Grammar and style

Poynter Results

  • Tips/Training

    Article

    Don't be afraid: Some guidelines for using semicolons

    Punctuation helps a reader understand your story. Commas, periods, dashes and other marks convey the writer's voice. They signal an emphasis or tone in language, as well as telling a reader when to stop or pause.

    Think of punctuation this way: The comma is a slight break in the thought of a sentence; the semicolon is a longer pause; and the dash represents an abrupt, dramatic turn.

    Semicolons are used to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma can indicate (for example, in the previous paragraph). Here are some other examples.

  • Tips/Training

    Article

    How to choose between 'that' and 'which' in your writing

    The rules of grammar can seem complicated and rigid, but they will help you keep your writing clear and tell a story effectively. When the language is muddled, readers may get confused and quit reading.

    Here are guidelines for choosing between that and which in a sentence.

    The rule: Use which for clauses that offer incidental information; use that for clauses that give information necessary for the sentence. See how each changes the meaning of the following sentence.

  • Tips/Training

    Article

    Which is best? Who or whom?

    The rules of grammar can seem complicated and rigid, but they will help you keep your writing clear and tell a story effectively. When the language is muddled, readers may get confused and have trouble understanding your story. Even worse, they may quit reading.

    Here's some help when you are unsure whether to use who or whom in a sentence.

    The rule: Who is the subject or subject complement in a sentence. Whom is an object.

  • Article

    Fear not the long sentence

    A year ago I wrote an essay for the New York Times titled “The Short Sentence as Gospel Truth.” It argued that authors express their most important ideas or dramatic moments in the shortest sentences. This turned out to be a popular piece, the most emailed of the day. Teachers and editors anointed the short sentence as the solution to many writing problems.

  • Article

    AP Style should adopt the Oxford comma

    It's great to see that Nate Silver's 538 is finally hitting its stride. Stepping aside from the conflicts of politics and sports, the data site has decided to weigh in on a controversy that truly ignites the passion of partisans. Forget Red States versus Blue States, campers. Forget Brazil vs. Argentina in the World Cup. Want to see the fur fly? Debate the Oxford comma.

  • Article

    The 'cinematic slow-motion effect' of Laura Hillenbrand’s 'Seabiscuit'

    [What we all need leading up to a Triple Crown horse race is an essay about the rhetoric of punctuation. So here it is, adapted from a chapter in my book The Glamour of Grammar. Don’t worry, there is an actual connection to horse racing. I have chosen to analyze a special passage from a special book, Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand. A close reading of her prose will reveal how a champion among writers uses every trick in the book to create special literary effects.]

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