Thursday, June 14, 2007

Quotation marks and the dreaded 'however'

I’ve combined two mini-lessons for today. They may be small, but size is no measure of importance.

This first tip is about the quotation mark. It’s easy enough, right? Everyone knows to put quotations marks around quotations, don’t they? That is possible, but it is a little more complicated than that.

First, there is the issue of the single- vs. double-quote. Start with the double quote (“ “). If there is another quote being used inside that one, then use the single quote (‘ ‘). REMEMBER to close each quote and to make your quotation marks match!

You’ll never guess what Brian told me yesterday. He said, “So, I was talking to April, and she told me that you said that ‘Brian is an idiot.’”

Notice that the single, or inside, quote has to end before you can end the double, or outside, quote.

The other quotation issue is punctuation (and its placement), but I’ll save that for another day.

The second grammar faux pas that I would like to bring up today is the use of ‘however.’ Plenty of people can use the word itself, but few get the punctuation around it correct.

Your first punctuation option occurs when the sentence begins with the word ‘however.’ Simply place a comma after the word.

She thinks that he is the cutest boy she has ever seen. However, I have seen better.

If the ‘however’ is being used in the middle of a phrase, however, it will be surrounded on both sides by commas.

If the words before AND after ‘however’ are clauses (basically, if they have a subject and a verb), a semicolon (;) comes before and a comma (,) comes after. This is simply because two independent clauses are separated by a semicolon (or , and/, but).

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain; however, my hair never gets wet.

By the way… the last ‘however’ example, when used correctly, can make a person sound extra intelligent.

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