I’ve started reading the ancient little book on writing. I eventually attacked the book with a highlighter, but I know I will forget some of my thought, so I’ve decided to take notes.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but if you’re trying to gleen what’s in the book by reading this, don’t bother. Go buy the book. It’s $10 brand new.

1. Form the posessive singular of nouns by adding ’s

Cool. Charles’s friend. Don’t do the “Charles’ friend” thing. I never liked it anyway.

his, hers, ours, its, theirs, yours. Everywhere else use ’s. it's vs its perfectly demonstrates this, to remove the ambiguity of its vs the it is contraction. I think I’ve been doing this anyway, but I like seeing this spelled out.

2. In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a single comma after each term except the last

The wording here is slightly deceptive. Unless you’re paying close attention, it might read like a “no Oxford comma”, but in fact it’s for the comma, also known as the Serial Comma.

The only exception called out here is basically law firms. Johnson, David & Johnson.

3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas

Okay! I think it’s an omission that the book doesn’t define parenthetic in the glossary. Parenthetic is a writing concept, and we haven’t even got to the (parenthesis) usage.

I ended up marking up the two lines they use as bad examples with red X’s, just so I could more quickly skim and know they were intentionally wrong.

There’s 2 concepts here that aren’t mutually exclusive: parenthetic expressions and restrictive vs non-restrictive clauses. The glossary does an okay version of defining what a restrictive clause is, but how it differs from the non-restrictive clause needs comma parenthetic expressions to be a thing to work.

Let me explain.

The two examples provided by the restrictive term glossary entry the following:

  • Professional athletes who perform exceptionally should earn stratospheric salaries.
  • Professional athletes, who perform exceptionally, should earn stratospheric salaries.

It’s suggested the 2nd version applies to all athletes, where as the 1st is only to those who “perform exceptionally”. I’m no literary major, but I don’t buy this. EXCEPT if you understand that by the previous definition of parenthetic expressions, the 2nd line should be read as follows since it contains commas.

  • Professional athletes (who perform exceptionally) should earn statospheric salaries.

Meaning that the words is parethesis are optional and non-binding. Even though it can be interpreted as restrictive, it should be considered non-restrictive due to the commas.

I’m not sure if I like this, but I do think it’s good to have a clear distinction between statements of a finite nature, athletes that match criteria, vs those that are meant for anyone. I’m pretty sure this sounds like rambling, but I had to take concept too far for me to remember it.

Are all statements with 2+ commas now parenthetic?

That is what it seems to suggest, but I’ll have to read more to be sure. Like yes, I can do this, but it’s a weird style change for me. Many sentences in this noisy ramble are potenital victims of being misclassified as parenthetic.


4. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause

I’m right! Conjunction is in the glossary, but not parenthetic?

The above demonstrates comma being used in this way.

The final part dives in to where a conjunction comma should be used, but if it’s an and, and the subject matter is directly related, the comma can be omitted. But like the previous sentence demonstrated, once you start comma’ing, you best be consistent.

I’m learning, right?