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Cleaning Your Copy (TOW-4) February 27, 2010

Posted by Chris Yates in PRCA 3330-Topic of the Week.

     Seemingly everyone makes grammar or spelling mistakes from time to time. It’s really no surprise how many typos slip through the cracks. It is not uncommon to see misspelled words in a news broadcast, or an awkward punctuation error in a newspaper article. Those who produce content written content online should definitely be well versed in correct grammar and punctuation. Everything you write should be proofread. I think the best way to proofread is to simply read what you just wrote aloud. Writers owe it to themselves, regardless of their skill level, to brush up on some of the basics. Poynter News University offers an interactive course that I found to be helpful.

     This course offers helpful pointers on avoiding common punctuation errors such as comma usage: If a word or phrase is essential, do not put commas around it.

  • Essential: People who eat a lot of cookies may gain weight.
  • Non-essential: My sister, who eats a lot of cookies, never gains weight.

     Semicolons are often misunderstood and frequently misused. The rules for using semicolons are as follows:

  • Used to link independent clauses: The package was due last week; it arrived today.
  • Used to clarify a series if the series already includes commas: He leaves a son, John Smith of Chicago; three daughters, Jane Smith of Chicago, Marie Smith of Denver and Susan Smith of Boston; and a sister, Mary Warren of San Francisco.

     After taking several of the self-examinations, I was surprised to discover how rusty I am on basic grammar. The topics that threw me the most were rules for punctuating dates and times. Luckily I have an AP handbook with me at all times when I write, but it is advantageous to know the correct usage beforehand. When navigating a tight deadline, the last thing I want is to be slowed down by constantly checking the handbook.


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