Contact the Grammar Anarchist with your questions about grammar and language at
Get a personal reply at

Monday, October 7, 2013

Where Do You Put Curly Tails?

The most questions I receive ask “Where do you place apostrophes and commas?” And while I wish I could tell you exactly where they belong in your sentences, I can give you some guidelines here.

First the raised curly tailed marks, the ones we call apostrophes. Two places immediately come to mind:
In contractions (where a letter or two has been omitted), as in can’t (cannot), won’t (will not), she’s (she is), he’d (he had), it’s (it is).
The second regular use is in possessives (where you indicate something that belongs to someone or something else), as in football’s leather, hat’s feather, horse’s mane, child’s eyes. Notice the raised curlycue in each example.
As for the lower curly tailed marks, the ones we call commas, more challenges apply. Here are three of the major uses:
Dividing items in a list of three or more: Sonja was dating three boys: Jimmy, Bobby, and Wally.
Following an introductory phrase: As each found out, they walked away.
Separating two full sentences, accompanied by a conjunction (and, but, still, yet, etc.): Sonja felt rejected, and she cried for ten minutes.
Know also there are many many more uses for both commas and apostrophes. They are all covered in my book, The Anarchist’s Guide to Grammar (Amazon and Kindle). See? There’s one in the title — and in the previous sentence! Popular little guys, aren’t they! There you have it. Go forth and watch your use of the curly tailed marks that so cleverly direct your readers’ attention.

No comments: