eats, shoots & leaves

i have this book. i totally laughed at the title's joke. but i didn't finish it. and so, of course, i still have questions about punctuation. i know a few in my readership are wizes at the english language so i am going to post my questions here. if anyone can answer them i will be most appreciative.

  1. i have problems sometimes about placement of the end mark when there are quotation marks involved. example: How do you spell "constitution"? in this case, where the quotation marks are used around a term rather than an actual sentence, does the end mark go outside of the quotation marks? example 2: He said, "She told me, 'There are holes in your underwear.'!". is that correct??
  2. when there's an "s" at the end of a last name how do you correctly write something like "Love, from the _____s"? example: the Perris's or the Perris' --> which is correct?
  3. actually, let's backtrack for a moment. is it even correct to use an apostraphe in the last name in the case of question 2? if it is correct, why do you use an apostraphe? it never made much sense to me because if it's about an entire family, wouldn't it make more sense to use a plural version of the last name rather than a possessive?
  4. when making a list, is it more correct to use a comma before the "and"? (there's that blasted end mark after the quotation mark again!) example: apples, bananas, and oranges or apples, bananas and oranges --> which is it?

okay, i think those are all my questions for now. why the sudden interest in punctutation? besides my constant need to be as correct as possible about most things, now that i'm writing this blog i come up against these writing questions more often and i end up sitting there for awhile contemplating how to write something correctly. so i need help, please!


allison said...

hey yucaree, hm...all good questions indeed.

on quotation marks, periods and commas are always inside the quotation marks. If the quotation is a question, the question mark goes inside. If not, question mark goes outside. So your sentence about how to spell constitution is correct. For example 2, it should be:
He said, "She told me, 'There are holes in your underwear.'"
She asked, "Are there any tamales left?" (I'm hungry, that was the first question that I thought of.)

On plural names, I think it would be "Love, from the Joneses." I think the apostrophe would only be used to indicate possession. BUT, maybe someone else can verify that...I'm not really sure.

On commas in lists, I think technically there should be a comma before the "and," although when I was writing UF's catalog, the editor at our office ALWAYS took out the last comma. Maybe it's a style thing?

Here's a website that provides rules and examples: www.grammarbook.com

grudge girl said...

This is so funny because right now I am writing a Writing for Criminal Justice class and I just wrote a unit on most of these very issues. Allison is right on the quotation mark issue and the plural names issue. No apostrophe. But I think it's better just to avoid the awkwardness of the whole thing and go with "Love, from the Hasenpfeffer family."

On commas in lists, my very recent textbook for this class indicates that this matter can go either way, but that it's mostly journalistic writing that leaves OUT the comma before the "and." Allison's right there, too. It's kind of discipline-specific. In most circles, though, it is still considered the best form to include the comma before the "and." It's the safest bet.