Whoops! Today, September 24, is National Punctuation Day. I have to admit, it almost flew right by me. Think I’m OK, though: The clock hasn’t struck 12 yet, so I’m in under the wire. Wouldn’t want any grammar gremlins chasing me — or worrisome comma karma. Here’s what I know about National Punctuation Day: It was started in 2004 by a guy named Jeff who wanted to encourage a deeper appreciation of the joys and challenges of proper punctuation.
In honor of a day that we writers should surely celebrate, Writer’s Digest came up with some myth-busters that might prove helpful to someone at some point, including me!, so I’m sharing them here:
Conjunction injunction: Thou shalt not begin a sentence with “and,” “but” or “because” — so the saying goes. Who said it? No one really knows. Actually, there’s no definitive rule prohibiting the use of conjunctions at the beginning of sentences. And starting a sentence with one of these hardworking words can give your writing a dramatic boost — so go for it! You’ll be in good company — plenty of revered authors have done the same.
Confusion profusion: There seems to be a lot of confusion on the article front as to whether there’s a strict rule about using “a” before consonants, and “an” before vowels. The real rule is this: Use the article “a” before words that start with a consonant sound and “an” before words that start with a vowel sound. Example: “He has a unique point of view on the subject and talked about it for an hour.” The “u” in “unique” makes the “y” sound — a consonant sound, so the correct article is “a,” while the “h” in “hour” sounds like it starts with “ow,” a vowel sound, so the second article in the sentence should be an “an.” Ow! Sounds a bit tricky, but this does clarify a question I had.
“None” fun: “None” seems like a word that should always be treated as singular, but actually it swings both ways. “None” is singular if it refers to “not one” or “no part.” But it can also be plural when referring to “not any.” Examples: “None of the apple was eaten.” “Apple” is a singular noun, so you’d use the singular verb “was.” In contrast: “None of the ballplayers were on the team bus.” Here, “none” refers to “not any of the ballplayers” just as much as it refers to “not one of the ballplayers,” so making it plural is clearer.
And I hope this sheds some light on the subject. Write on!