Mechanics in writing suffers from the reputation of representing the sum total of all stereotypical English teachers’ pet peeves: a category for all those annoying apostrophes, semi-colons, and so forth–and essentially just different kinds of dots on the page. Who cares? (Besides, English teachers get paid to correct this junk.)
Not so. We all have probably had a repressed, punctuation-crazed, junior high school English teacher for whom good writing meant “correct” spelling and proper comma placement. Sad really, but alas, not everyone was cut out for this profession. The problem is that carelessly letting mechanics slide during your editing process will allow for surface mistakes in your writing that most readers will stumble over. No one really thinks that the fate of civilization rests on proper use of apostrophes, but most readers will become distracted away from your ideas when they momentarily become confused by supposedly small matters of punctuation.
Review basic mechanics in your writer’s handbook. Then correct the many confusing or simply goofy mistakes in the following piece.
The article How to Tell Your in Love, summarizes Ray Shorts sociological findings concerning love infatuation and how to distinguish between them. On the one hand Shorts points of distinction seem valuable, on the other most prove self evident. The sociologists key areas of investigation include the following. The importance of underlying personal qualities instead of superficial factors such as looks, smile, or sense of humor. Jealousy and its effects, the severity of the partners quarrels, there selfishness, and there consistency in level of interest. Short explains that “Theirs nothing wrong with short lived romance as opposed to the long-lasting type. Its only when people marry while infatuated ….. that problems arise.” (Brown, 17) However close examination of the value of such a study raises several pertinent questions?
A rewritten correct version of the paragraph follows with footnoted commentary.
The article “How to Tell If You’re in Love”2 summarizes Ray Short’s 3 sociological findings concerning love, infatuation,4 and how to distinguish between them. On the one hand, Short’s points of distinction seem valuable;on the other, most prove self-evident.5 The sociologist’s key areas of investigation include the following: the importance of underlying personal qualities instead of superficial factors such as looks, smile, or sense of humor;6 jealousy and its effects; the severity of the partners’ quarrels;7 their selfishness; and their consistency in level of interest.8 Short explains that
there’s nothing wrong with short-lived romance as opposed to the long-lasting type. It’s only when people marry while infatuated. . . that problems arise. (Brown 17)9
However, close examination of the value of such a study raises several pertinent questions.10
1 No need for an apostophe here.
2 The title was miscopied. No need for the single comma before the verb.
3 Placement of the apostrophe depends on the author’s name, but I would sincerely hope no one’s last name is Shorts!
4 Some handbooks forbid commas before the “and” at the last term in a list; others approve.
5 The semi-colon corrects what was a “comma splice” (that is, two complete sentences joined together with insufficient punctuation).
6 We’re connecting the series of fragments which actually form a list complex enough to merit the initial colon. Since the first term of this list contains an internal sub-list, we need a hierarchy of punctuation, hence the use of semi-colons to separate the major items in the list and commas separating the minor sub-terms.
7 The apostrophe suggests several pairs of partners.
8 Note the corrections from “there”to “their.”
9 Sometimes you need not offer any punctuation when smoothly moving into quotation. Block quotations get extra indentation, which takes the place of quotation marks. Ellipses consist of three dots separated by spaces. Unlike linear quotation,punctuation of block quotation occurs before the parenthetical citation in MLA-style documentation. Note that no punctuation–no comma, no “pg,” nothing–appears between author and page in the citation.
10 A comma is necessary after this use of “However.” The appearance of the word “questions”does not necessitate the use of a question mark since this isn’t a question.