Wednesday's are for Grammar (Soft Marks)

Right then class, last week your homework was to properly punctuate this sentence. Here it is, correctly done.

"What", cried Mr. Spit. "You bought more wool. How could you? You have mounds, great piles mountains, of the stuff." I smugly thought to myself, I have lots more knitting to do, essential knitting, that must be done. Knitting for: babies, for husbands, for winners of Whinge-For-All Thursdays. Amazing knitting that everyone will treasure!

Those Who Get to Post the Coveted Grammar Button

Two Hands (and I believe this is the first time she has participated, so she gets extra points)
Dreams come true ( a frequent participant)
Sweet Camden Lass (a dedicated grammar maven)
JuliaS (who just all around rocks)
Honourable Mention to Niobe, who agrees with me that some grammar rules are just dumb.

And the rest of you were where? Really, this was pathetic participation.

And the friendly reminder that no homework = no button. If you keep the button up past the week, your toes will develop an obscure and uncomfortable fungus, your potatoes will all be green and your car will belch purple smoke. I promise!

This Week's Lesson

All that is left is the rest of G.V. Carey's lighter marks.

  • Brackets and Parentheses

  • Ellipsis

  • Dashes

This is a nice short lesson, so let's get right into it.

Brackets and Parentheses

There are actually two forms - used for slightly different purposes.

A parentheses is the curvy thing looks like this ( ). We use parentheses in the following situations:

1. To enclose additional information or explanations and examples. Many of you will notice that you could also use a set of commas. Parentheses are sometimes helpful when the explanation will be long, or when the sentence looks confusing with even more commas.

Mrs. Spit (the celebrated knitter) could teach you to knit lace.

Mrs. Spit knit a beautiful shawl for Cathy (her midwife).

2.To cite chapter and verse, especially in legislation, reports, contracts or court decisions, and to annotate lists in documents.

Section 22, paragraph 12, clause g is often abbreviated 22.12(g)

3. To enclose a number that is repeating a spelled-out number. This is often used in business documents, or when you want to be really clear that yes, Mr. Spit should buy five (yes, 5) pounds of butter.

That wool will cost sixty-five dollars ($65).

We will need to order thirty-five (35) skeins of wool for this project.

4. To enclose a question mark, when you are not sure of the truth of a number or date. (1). This is not an excuse to not check your facts. But, when you are not sure if information is correct, it's worth noting it.

I think Mr. Spit was born on October 21(?), 1972(2)

Brackets - perhaps it would be most helpful to think of brackets [ ] as an editorial device. Consider the following uses:

1. To insert missing text or vital information into a quote. This is where you have had to make alterations to a quote to make it fit a sentence, or where you have had to omit a significant amount of text and are truncating. It always bears repeating that you should not use square brackets to alter the intent of the quote, and when you see them in a sentence, you should be curious about what was omitted. (3)

"Wow", the Yarn Harlot said. "[You're] an amazing knitter."

2. To let your reader know that you have added italics for emphasis in a quote.

Mrs. Spit responded "My husband is a wonderful, kind, loving and fun man. Don't you dare talk about him that way. I shall claw your eyeballs out." [bold mine]

3. To let your reader know that a mistake in the quoted material is not yours.(4)

"She always did insist that her husband waz onlee 32" [sic]


1. An ellipsis shows that you have left words out of a sentence or quoted material. When the material we are leaving out starts the sentence, we don't use an ellipsis. We also don't use an ellipsis when the quoted material left out is a complete sentence.

"Mrs. Spit . . . an amazing knitter, is likely to knit all sorts of things."

2. An ellipsis shows that you have 'trailed off' in a sentence. It's a stylistic tool that invites the reader to fill in the blank or draw their own conclusion.

"Knitting relaxes me. I should probably do more of it . . . "


1. We use dashes to emphasize an aside in a sentence. (5)

Mrs. Spit - the celebrated knitter - is knitting a shawl.

2. We use dashes to emphasize explanations, examples, and definitions.

I am going to see Mr. Spit - my husband - for dinner tonight.

3. To emphasize a contrast in a sentence.

Mrs. Spit, who is very organized - looked very disheveled.

4. Use a dash to show hesitant or broken-off speech.

Umm - ah - well, I stuttered. I'm not sure how I spent that much in the wool store.

Your Homework

Write a sentence with a set of brackets or parentheses, an ellipsis and a dash.


(1) We do not use a question mark in parenthesis when we aren't sure of the spelling. We go and get a dictionary and look the word up, if we aren't sure of its spelling.

(2) Errm, this is less of a joke than you might think. I have a hard time remembering Mr. Spit's birthday. I write it down each year.

(3) Especially when viewing quotes from politicians!

(4) I must confess, that when quoting those who annoy me, I take great delight in going through all their material, and sticking [sic] in wherever I can.

(5) Grammar Geek Speak - this is called an appositive. Remember those from the comma lesson? The one I called the non-essential comma?