Yesterday, 16 August, was International Apostrophe Day, and the cue for lots of apostrophe articles and Twitter posts. The following quick guide to when and how to use an apostrophe was taken from an article in The Guardian by David Marsh: If you can’t use an apostrophe, you don’t know your shit. How to use an apostrophe […]

Primary-school pupils in England have been sitting a new grammar, spelling and punctuation test (check out the specimen questions) as part of their final year assessment. Teachers have criticised the test, saying that there are better ways of assessing pupils’ English-language skills: Grammar is vital but you test someone’s writing skills by examining their writing. Just […]

It seems that Italy too has got problems with spelling and punctuation, though in this case at graffiti rather than local authority level. The text in black above should read “L’orgoglio non serve”. Roughly translated, “Pride doesn’t serve any purpose”, to which an Italian Lynne Truss has responded “But apostrophes do”. This picture is from a […]

The title of my post on “bamboozled” comes from the wonderful song “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered“, from the Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey. From a language perspective, here’s the Online Etymology Dictionary again, on “glamour”: glamour (n.) 1720, Scottish, “magic, enchantment” (especially in phrase to cast the glamor), a variant of Scottish gramarye “magic, enchantment, […]

My post on Tuesday (26 October) was about how to type an ellipsis; this one goes into a wee bit more detail about when you should do so. I’ve lifted the following straight from Wikipedia, mainly to save time but also because I love the following phrase: “the ellipsis can also inspire a feeling of […]

Fascinating comma fact 1 A comma is not just a punctuation mark, it’s also a type of butterfly, so-named because of the white comma-shaped marking on the underside of its wing (you can just about see it in the photo). UK Butterflies (which provides more detailed photos) describes the Comma as looking like a “tatty […]

To those of you still fretting over the Oxford Comma dilemma (and who don’t read the Comments – tsk, tsk!), the “august journal” Speculative Grammarian offers the following solution: Since the OC appears to present more problems of CrossPondian translation than any other form of punctuation, a solution must be found which satisfies users on both […]

Do you use the Oxford (serial) comma? Here’s a sentence with the Oxford comma: My favourite foods are Greek yoghurt, salted almonds, cheese, and dark chocolate. Here’s the same sentence without: My favourite foods are Greek yoghurt, salted almonds, cheese and dark chocolate. And here’s one where, unless you change the order of the list […]

I was puzzled last week to see references on Twitter to the exotic-sounding “Oxford comma”, a new term to me. It turns out (thank you, Mark Allen and  Oxford Dictionaries) that the Oxford comma is another name for the “serial comma”: an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list: We […]