Not Your Grandma's Grammar
by Jane Straus

As if it isn't enough that computers have influenced just about every area of our lives, you'd think that something as sacred as the English language would remain immune to technology's pressures. Not so. You may not need to learn new rules of grammar as often as you need to update your computer's RAM, but tweaking your grammar skills will make you look more professional, and you can impress your friends and colleagues with some cutting-edge reasoning.

SPACED OUT One or two spaces between sentences after a period?

Unlike individual letters in typewriters, which all take up the space of one character, computerized lettering allows for spacing differences depending on the size of the letter or punctuation mark. Hence, an m or an H is wider than an I. A period takes up less space than any letter so one space after a period on the computer creates a large enough gap to the eye to indicate the end of a sentence.

Computer programmers changed this rule, not grammarians or English teachers. The battle is still being waged, but I think the programmers will win.

QUESTIONABLE MARKS Quotation marks and punctuation.

In Grandma's day, a period used with quotation marks followed logic. Examples: Myrtle said the word "darn". The period went outside the quote because only the last word was in quotation marks, not the entire sentence.

Myrtle said, "I would never say that." The period went inside the quotation mark because the entire sentence is a quote.

Today (actually for the last 30 years or so), the period always goes inside the quotation mark. Example: Myrtle said the word "darn."

This does not follow logic, but it makes life easier for professional editors and for the rest of us who have enough to think about besides punctuation. Warning: If you write a quotation in England, ignore this advice. Logic is still followed on that side of "the pond."

WE'VE COME A LONG WAY, MAYBE Since Grandma's day, we have shortened some words and dropped the former plural form. Memo and memos used to be memorandum and memoranda. Yet other words still retain their original length, spelling, and plural form. Example: curriculum and curricula.

With the word data, we no longer see the singular datum used at all. Data is now normally used as both the singular and plural form. Examples: The data are being tabulated. The data is useful to the scientists.

JUST BECAUSE In Grandma's day, you would be scolded if you started a sentence with but or because. But you wouldn't have deserved that scolding then or now. Just make sure that if you start a sentence with either of these two words, you are following them with complete thoughts. Good Examples: But she would never say such a thing. Because of this bee sting, my arm is swollen. Bad Examples: But I can't. Because I said so. These are incomplete thoughts and you will get your knuckles rapped with a ruler for writing them.

GET IT WRITE It's not rocket science; it's the English language - and it's easy. Click here for a free preview of the book and for more information:


About The Author

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation An easy-to-use reference guide and workbook. Go online to access the entire contents of the book, to take an online quiz to test your skills, or to order your copy of this popular book. See why colleges, universities, professionals, and home school families choose this as their favorite resource! 800-644-3222

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