Punctuation That Even Teachers Slip Up On (Part 2)

The first post I wrote with the same title was published back in 2009. Who knew back then that my interest in (and struggle with) punctuation would continue so strongly to 2013?

My interaction with learners online is the primary push behind my focus on writing skills.  I observe their common mistakes and habits, and that prompts me to create materials to address their needs. In the Language Notes playlist, one video topic is the danger of using Internet and text chat slang. I’ve also been building a playlist called English Writing Skills, which has a heavy focus on punctuation rules and patterns. The biggest challenge of this second playlist is making sure I don’t break any of the rules or patterns myself when I write examples or type in my captions!

I’m willing to admit that despite being called “an experienced teacher,” I still feel uncertainty sometimes when it comes to punctuation. Does anyone else double check their use of hyphens or catch an occasional mistake with a comma? Here are some of my recent searches:

  • Hyphens in compound words. In a recent private lesson, I couldn’t immediately remember if “high quality” should be hyphenated as a modifier. Only later did I visit enough sites and sources to confirm the general consensus about compound modifiers with the words high and well. In short, we hyphenate the combination when it precedes a noun, but otherwise omit the hyphen: He sells high-quality cookware. / It’s high quality.
  • Apostrophes with two proper names to show joint or separate ownership. When making my latest video for punctuation marks, I remembered the quirky rule about showing common ownership. Even so, I needed to look at a number of sources to make sure I really did know what I was talking about! Jennifer and Kostya’s children would confirm that my husband and I have had children together. Any truth to the phrase Jennifer’s and Kostya’s children, however, would cause great surprise and marital strife at this point.
  • Commas with geographical places. I nearly left out this point when I was giving an example of a magical power I’d like to have. I want to be magically transported to another place just by saying my destination, for instance, “Paris, France!” I knew to put the comma in to separate the city from the country, but only after a good review did I think about adding the note of using a second comma to completely separate the country from the main part of the sentence: Going to Paris, France, would be my first choice.
  • Rules for capitalizing words in titles. I know I am not as consistent or accurate as I’d like to be with formatting titles. In the case of this post, I had to pause and really think if I was correct to capitalize up and on. I concluded that I was since they are particles and part of the verb, rather than prepositions. I hope you agree!

If you’re interested in practicing punctuation with students, you may like to look back at some older posts with suggested activities.

  1. Sentence First Aid
  2. Authentic Editing
  3. Punctuation and Spelling Police
  4. Writing Compound Words

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