Sometimes quote marks are just two straight marks and it doesn't matter. But often, they appear as "curly quotes." In that case, the quotes must curl inward, toward the word, phrase or sentence.

Colon - The colon is two dots, stacked one on top of the other, like this: It is used to direct your attention to what comes next. How to use it:

  • Capitalize the next word only if it starts a complete sentence, like this: This is a complete sentence.
  • Do not capitalize the next word if it's only a word, a list or a phrase: like this.

Semicolon - This can be used to separate thoughts in the same way as the period; however, no capitalization is required for the next complete expression. It's like joining together two sentences; thus, it can be thought of as a conjunction, replacing the word "and" or "but."

Dash - A short line that denotes a pause or a break in a thought. Examples:
He started to leave and -- ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I was -- uh -- going to do that.
He was acting like a real son of a -- !
Oh, Bob, I wish you wouldn't -- . Oh well -- too late.

Hyphen - A shorter line that connects words. Examples: secretary-treasurer, city-state, cease-fire, hand-to-hand combat.
It can also be used to prevent confusion, for example: "The recreation director promoted a re-creation of the three-act play."
"A steak well-done is a meal well done." (If you like your steak that way.)
Hyphens can be used to divide words also. Examples: To show spelling -- G-R-E-A-T. To show how the syllables are divided: thir-teen, sev-en-ty-six, em-pha-size.

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