Ho Ho How Do You Punctuate That?

santa

It’s getting to be that time of year when children close their eyes and fantasize about an old, fat man breaking into their house while they sleep naïvely in false security in their bedrooms.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” the man says to himself as he places consumer goods under a tree that for some reason has been moved to their living room.

Wait. Perhaps he says “Ho ho ho!” instead. Just how many exclamation points does this slavemaster of reindeer use?

Let’s turn to the authorities. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say:

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 10.24.56 AM.png

There you have it. Three hos and one exclamation point.

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas (etc.) to you!

Erin Servais is a professional book editor who is really hoping she won’t get coal this Christmas. Learn more about how she can help you reach your publishing goals here: Dot and Dash website.

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Compound Modifiers with Words Ending in -ly

doughnuts with pink and blue accents

We’re also talking about doughnuts today because why wouldn’t we?

A compound modifier consists of two words that act together as one unit to modify a noun.

Here are some examples:

The sweet-smelling doughnut made my tummy grumble.
(Here sweet and smelling work as one unit to describe the noun doughnut.)

He had to wash his mud-covered ninja outfit.
(Mud and covered work together to explain the noun outfit.)

Their favorite wand was the glitter-speckled one.
(Glitter and speckled are one unit modifying the noun one.)

You’ll notice that in the examples above, all of the word sets are hyphenated: sweet-smelling, mud-covered, glitter-speckled. But there are times when the word sets aren’t hyphenated.

Compound Modifiers Ending in -ly
Compound modifiers that include an adverb ending in the suffix -ly do not get hyphenated. Why is this? Here is how The Chicago Manual of Style (the rulebook people use to edit books) explains it in section 7.86:

Compounds formed by an adverb ending in -ly plus an adjective or participle (such as largely irrelevant or smartly dressed) are not hyphenated either before or after a noun, since ambiguity is virtually impossible. (The -ly ending with adverbs signals to the reader that the next word will be another modifier, not a noun.)

For the non-editors reading this, what that means is the reader will know instinctually that the word coming after the -ly is working with the -ly word to describe something. So it doesn’t need the hyphen to help readers understand it is a word pair.

Now let’s look at some examples:

The cowboy sauntered into the dimly lit saloon.
(Dimly and lit both work together to explain saloon. But since dimly ends in -ly, it doesn’t use a hyphen. A reader should automatically understand lit goes with dimly.)

The professor’s terrifyingly large stack of papers to grade made him anxious.
(Here terrifyingly and large work together but do not require a hyphen to link them.)

His awkwardly long tie made people question his fashion sense.
(Awkwardly works with long and does not need a hyphen.)

Now you know when to use your trusty hyphen with compound modifiers. Go forth and hyphenate correctly!

Erin Servais has been slinging hyphens as a book editor for ten years. To learn more about her and how to hire her for your book project, go to her website: www.dotanddashllc.com.

Quotation marks within quotation marks

Today Hannibal Lecter is going to teach us about punctuation. And who said learning isn't fun?

Today Hannibal Lecter is going to teach us about punctuation. And who said learning isn’t fun?

When you’re working with only one set of quotation marks, using them is simple. In American English, just surround the sentence or words in double quote marks.

Example:
Hannibal said, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Quotes within quotes
When you have a quote within a quote, begin and end the main quote with double quotation marks. Surround the quote within a quote with single quotation marks.

Example:
Ronald said, “I can’t believe Hannibal said, ‘I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.’”

Note that the period goes before all three final quotation marks and that there is no space between the single quote mark and the double quote marks.

Here’s how it would look if the main quote continues after the quote within a quote:

Ronald said, “I can’t believe Hannibal said, ‘I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.’ That really creeped me out.”

Works of art
If a quote has reference to a title of a work of art that requires quotation marks (and not italics), the title also uses single quotation marks. (For a refresher on which require quote marks and which require italics, click here.)

Example:
Hannibal said, “I heard Ronald’s favorite song is ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the Rolling Stones.”

Years old: Hyphen or no hyphen?

 

Today we’re discussing when to hyphenate the phrases years old and year old.

Let’s take a look at two sentences:

His son is four years old.
He has a four year old boy.

In the first sentence, you would not use hyphens. In the second sentence, you would, making it four-year-old boy. This is because the phrase four year old is modifying the noun boy.

A good clue to determine whether you should hyphenate the year old phrase is to see if a noun comes after it. If there is a noun, hyphenate:

six-year-old toy
fifty-year-old whiskey
eight-year-old cat

If the sentence is simply stating that someone or something is so many years old, then don’t use a hyphen:

Her dad turned sixty years old today.
His baseball card is seventy years old.

Quiz
Determine whether the words in italics should be hyphenated. The answers are at the bottom.

1) Sasha is eight years old.
2) She has a three year old turtle.
3) Maddie is a five year old girl.
4) The painting is one hundred years old.
5) He ate the hamburger that was fourteen years old.
6) He ate a fourteen year old hamburger.

Answers:

1) not hyphenated 2) hyphenated; three-year-old turtle 3) hyphenated; five-year-old girl. 4) not hyphenated 5) not hyphenated 6) hyphenated; fourteen-year-old hamburger.

Erin Servais has more than a decade of copy editing experience. Learn more about working with her on your next project: dotanddashllc.com

Types of questions

Is his eye falling out? His eye is falling out, isn't it?I wonder if his eye will fall out.

Is his eye falling out?
His eye is falling out, isn’t it?
I wonder if his eye will fall out.

Today we will discuss three types of questions: direct questions, tag questions, and indirect questions. We will also learn how to distinguish these types of questions and determine whether they require a question mark.

Direct questions
This is the most obvious form of question. Direct questions often begin with one of these words: why, what, where, how, when, if, are, will, can, how, is, do, should, could, would, or were. A question mark goes at the end of the sentence.

 

Examples:

How can you eat asparagus?
Where are my glasses?
Are you feeling okay?
Is this the path to world domination?
Would you feed my donkey tomorrow?

Tag questions
These questions turn a statement into a question. You can recognize tag questions because they usually contain a helping verb (examples: are, should, does, were, would) and a pronoun (examples: he, she, you, I) at the end. Often, they also contain the word not, which is usually abbreviated (n’t). A question mark goes at the end of the sentence.

Examples:

The plants are dying, aren’t they?
Your vacation was fun, was it?
He set the house on fire, didn’t he?
She should eat more asparagus, shouldn’t she?
You would like a new mousetrap, wouldn’t you?
You were at the hospital, were you?

Sometimes a single word can go at the end of a statement to change it into a tag question. Examples are: yes, no, right, and correct.

Examples:

That was the last donut, yes?
He just got out of jail yesterday, no?
She fixed the toilet, right?
We turn left, correct?

Indirect questions
This type is trickier. An indirect question notes the existence of a question, but it does not actually ask a question. A question mark does not go at the end.

Example:

The doctor asked if she knew she had two hearts.

This sentence acknowledges the doctor had a question, but the doctor doesn’t ask the question directly in the sentence. To make it into a direct question, we could write:

Did you know you have two hearts?

Here are more examples of indirect questions:

The alien wondered whether he could fix his spaceship.
I asked her if I could borrow her pickle.
My neighbor wondered if I would turn my music down.

Quiz
Read each sentence and determine if it is a direct question, a tag question, or an indirect question. Then decide if it needs a question mark.

1. Buffy took her pills, correct
2. Don asked if he could go to the bathroom
3. Ralph went to the theater tonight, didn’t he
4. Did you eat my squash
5. Mary should be a trapeze artist, shouldn’t she
6. I wonder if he will boogie
7. Are you going to be in the parade

Answers:
1. tag question, question mark 2. indirect question, no question mark 3. tag question, question mark 4. direct question, question mark 5. tag question, question mark 6. indirect question, no question mark 7. direct question, question mark