In last month’s edition of WAW we asked you to submit a common writing mistake along with an explanation of how to fix it. You guys blew us away with your responses, but alas, this contest can only have one winner.
And the randomly selected winner is…
Drum roll please…
Valerie F from Austin, TX!
How to avoid simple writing mistakes:
1. When a contraction isn’t:
“I tracked it’s progress.” Even though you have possession, the word is its (to differentiate from the contraction of it is, it’s). “I tracked its progress” is correct.
2. Where does the punctuation go when you use quotations?
Commas and periods go inside quotation marks. Semicolons, colons, and em dashes go outside quotations. Who knows why? That’s just how it is.
3. Misconceptions about semicolons:
“The boy had a dream; a dream as big as Kansas.”
Nope. No matter what you think, semicolons only have two purposes in contemporary writing. You use them to separate lists with complex ideas, and you use them to separate two independent clauses in a sentence. Writers should avoid the former usage whenever possible. Here’s how to do the latter: She couldn’t eat chocolate; it gave her a rash. Note the logical connection between the first and second parts of the sentence. That’s what the semicolon is for; it serves as a bridge between your initial statement and the following clarification of that statement.
5. Punctuation with which and that.
That is restrictive, and which is nonrestrictive. That means you will use a comma with a which clause and no comma with a that clause. Examples: I like the boy that she does. I never understood that concept, which led me to fail calculus.
Congratulations Valerie! Now the hard part–you get to choose between $100 cash or a $125 Starbucks Gift Card!
Watch for June’s contest in this month’s WAW! Good luck!