Examples: I hope to see you next week. She sent me a message. There is a book on the table. We have many problems today. Examples: Over and over again. Put a full stop at the end of a sentence. Examples: A: Who invented the light bulb? B: Edison. In a longer text, alternate the use of "he" and "she". I find this disruptive at best and possibly confusing. Each student should read over and edit her cover letter. This approach suggests that the author is making a political statement in addition to sharing advice.
Each student should read over and edit their cover letter. This is the alternative advocated sort of by Colin and at least one other reader. This approach is successful from the perspective of being clear. I would not, however, recommend using it in a formal document on which an important outcome hinges. The reader could always be an English fanatic or a person who does not believe in "singular they".
All students should read over and edit their cover letters. This may be my personal preference.
Rewrite the sentence to avoid both potential error and awkward constructions. Another alternative is to switch to the second person "you", which is the same in the singular and plural. When you write a list of three or more items using a single conjunction, do you obsess about how many commas to use? For example, suppose you are talking about the American flag's being "red, white, and blue". Do you wonder whether you should include that comma after "white"?
This is another case of rules in transition. Modern usage is moving towards eliminating that last comma. I have three recommendations: 1 to be absolutely correct from the perspective of English teachers and picky readers, use the comma just before the "and"; 2 be especially certain to use that last comma anytime the meaning of the sentence would be ambiguous without it see below ; and 3 whichever convention you decide to follow, use it consistently throughout the document. Does this sentence mean Sarah told us about 1 the Library of Medicine, 2 the uncomfortable seats in Lipsett Amphitheater, and 3 Masur Auditorium?
Or were there uncomfortable seats in Masur too? Including a comma after "Amphitheater" dispels the confusion and speeds the reader along. Oh, and while we're at it, remember that the elements in a series should be grammatically parallel. Documents written by young scientists often include dashes. Dashes are far less common in the writing of older individuals, so they are likely to attract the attention of admissions or search committees. So, let's use today's message to make certain you are using dashes correctly.
Here are some important things to remember. Hyphens are used in some compound words and with some prefixes e. With continued use, the hyphen may be omitted. Do not precede or follow them with a space.
WORD automatically generates the longer dash. If you find that your documents are rife with them, consider replacing some of the dashes with commas or parentheses. Last week's discussion on dashes provoked such spirited discussion, that I opted this week to focus on another relatively rare punctuation situation, ellipsis. An ellipses looks like this: " It's a series of three periods preceded and followed by a space. An ellipsis can be used for several things. Once again, controversy swirls around ellipses.
Authorities disagree as to whether the three periods should be separated by spaces or not. I am voting in favor of no spaces, because I find the resulting pattern more satisfying. Try the other alternative and you will see what I mean. How, for example, would one handle eliminating the end of a paragraph, or, more complicated still, the end of one paragraph and the beginning of the next? The answer to this one is "yes". The authors have provided a comprehensive example of condensation using President Nixon's resignation announcement.
As a phrase becomes a more familiar part of the language, its components are likely first to be linked by hyphens and then to be fused into a single word. If you are uncertain, use a current dictionary to make your decisions regarding hyphens. So, which spelling should be used to refer to.
First, let's deal with the extra credit question from the last newsletter. Here are the answers:. Two admissions: these do not make any sense to me, especially the first two, AND I had to look them up! Second update, remember our discussion of what third-person pronoun s to use when referring to a singular subject? Well, National Public Radio may have the answer. No more dithering about "he" vs. Students in Baltimore use "yo" instead, as in "Yo put his foot on the desk.
Could we be witnessing a first? Welcome to the fall and the re-institution of the ever-popular Grammar Spotlight! This week we are going to focus briefly on two words that give many postbacs trouble. Be honest! Fifty percent of you should be raising your hands. Please remember that "led" is the past tense of the verb "to lead". How about this one: suppose you wanted to use a fancy word to indicate that an event aroused your interest.
Would you correctly write that it "piqued" your interest or would you, like many of your colleagues, say that it "peaked" your interest? Did you correctly pronounce "cache" just as you would "cash"? Or did you pronounce it as "ca" like the first two letters in "cat - "shay"? If you chose the latter, you have mixed up "cache" and "cachet". Now what about "err"? I am willing to bet that most of you said it just as you would say "air".
Unfortunately for many of us, the word is actually pronounced like the first three letters in "earth" OR as "air-ear th ". We are now deep into personal-statement-writing season. Because lists are a useful tool for organizing information, let's talk about using colons. I am not nearly as attached to colons as to semi-colons, but they do have their place. Colons are commonly used in three situations: to introduce a list, to introduce a formal quotation, or to introduce a restatement. Here are some examples. These examples are relatively straightforward. The last situation in which you would use a colon is more complex.
Like the semi-colon, the colon can be used to link two closely related complete sentences. However, the requirements for colon use are more stringent. The second sentence must restate the information in the first. It could have been enclosed in parentheses. In this case, it is set off from the rest of the sentence by a pair of commas, one before and one after. If the interruption is slight, you may wish to omit the commas. However, under no circumstances should you use only one comma.
Note that they are punctuated differently.
There are no commas in the first, whereas in the second, the clause "which I thoroughly enjoyed" is set off by commas. Here's why. The clause "that I finished yesterday" is a restrictive or defining clause. It identifies the book that must be returned tomorrow to avoid a fine. Without it, the book to be returned could not be determined. In contrast, the clause "which I thoroughly enjoyed" makes no real difference to the sentence. So here is the rule: a nonrestrictive clause is set off by a pair of commas. Again, remember that 2 commas are required.
If you used only one comma, you would be separating the subject from the verb, and that is very bad.
Restrictive clauses are not set off. And here's an additional soft rule: it is preferable to begin a nonrestrictive clause with "which" and a restrictive clause with "that". Of course, clauses can also begin with "where", "who", and "when". I know that many of you have been waiting eagerly for the answers to the Extra credit questions from the last newsletter.
Here they are:. The manuscript that you shared with me on Tuesday is clearly in need of additional editing. This sentence requires no commas. The clause "that you shared with me on Tuesday" defines the manuscript under discussion; it is a restrictive clause. The man who was second in line was clearly eager to get moving. No commas are required. The speaker, who had at first seemed indifferent, grew increasingly animated as he warmed to the topic. This is an example of a nonrestrictive clause. As a result, it is set off by commas. The sentence would convey the same information if the clause were omitted.
The same is true for sentence 4. The Career Symposium program, which was printed in turquoise and green, provided clear directions for how to reach Lister Hill. I don't know when bullets actually appeared on the grammar scene. I don't remember using them when I was in graduate school. But they are used a lot these days. Bullets help a writer avoid long sentences by putting items into lists.
They help the reader retrieve information quickly. It makes good sense to use them properly. I am currently working with many postbacs on their personal statements and expect to meet with more of you in the future. Perhaps like many others, when you sit down to write you put on your I-need-to-sound-serious-and-adult hat. Sometimes that leads to unfortunate grammar errors. Today, let's talk about one that can be easily avoided: using "myself" rather than "I" or "me" in an effort to sound smart. My advice: don't do it! Consider this example, "My PI and myself discussed the proposed experiments, and I convinced him to use my ideas.
Also note that "hisself" and "theirselves" are not words. Registration for Postbac Poster Day requires that postbacs submit, along with other information, their poster titles.
In an attempt to generate a program in which all poster titles conform to the same format, we provide guidelines for title capitalization. Regrettably, following those guidelines is just too tough for some postbacs. This year, in an early attempt to help you all generate perfect Postbac Poster Day titles, we are going to review the "rules" for capitalization in titles. Generally, an author has two options: sentence style and headline style. In sentence style , only the first word of the title and any proper nouns are capitalized. Since this is straightforward, it is NOT the format we use for poster day.
Other references, e. You may find this difficult to believe, but I often get requests to cover hot grammar topics in this column. Well, to be perfectly honest, I recently got ONE. Presumably she is dismayed by individuals who use "utilize" in a misguided attempt to appear erudite an even more pretentious word what means "having learned a lot from books". So, the advice is simple: never use "utilize" at all. However, we are scientists, which means that things are not quite that simple.
It turns out that there is at least one time when the word "utilize" IS appropriate. Thus, you could correctly write the following: Microbes can utilize ferric iron from the environment if they secrete siderophones, which bind and solubilize the ion. This choice has always made me nervous, but over the weekend I learned the answer. It turns out that "as well as" is not a conjunction like "and", "but", "or", "nor" and a few others. That means that the subject of the sentence is just "The PI", and the verb must be singular.
Putting in some commas might make this more clear: "The PI, as well as the staff scientist and postdoc, is going to the Society for Neuroscience meeting". I think that sometimes, writers use "as well as" in place of "and" because they want to sound more accomplished, and perhaps they have already used a lot of "and"s in a sentence. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work. Try this sentence, for example: "We bought books, pencils, as well as markers.
It also turns out that "as well as" is not unique. Additional phrases that are often used incorrectly as conjunctions include. I spent the morning at the dentist, so my energy is flagging. There are different recommendations for this use of full stops, and I've seen at least one university stating they're not necessary in Latin abbreviations. Many universities also frown upon using Latin abbreviations at all in academic English except perhaps in footnotes , preferring instead the use of 'for example' instead of 'e. In North American and Australian English there are no full stops.
But North American English favours no full stops and small capitals:. When you tweet someone directly, or reply to them using their Twitter handle, only the people you jointly follow will see that tweet in their feed. However, if you use a heading at the beginning of a paragraph as part of the text, this would normally close with a full stop or a colon. You can see and example of this in the heading examples directly below:. Here are some familiar examples:. Am I in a minority now? However, the full stop is such a useful punctuation mark, in many cases indispensable, and the humble.