G’Day, friends. Suze here. Today’s topic is serious and, well, I hope you can handle it. I’m talking about … punctuation.
Please don’t cringe in horror and run away screaming. Many writers think of grammar and punctuation as something scary, mysterious, or incomprehensible. I’m here, at the request of our Casey Wyatt, to let you know that it’s not. You really don’t need to be able to define gerunds, or the subjunctive, or even the pluperfect, although those words are fun to say. If you are already pretty good at this stuff, please stick around through to the end, because there might just be a reward!
Honestly, there are not that many grammar or punctuation rules a writer needs to follow. This isn’t eighth grade, and no diagramming of sentences on a chalkboard in front of the whole class is required. Most books have plenty of grammar “mistakes,” but guess what? Good writing doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect. It’s usually better when it isn’t, so it doesn’t sound stilted and formal. Voice doesn’t really come through if your novel reads like a dissertation.
Let’s start with the apostrophe. You know this little guy. Here he is: ‘ (Waving madly. Say hi!) This poor thing gets used and abused a lot. But he should really only be making an appearance in a few situations.
to take the place of letters removed in a contraction: don’t (do not), can’t (can not) Or, if you’re writing Highland romance: Ye’ll be pressin’ that kilt, Connor McConnorhaughtlocheniantyre, before ye’ll be leavin’ my house.
to show possession:
- If the noun showing possession is singular, use ‘s — Fiona’s snowy white arms. Connor’s rippling abdominals. This is true even if the singular noun ends in s — Hans’s luxurious blond hair.
- If the noun showing possession is plural, place the apostrophe at the end — the Highland clans’ war. The Joneses’ mailbox.
special rules regarding the words its and it’s:
- Use it’s ONLY in place of the words it is or it has — It’s been great knowing you Connor, but I must say good-bye.
- Use its to show possession: The cave bear was fiercely protective of its lair.
related to the above:
- Never, ever, ever use an apostrophe if a pronoun is already possessive: its, hers, his, theirs, ours, yours, etc. (not it’s, her’s, his’s, their’s …)
There are other rules, but these are the basics. If you have any questions, check out this site, which explains virtually every situation clearly: http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/apostro.asp. You can also contact me, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.
Yes, I am a big nerdette who actually sort of enjoys this stuff. Hope this was helpful to you all. Next step: commas. But don’t worry. That won’t be for a few weeks!
Now, for those of you who stuck with me through the lecture, here’s your treat … a gratuitous hunk! Have a great day, everyone.
Do you have any pesky punctuation questions you want answered today? If not, tell me about one of your high school English teachers.