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A Guide For good writing Guy Burns, June 2005 (edited Aug 2010) This work is not original.

Parts of it consist of paragraphs and sentences lifted  verbatim from the reference books I consulted a paragraph here, a sentence there edited and mixed in with original comments. Most of the time I have not indicated the parts that have been lifted, either by footnotes or quotation marks, as this document is simply meant as a reference for me. OVERVIEW
All writing is a campaign against clich. Not just clichs of the pen but clichs of the mind and clichs of the heart. When I dispraise, I am usually quoting clich. When I praise, I am usually quoting the opposed qualities of freshness, energy, and reverberation of voice.
Foreword, The War Against Cliche, Martin Amis

PUNCTUATION Reading is done privately. Punctuation, when used precisely, helps the reader translate the writers thoughts and understand what has been written. It illuminates the grammar of a sentence and aspects of speech such as pitch, rhythm, speed and pausing. In the mind of the reader, punctuation is like musical notation that explains how to hum the tune. Punctuation evolved in the age of printing and relies on the ascendancy of printing to survive. It is a set of conventions that has evolved slowly because of printings innate conservatism and is effective only if readers and writers appreciate its nuances. Do not overuse punctuation marks. Use only as many as are needed for clarity. Punctuation is largely convention. As long as you dont make changes that are so radical that readers have difficulty reading what you have written, feel free to use whatever punctuation style suits you. Dont feel bound by 500 years of tradition, but do feel bound by logic, consistency and clarity. APOSTROPHE 1. When the possessor is plural but does not end in an s, i.e. children, the apostrophe is before the s:
childrens playground womens movement

Clich spreads inwards from the language of a book to its heart. Clich always does. (p137) Ulysses is about clich. It is about inherited, ready-made formulations, fossilised metaphors most notably those of Irish Catholicism and antisemitism. After all, prejudices are clichs: they are second-hand hatreds. (p444)

2. But if the possessor is a regular plural, i.e. with an s on the end, the apostrophe follows the s:
boys hats babies bibs

Anyone who wishes to be a good writer should endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, clear and vigorous and to avoid clich. This means that a writer should prefer:
the familiar word to the far-fetched the concrete word to the abstract the single word to the many the short word to the long an original description to a hackneyed

3. An apostrophe indicates time or quantity:


one weeks notice two weeks notice four yards worth

4. And the omission of figures in dates:


the summer of 68

5. It indicates the plurals of letters and words:


how many fs what are the dos and donts?

COMMAS
For me even a comma is a piece of sculpture. If I put it, I mean it to be there.
Patrick White

6. An apostrophe does not appear in the plurals of abbreviations or dates:


in the 1980s [not 1980s] the MPs [not MPs]

7. For possessives of proper names ending in s, tastes are changing. There are rules for modern and ancient world names, and exceptions for both. To avoid the clumsy look of phrases like Lynne Trusss book I have chosen to put the apostrophe after the s in all cases:
Guy Burns book Archimedes principle

8. Rule for implied possessions. Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied. In this case, the apostrophe will not only indicate possession, but also the implied noun which has been removed.
This was his fathers, not his, book. [Used instead of saying: This was his fathers book, not his book.]

The comma is like a sheepdog: it has so many jobs as separator that it tears about the hillside of language, endlessly organising words into sensible groups and making them stay put. Commas, if you dont whistle at them to calm down, are unstoppably enthusiastic at this job. Overuse of commas is old-fashioned but compatible with correctness. Anyone who uses several commas close to one another, except in a list, should ask whether it is necessary. Sometimes an abundance of commas is not easily reduced; a change in the order of words, the omission of a needless adverb or conjunction, even a recasting of the sentence may be necessary. But it is a safe bet that a gathering of commas is a suspicious thing. The sentence should be read aloud, and if it jars some change or other should be made.
Lilias suggested the advice which, of all others, seemed most suited to the occasion, that, yielding, namely, to the circumstances of their situation, they should watch (Scott) Shakespeare, it is true, had, as I have said, as respects England, the privilege which only first-comers enjoy. (Lowell)

9. Film and book names, brand names and place names have no rules. Thus the following could all be correct:
Two Weeks Notice St Vincents Hospital Stewarts Creek Stewarts Creek

The second is a good example of the warning value of commas. None of these can be dispensed with since there are three parenthetic qualifications to the sentence. But the crowd of commas should have warned the writer what an obstacle race his sentence has become. The use of commas is as follows: 1. Lists of nouns Commas divide items into lists, but are not generally required before the and on the end. The rule is that the comma is correct if it can be replaced by the word and or or.
the four flavours are orange, lemon, strawberry and lime. the colours of the flag are red, white and blue.

10. Personal possessives never have an apostrophe. Words like: yours, theirs, its, hers.

In the case of the latter, sometimes the comma is included, the so-called Oxford comma:
the colours of the flag are red, white, and blue.

Sometimes a sentence is improved by including a comma:


I went to Woolworths, Luck and Haines, and the butcher. [I went to Woolworths, Luck and Haines and the butcher.]

7. To mark the boundaries of an insertion


I said, however, that I would be willing to make an exception. He was, in fact, the man I had met earlier.

2. Lists of adjectives In a list of adjectives, again the rule is you use a comma where an and would be appropriate where the adjectives are modifying the same thing to the same degree:
It was a dark, stormy night He was a tall, bearded man.

8. To separate year and month Commas are sometimes used to separate the year from the month. I have decided not to use such commas (second example) because it gives a smootherlooking line:
It was in November, 1995, that we met. It was in November 1995 that we met.

But you do not use a comma when the first adjective is qualifying the next two words. In effect the hyphen, as shown in the brackets, has been left out:
endangered white rhino [endangered white-rhino] Australian red wines [Australian red-wines]

9. Millions and thousands Commas are used to mark off thousands and millions. I will use them only above 10,000:
8317 8,237,514

3. Joining sentences Commas are used when two complete sentences are joined together using words such as and, or, but, while and yet:
The boys wanted to stay up, but they grew tired and fell asleep.

10. Name or title A comma is always used to set off the name or title of a person addressed directly in writing, or to distinguish a persons name from his title.
Well, Sally, thats all the news I have for you.

I will probably use a comma before most buts even if the following phrase is not a complete sentence because I think it makes the sentence easier to read (see also section 21). Commas are not used with sentences joined by however or nevertheless. Use a semicolon:
It was my birthday; nevertheless I stayed home.

In the case of a person who is not being addressed directly, commas bracketing a name are not necessary:
The man in charge was Bob Brown, Director of the Wilderness Society.

4. Filling gaps Commas are used to imply missing words:


Annie had dark hair; Sally, fair.

11. Question A comma is used to separate the two parts of a sentence that begins as a statement but ends as a question:
Jennys a regular sex maniac, isnt she?

5. Before direct speech This usage is likely to lapse. Many writers prefer to use colons; others just open the quote mark. See the section on Quotation Marks for examples. 6. Setting off interjections
Stop, or Ill scream.

12. Clarity A comma may help the reader when a sentence is long, particularly if the second clause is rather different in meaning from the first.
Hugh had a heavy cold and a sore throat but he was not deterred from speaking that afternoon. Hugh had a heavy cold and a sore throat, but now it was necessary to concentrate on tomorrows session.

13. Fused sentences Commas should not be used to separate discrete sentences (a fused sentence). Use any of the first four examples, not the fifth:
She drove into the car park. Then she waited. She drove into the car park; then she waited. She drove into the car park and then she waited. She drove into the car park and waited. She drove into the car park, then she waited.

One way to decide is to remove the first item and see how the punctuation should run:
Honesty and temperance are essential to happiness.

Indicating that maybe there should be only one comma:


Industry, honesty and temperance are essential to happiness.

17. Lists in pairs Sometimes lists are arranged in pairs; it is then unpleasant to have the comma after the last pair omitted:
The orange and the lemon, the olive and the walnut elbow each other for footing in the fat dark earth.

14. For and and A comma should be used after for or and only if they are immediately followed by a subordinate clause or phrase that has a right to its two commas. Dickens is wrong to use a comma after for in this sentence:
The lawn, the soft, smooth slope, bespeak an amount of elegant comfort within, that would serve for a palace. This indication is not without warrant; for, within it is a house of refinement and luxury. (Dickens)

Better to have:
The orange and the lemon, the olive and the walnut, elbow each other for footing in the fat dark earth.

But would be correct if the sentence was constructed like this:


This indication is not without warrant; for, although some people might not agree, within it is a house of refinement and luxury.

18. Lists in common In a list longer than two items, there must not be anything that is applied to the second item without being common to all that follow.The following example may appear okay, but the reader, seeing that loss of applies to the second, may assume at first reading that it will also apply to the third:
Hence loss of time, of money, and sore trial of patience.

15. Is When is has commas on each side of it, impressiveness is what the writer aimed at but it is simply a tawdry device for giving a sentence airs:
The reason why the world lacks unity, is, because man is disunited with himself. (Emerson) The charm in Nelsons history, is, the unselfish greatness. (Emerson)

We know what is meant, but as it stands it is not quite right. The sentence has a strange feel to it because loss of is meant to apply to the second statement as well as the first but not to the third. These are some of the better options:
Hence loss of time, money and patience. Hence loss of time, money, patience. Hence loss of time and money, and sore trial of patience. Hence loss of time, loss of money, and sore trial of patience.

16. Lists When several items are listed and are followed by a clause, the punctuation comes down to personal taste, and is really of no great importance. But it is worthwhile to draw attention to the problem so that the writer is aware that the situation exists and can at least be consistent:
Industry, honesty, and temperance are essential to happiness.

The first example below is wrong because you cannot put Moltke had (see second example) for all three statements:
Moltke had recruited, trained, and knew by heart all the men under him. [Moltke had recruited, had trained, and had knew by heart all the men under him.]

Try these instead:


Moltke had recruited, trained, and known by heart all the men under him. Moltke had recruited and trained and knew by heart all the men under him. Moltke had recruited, had trained, and knew by heart all the men under him.

Belinda opened the trap door and after listening for a minute she closed it again.

19. A paired list with two previous expressions A final word or phrase of a sentence may have two previous expressions standing in the same grammatical relation to it. Should there be a comma after the second phrase?
His eloquence was the main, one might almost say the sole, source of his influence. To dazzle people more, he learned or pretended to learn, the Spanish language.

The only way to fully appreciate the difference is to read the sentence aloud in various ways. If Belinda was only doing two actions there is no need for a comma:
Belinda opened the trap door and jumped inside.

Note how a dash would be needed if Belinda, by jumping inside, was doing something unexpected:
Belinda opened the trap door and jumped inside.

But Belinda is doing three actions opening, listening and closing and a comma provides the separation for the two main actions: opening, and then listening and closing.

Fowler suggests (p250), but doesnt say definitely, that the following are better:
His eloquence was the main, one might almost say the sole source of his influence. To dazzle people more, he learned or pretended to learn the Spanish language.

21. Before and and but A comma before but should be left out only if the phrases separated by them are short and closely related:
He ran along the platform but missed catching his train. He ran along the platform making a huge effort to catch the train, but what did it matter: he was late for work anyway.

20. Bracketing commas for weak interruptions Sentences have become more streamlined in modern writing, and in many cases commas are being left out in places where they should be included. Commas before and and but, and those bracketing weak interruptions (after listening for a minute in the example below) are becoming optional, as the third example shows:
Belinda opened the trap door, and, after listening for a minute, she closed it again. Belinda opened the trap door, and after listening for a minute she closed it again. Belinda opened the trap door and after listening for a minute she closed it again.

The comma is needed in the second example because the idea expressed after but (what did it matter) has little connection with what came before (running along the platform). The same general principle applies to and:
At this camp all of the kichens were manned by the prisoners, and in Connors hut the two permanent orderlies were Reid and Bolan of the 2/15 battalion.

A few pages on, the same author includes a comma that is not needed:
On 27 September 1944, the track maintenance party alighted from the train, and were confronted by a band of some 70 well-armed partisans.

I still prefer, in most cases, the first and second examples because the comma makes for easier understanding by introducing a pause in the sentence. Imagine an actor on stage reading that sentence as part of a play. It would not be read in one burst, but with two or three pauses for dramatic effect:

There should be no comma before the and because the maintenance party did only one thing: they alighted from the train and were confronted Sometimes a comma is left out when it should have been included. To save confusing the reader, a comma should be used when the words that directly

follow and could be read as belonging to the previous phrase but really are not a part of it. I have reworded a previous example to make the problem clear:
At this camp all of the kichens were manned by the prisoners and the officers, though they were required to perform other duties, had quite an easy time.

The man who called yesterday left no address. The Jones who dines with us tonight is not the Jones who was at school with you. Jones, who should know something of the matter, thinks differently.

A comma is vital in this case because the reader, as he progresses through the sentence, will not be clear who mans the kitchens (is it the prisoners and the officers?) until he gets to near the end of the sentence and realises he has misunderstood the meaning. The confusion, caused by lack of adequate punctuation, may cause the reader to reread the sentence. If this happens too often the reader may be turned off. Better to include a comma (or semicolon):
At this camp all of the kichens were manned by the prisoners, and the officers, though they were required to perform other duties, had quite an easy time.

In the first example, the antecedent allows us to select from the class of men, and the restrictive clause fixes the particular man the one who called yesterday. The restrictive clause is essential to, and inseparable from, its antecedent. If for any reason we wish to get rid of it we must embody its contents in the antecedent, or add another sentence:
A man called in yesterday. He left no address.

To remove a restrictive clause is to leave the sentence with a different meaning or no meaning. The first example above would become:
The man left no address. [Which man?]

Every time you use an and or a but as a conjunction, check to see if the meaning becomes clearer if you use a comma before it.

22. Restrictive and non-restrictive clauses Bracketing commas mark the places where the reader can cleanly lift out a section of the sentence, leaving no obvious damage:
I am, of course, going steadily nuts. [I am going steadily nuts.]

This fact that the removal of a restrictive clause disturbs the meaning supplies a good test for distinguishing between restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. Remove a restrictive clause and the meaning of the sentence is altered; remove a non-restrictive clause and the meaning of the sentence is unchanged. In contrast, a non-restrictive clause gives independent comment, description, explanation, anything but limitation of the antecedent. It can always be written as a separate sentence, or even left out, without distorting the meaning. This is true, however essential the clause may be to the point of the main statement. To find whether a clause restricts or not, remove it and see whether the statement is altered: if so, the clause is restrictive. Since a restrictive clause cant be left out, it follows that it doesnt need commas, because to use commas would tend to separate the restrictive clause from its larger whole. The above discussion, edited from Fowler and others, is a bit technical. Perhaps the easiest way to work out if commas are needed is to read the sentence aloud. In speech, non-resrictive clauses are signalled by pauses and a change of tone. If you pause before and after a phrase you have probably found a nonrestrictive clause and commas may well be in order.

Sometimes commas are unnecessary:


The Greens leader, Bob Brown, has just been awarded the Goldman Prize.

They are unnecessary in this situation because The Greens leader Bob Brown is one phrase. The use of the points to a particular person:
The Greens leader Bob Brown has just been awarded the Goldman Prize.

The commas would be needed in this example:


A leading conservationist, Alice Burton, has been arrested

The part between the commas, called a relative clause, can be either restrictive or non-restrictive (also called defining or non-defining). A restrictive clause limits the application of the antecedent (what came before it), and commas are not necessary. In general, the antecedent gives us a class to select from, and the restrictive clause enables us to make a selection. In the following examples, the first and second have a restrictive clause; the third, non-restrictive (clauses italicised):

One final thought on non-restrictive phrases. Fowler states in his book (p77):
The information given by a defining clause must be taken at once, with the antecedent, or both are useless.

the period brings you to a stop. If you didnt get all the meaning you wanted or expected from the sentence, you got all the writer intended to parcel out and now you have to move along to the next idea.

Well, Mr Fowler, your punctuation would seem to indicate that the phrase with the antecedent is a non-restrictive clause (you have separated it from the rest of the sentence by commas). Ill apply your own test and remove it to see if the sentence still makes sense:
The information given by a defining clause must be taken at once or both are useless.

Look at the difference a colon, semicolon, or period can make in this example:
Tom locked himself in the shed. England lost to Argentina. These are independent ideas that have purposely been put together to indicate that the reason Tom locked himself in the shed is not known. Sort of a shrug of your shoulders reason. Tom locked himself in the shed; England lost to Argentina. The two events may be connected, but the reader cant be certain of the connection. Tom locked himself in the shed: England lost to Argentina. Tom locked himself in the shed because England lost to Argentina.

That sentence doesnt make sense. It should read:


The information given by a defining clause must be taken at once with the antecedent or both are useless.

Better still:
The information given by a defining clause must be taken at once with the antecedent or both are useless.

1. A colon is nearly always preceded by a complete sentence. In its simplest usage it announces what is to come, that there is a second part which illustrates or expands the first:
This much is clear, Watson: it was the baying of an enormous hound. Tom has only one rule in life: never eat anything bigger than your head.

So there you go. Even Fowler makes mistakes.

COLONS Using the apostrophe correctly tells the world you have some learning. Using the comma correctly announces that you have an ear for sense and rhythm, confidence in your style, and a proper respect for your reader, but it does not mark you out as a master of your craft. To achieve that rank you need to show flair with colons and semicolons. Fowler said that the colon delivers the goods that have been invoiced in the preceding words. Shaw said that when the second statement reaffirms, explains or illustrates the first, you use a colon; and also when you desire an abrupt pull up. Colons introduce the part of a sentence that restates, elaborates, undermines, explains or balances the preceding part. Expectation is what these marks are about; expectation and elastic energy. Like internal springs they propel you forward towards more information. The essential difference beween them is:
the semicolon lightly propels you in any direction; the colon nudges you along the lines already laid down;

2. A colon may imply that there is more to the initial statement that has been revealed:
I love the Norfolk Range: its so wild! You can do it: and you will do it.

3. A colon can simply pull up the reader for a nice surprise:


I find fault with only three things in this story of yours: the beginning, the middle and the end.

4. A colon is used in writing the time.


It is 9:26.

5. And to link parallel sentences:


There was no love in his life: there was no one to miss him.

6. They also start lists, especially lists using semicolons. See Semicolon, section 2, below:
There are three qualities he liked about forests: solitude, fresh air and the company of nature.

7. And introduce examples:


Remember what he told us: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

3. The final proper use of a semicolon is in linking sentences with words such as however, nevertheless, also, consequently and hence:
This information about writing is taking me a long time to put together; however, it will be worth it.

8. They can be used to introduce quotations instead of a comma:


Ads are often simple in structure: Think different. Think Apple.

SEMICOLON The semicolon tells you that there is still some question about the preceding full sentence, something that needs to be added. With the semicolon you get a pleasant feeling of expectancy; there is more to come. Read on, it will get clearer. The subtext of a semicolon is: Now this is a hint; the elements of this sentence, although grammatically distinct, are actually elements of a single notion. The semicolon has currently fallen out of fashion with newspapers, the reason given that readers prefer their sentences short and uncluttered by squiggles. Its more likely the real reason is confusion about usage. 1. The main place for putting a semicolon is between two related sentences where there is no conjunction such as and or but and where a comma would be ungrammatical:
I remember him when he couldnt write; now hes Prime Minister.

DASH In the examples used for semicolons a dash could be substituted for the semicolon without much damage to the sentences:
I remember him when he couldnt write now hes Prime Minister.

Some of the examples that follow, taken from various sources, are similar to previous examples and illustrate that colons, semicolons and dashes overlap in their use. But there are real differences. The dash is less formal, more conversational than the semicolon, and does a good job in emails standing in for all other punctuation. It is hard to use wrongly because it is so easy to see. But it is a strong attention-getter. Like the exclamation mark it must be used with restraint so that its impact will not be lessened. 1. The dash indicates the abrupt breaking off of one thought and the introduction of a new idea:
Colin has a clever idea but here, read the report for yourself.

2. There are times when the semicolon is indispensable: when it referees a comma fight. In the first example below, the reader cant be sure which is the Shaw property: is it Fairlea (Fairlea, the Shaw property); or Flers (the Shaw property, Flers); or another unnamed property? The second example clears up the confusion, and the third is better still.
The mail went from Julia Creek to Fairlea, the Shaw property, Flers, Dalgonally on the Flinders, and Millungera. The passenger thought about it: she had been to Flers once and had found it dull; to Dalgonally, and found it too dry. The mail went from Julia Creek to Fairlea, the Shaw property; Flers; Dalgonally on the Flinders; and Millungera. The passenger thought about it: she had been to Flers once and had found it dull; to Dalgonally, and found it too dry. The mail went from Julia Creek to Fairlea (the Shaw property), Flers, Dalgonally on the Flinders, and Millungera. The passenger thought about it: she had been to Flers once and had found it dull; to Dalgonally, and found it too dry.

2. The dash emphasises an added, unexpected thought. It creates a dramatic disjunction which can be exploited for humour or shock:
The Mary Celeste was found empty. Not a man, not an animal, not an insect was on board. Mountain air is extremely invigorating that is, if you have good lungs.

3. A dash is used to separate two identical, or very similar expressions when they are repeating or concluding a thought:
I can do the job the job you want done. Sir Francis Drake and Magellan these men were his idols.

These sentences would be grammatically correct if written as follows, but they would not be so emphatic:
I can do the job you want done. Sir Francis Drake and Magellan were his idols.

4. A dash is used before a list or example that explains a word or phrase in the first part of the sentence:
Have you met the Smiths Mary and Paul? Be sure to bring some warm clothes among other things a jumper and woollen socks.

the absence of training or enthusiasm displayed in a more melancholy fashion than in the Sea of Japan. (Times)

Either a colon or semicolon could be used instead of the dash in both these sentences. Generally speaking however, a colon is used in the most formal sentences and a dash in the least formal, with the semicolon in the middle. This is probably the most sensible guide, given that the three marks are largely interchangeable with no loss of clarity. Compare these examples:
I believe in two basic principles: justice and liberty for all. After careful consideration he decided to plant only perennials; for example delphiniums, peonies and asters. The roar of the surf, the shouts of children, a womans laughter these are the sounds I like best.

7. Whereas the semicolon suggests a connection between the two halves of a sentence, the dash should be preserved for occasions when the connection is a lot less direct, when it can act as a bridge between bits of fractured sense. The following is a quote from a Julia Creek identity:
Mrs Pederson and Jack: he did all the gardening and she did all the preserves of everything they grew. She organised the childrens concerts too, Mrs Pederson, and made pickles and chutneys. But she was using for the hospital hospital stuff, and they reckoned the bills were too much. And this one [Matron Blanche] stopped her from making those things, and she was preserving everything so it didnt get wasted!

This conversation (exactly as spoken, but punctuated by me) has such a convoluted structure that it may need more than dashes to make it clear. It needs what I call poetic punctuation:
Mrs Pederson and Jack: he did all the gardening and she did all the preserves of everything they grew. She organised the childrens concerts too, Mrs Pederson, and made pickles and chutneys. But she was using, for the hospital, hospital stuff, and they reckoned the bills were too much. And this one [Matron Blanche] stopped her from making those things. And she was preserving everything so it didnt get wasted!

5. Double dashes (and brackets and paired commas) are a clarity device, and the issue is: when dashes? when commas? when brackets? Brackets (see next section) tend to remove the aside, turning it into a whisper, making it more distant, dreamy. Material inside brackets can always be removed without loss of meaning. Statements between paired commas remain a part of the sentence. They are neutral marks, not trying to distance the comments or highlight them. Paired dashes are strong, attention-getting marks. They welcome the aside Look at me! and make a song and dance about it. In the following examples, the first is more strident, the second more distant.
He was I still cant believe this trying to climb in the window. He was (I still cant believe this) trying to climb in the window.

8. The only definite rule about a dash is this: all that follows a dash is to be taken as under its influence until either a second dash terminates it, or a period is reached. No other punctuation mark can stop it, else the following error occurs (there should be a dash after reactionary):
There are vicars and vicars, and of all sorts I love an innovating vicar a piebald, progressive, professional reactionary, the least. (HG Wells)

6. A dash is used after a long phrase when previous words are in danger of being forgotten. The idea is to break the flow of the sentence and refresh the readers understanding by repeating some of the former words. The dash highlights the repetition:
It is now idle to attempt to hide the fact that never was the Russian lack of science, of the modern spirit, or, to speak frankly, of intelligence never was

I dont think the dash is as strong as the author of the above suggests i.e. that only another dash or period can stop it. I find that if I come across a colon or semicolon after a dash, I start to wonder: Was that the end of the dash phrase? For me a colon or semicolon also stops a dash phrase, so I will only be using

commas inside them. If more than a few commas are required, maybe the sentence should be rearranged. Keep dash phrases small. There are actually two types of dash: the em dash () and the en dash (). The em dash is longer and is the one used in older books. Modern practice is to use the shorter en dash with a space before and after. In these notes, and in my book, I use en dashes. In the past, the en dash was used for two purposes:
to indicate up to and including: 19391945 to combine proper nouns used adjectivally:
the LeedsLondon train

QUOTATION MARK Thought is conventionally treated like speech:


Would Jenny go if I asked her to? I thought. But I would rather use italics as it seems to bring out the dreamy aspect: Ive often wondered: Would Jenny go if I asked her to?

It used to be that double quotes were used for thought and speech, and single quotes for quotations-within-quotations. Now the opposite tends to apply to make the text look more streamlined. This has a few drawbacks, especially if there are lots of apostrophes:
I went tEddington, Sundy, but I wish I hadnt o. I was at St Thomas hospital, she said.

the BrunoLewis fight.

Those two examples are not as clear as: BRACKETS Brackets lift out a section of a sentence. For the reader, the important thing is that this removal shouldnt last too long. There is a certain amount of anxiety once a bracket is opened; anxiety that is not dissipated until its closed again:
One has to dismount from an idea at the opening parenthesis and get into the saddle again at the closing. (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

I went tEddington, Sundy, but I wish I hadnt o. I was at St Thomas hospital, she said.

So, unless you prefer a long walk beside a horse when you could be riding, keep the bracketed ideas short. 1. Brackets are used to separate non-essential material or remarks that explain, question, illustrate or comment on the main idea. They are often a helpful aside for the reader:
Eat a green vegetable (spinach, beans or peas) every day. The other man (David Johnson) refused to make a statement.

2. It is not a good idea to have capitals and full stops inside brackets that are themselves inside a sentence. Leave out the capital and full stop, even if the bracketed part is a full sentence:
The concert (we hope it is on time) is due to finish at 11 p.m.

Double quotes do tend to clutter the layout and make it less streamlined, but Ill be using them in preference to single quotes, except in cases where only a letter or a single word is in quotes. Then I will probably use single quotes because double quotes around a small word look clumsy to me [look clumsy to me] and more cluttered. The basic rule for punctuation inside or outside quotes should be straightforward and logical: when the punctuation relates to the quoted words, it goes inside the quotes; when it relates to the sentence it goes outside. This is not consistently applied, or explained, by any of the reference books except Readers Digest (p59). The only exception agreed on by all references is when the quote is at the end of a sentence: then the full stop inside the quote does for both. However, I dont see why that should be the only agreed exception (see example 6 versus 9). Over the page are some of the variations for using punctuation inside/outside quotation marks.

Todd says differently (p96.2). This is an example she says is okay, and I think shes wrong:
The concert (We hope it is on time.) is due to finish at 11 p.m.

1. You are out of your senses, gasped Sophie. 2. You are out of your senses, gasped Sophie. 3. You are out of your senses gasped Sophie. 4. You are out of your senses gasped Sophie. 5. Sophie gasped, You are out of your senses. 6. Sophie gasped, You are out of your senses. 7. Sophie gasped: You are out of your senses. 8. Sophie gasped: You are out of your senses. 9. Sophie gasped You are out of your senses. 10. Sophie gasped You are out of your senses. 11. Sophie gasped You are out of your senses.

6. However, you could have the full stop outside the quote. 7/8. Using a colon instead of a comma before a quote. 9/10: Why do you need any punctuation at all before the quote? Surely the first quote mark is separation enough? 11. You may need punctuation before a quote to make the separation clear. Two spaces may do the trick. My choice? I will almost certainly not be putting punctuation inside quotes where it doesnt belong. I will use style 3 or 4, and probably decide to use 8 in preference to 10. Having no punctuation before the quote (10) doesnt seem to be as clear as using a colon to separate the quote from the rest of the sentence. HYPHENS The tendency is for compound words to start off as two separate words: book keeper. As the two words are used more frequently they tend to be hyphenated: book-keeper. If the two words fuse to create a new word whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words, the compound is usually written as one word: bookkeeper. 1. Many words require hyphens to avoid ambiguity. ie a re-formed band is different from a reformed one. 2. Numbers: thirty-two. 3. For word combinations that look clumsy:
shelllike (shell-like) deice (de-ice)

The use of commas and fullstops inside quote marks, where logically they dont belong, is a typographical convention that evolved from the days when the typesetter imposed his own idea of punctuation on the text he was printing. But we shouldnt be bound by convention. These are some of my observations on the above examples (numbers refer to the examples): 1. The comma inside the quote mark looks neater because the comma and the quote mark flow the same way, and I suspect thats why the usage evolved. But it is not logical to put it there; it is simply a convention. The comma does not belong to the quoted sentence. To make this obvious, no one would ever write: Sophie gasped: You are out of your senses,. 2. If a comma is used, to be logical it should be placed outside the quotes. 3. But why is the comma needed at all? The second quote mark clearly separates the quotation from the rest of the sentence. 4. This example uses a double space after the quote. I might experiment with an en-space and em-space. 5. In this rearrangement, the full stop belongs to the quoted sentence, and it is logical to include it inside the quote; but then the sentence does not have its own full stop. To be logical the sentence should be written with an extra full stop: Sophie gasped, You are out of your senses.. But that looks silly. Convention says the full stop inside the quote acts for both.

4. Qualified, hyphenated phrase:


two- or three-year-old.

5. Certain prefixes:
un-American anti-apartheid quasi-grammatical

6. If a compound has been in use for a long time it is unlikely to be hyphenated:


doorway today (to-day until the 1950s) tomorrow (to-morrow until the 1950s)

GENERAL GUIDELINES Abbreviations 1. Some abbreviations are made up of the initial letters of the words in a phrase: BBC, NATO. Such abbreviations do not have dots, though they were widely used in the past. 2. Single capitals, e.g. G. D. Burns, were traditionally used with dots and a space. I may use dots and no space (G.D. Burns) or dispense with dot altogether (GD Burns). 3. Leave out dots when there are capitals together with lower-case letters (Dr, Mrs, PhD). 4. There is a tendency to omit the dots for lower case abbreviations except those deriving from Latin (e.g. and i.e.) or where the omission might cause confusion, for example, a.m. (could be read as am). In Britain there is a growing tendency to omit dots in all abbreviations including ie and eg. I will use a.m., p.m., i.e., and e.g. 5. Abbreviations for currency, weight and measures (, kg, lb, km, m) never take a dot. 6. Abbreviations take an article according to the pronunciation of the first letter: an LLB, an MP, a QC. 7. The options for dates are numerous:
19/11/72 19/11/1972 19-11-72 19-11-1972 19 Nov 1972 19 November 1972

7. If the meaning of the compound is significantly different from the normal meanings of the combined words, the compound is unlikely to be hyphenated:
greenhouse [probably not a green house]

8. Adjective compounds can occur in two positions, namely before a noun:


a self-made man a two-faced individual

and after linking-verbs:


They were both self made. [They were both self-made.] We must have seemed two faced. [We must have seemed two-faced.]

Usually, the compound adjectives that follow verbs are not hyphenated. I may decide to include the hyphens for these cases. See bracketed examples above.

QUESTION MARK The question mark is put after the precise question that is asked and not necessarily at the end of the sentence: When was he born? I asked; [and not]
When was he born I asked?

Question marks can be trickier than you think. Fowler has a section on incorrect use of question marks by well-known authors. ELLIPSIS Newspapers sometimes use them interchangeably with dashes. However, there are only two proper uses:
1. To indicate missing words. 2. To indicate trailing off in the case of a person thinking before proceeding, or to leave something to the imagination of the reader.

And if the year is not mentioned:


19th November 19 November November 19

I will probably put the number before the month and leave out the th.

Capitals 1. The first word in an exclamation takes a capital: Wow! My word! 2. O is always capitalised, but Oh only at the beginning of an utterance. 3. Proper names and words associated with them:
the Iron Lady

10. Title of a family relationship is capitalised only when used with a name or in place of a name:
She asked Aunt Sally for advice. My aunt is a very shrewd woman. Will you play with us, Uncle?

11. Units of measurement take a capital only if they are named after someone: Watt, Joule, Newton, but not gram, metre.

4. Titles that precede a persons name:


President Clinton Professor Baxter

But president and professor are not capitalised in this situation:


the tenth president of the US six university professors

Italics Italics are the print equivalent of manual underlining and are used for:
titles of books, newspapers, songs, CDs and films emphasising certain words (though Fowler suggest this is poor practice) foreign words examples when writing about words

Titles of rank that follow the name are usually capitalised only when the title is one of great distinction:
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia Jenny Pearce, president of the Weindorfer Committee

5. For religious denominations: Catholic, Baptist. 6. Important holidays and festivals: Easter, Passover. 7. Capitals vary for food items that have place names. The capital should be preserved when there is still a link to the place:
cheddar cheese brussel sprouts Wensleydale cheese

When an apostrophe - s occurs in an italicised name, the apostrophe and s are not in italics: Invincibles last port of call

AIRS AND GRACES Style versus Clarity


Ernests daughter Alice married the boy who had been her playmate more than a year ago.

8. Compass points: SW, NE. 9. Cardinal points are capitalised if they are part of a geographical region:
North Qld North-West Coast

They are not capitalised when they refer to a compass direction:


Twenty kilometres east.

That sentence, taken from a 1927 edition of The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler (p438), is an good example of a sentence that gives the wrong meaning the first time you read it that Alice married a boy who, only a year ago, had been her playmate but on reflection you know what the author means: that more than a year ago Alice married a boy who had been her playmate. If there are too many of these types of sentences they interrupt the flow of reading and become a distraction. Is it possible to fix the sentence? Maybe not, unless you sacrifice style for clarity. It is easy to make the meaning clear, but some aspect of the sentence seems to be lost. The original is more direct, more vibrant in my view than either of these two:

More than a year ago, Ernests daughter Alice married the boy who had been her playmate. Ernests daughter Alice, more than a year ago, married the boy who had been her playmate.

ment. In The War on Clich Martin Amis is particularly scathing of one author who used elegant variation (see Amis review of a book about Lincoln). Two general principles are suggested:
1. Variation should take place only when there is some awkwardness, such as ambiguity or noticeable monotony. 2. The substitute should be that and nothing more; there should be no extra information, no killing of two birds with one stone (see example below).

I want to examine the original sentence in a bit more detail to see why the author used it in the form he did. Ernest is the hero of the book. Alice and the boy (Alice is the heros daugher, and Georgie is her childhood friend) are only mentioned once (when they are children) and in that brief mention it is suggested they may end up marrying. They are reintroduced abruptly near the end of the book as part of the summing up of the heros life. This is the idea the author wanted to convey:
Ernests daughter, Alice, married Georgie more than a year ago.

Even when these two requirements are satisfied, the variation is often worse (because more noticeable) than the monotony it is designed to avoid.
Mr Wolff, the well-known mining engineer, yesterday paid a visit to the scene of the disaster. The expert gave it as his opinion that blame attached

The meaning is clear, but the reader would probably have difficulty remembering who Georgie was for he is only mentioned once, many chapters back. So the author describes Georgie as the boy who had been her playmate. By doing this, every reader will remember who the author means even though they may not remember it was a boy called Georgie. The author could have written:
Ernests daughter, Alice, married Georgie (the boy who had been her playmate) more than a year ago.

The expert is gratuitous. He would have done quite well.


Mr Lees study of the Elizabethan sonnets, Mr Eltons book on Shakespeares Family, and Professor Bradleys on Shakespearean Tragedy a work which may be instructively read with Professor Campbells Tragic Drama in Aeschylus, Sopocoles and Shakespeare remind us that the dramatist still holds his own with the publishers. The last two or three weeks have seen two new editions of him.

But the brackets break the flow. The author may have decided (if he spent any time on this sentence at all) to keep the sentence in the form he did for styles sake and let the reader sort out the meaning:
Ernests daughter Alice married the boy who had been her playmate more than a year ago.

Aiming for clarity in all cases may dull the style. Sometimes it is better to sacrifice clarity for the higher goal of good writing. Elegant Variation Elegant Variation is the substitution of one word for another for the sake of variety. It is an attempt at elegance. The word avoided is either a noun or its obvious pronoun substitute. The use of pronouns is itself a form of variation, designed to avoid ungainly repetition. We are only going one step further when, instead of either the original noun or the pronoun, we use some new equivalent. For example, on page 153 of American Dynasty by Kevin Phillips, George H.W. Bush, having already progressed through George H.W., Bush, and the Vice President, becomes the Vice President from Houston. Variation to this extent is unnecessary, and when not justified by necessity it gathers the air of cheap adorn-

The writer puzzles the reader by referring to the dramatist. Which dramatist? He chooses not to call Shakespeare Shakespeare because there is a Shakespeare just before. He cannot call him he because six other persons in the sentence have claims upon he, and he should not call him the dramatist because Aeschylus and Sophocles were dramatists too. The variation is awkward. The dramatist is possibly the best thing under the circumstances, but when matters are brought to such a pass that we can neither call a man by his own name, nor use a pronoun, but identify him by means of his profession, it is time to remodel the sentence.
Sir Charles Edward Bernard had a long and distinguished career in the Indian Civil Service Five years later Sir Charles Bernard was appointed Commissioner of Nagpur In 1876 Sir Edward Bernard returned to Nagpur.

If Sir Charles and he are judiciously employed, they will last out to the end of the longest article, without any assistance from Sir Edward. These elephantine shifts distract our attention from the matter in hand; we cannot follow Sir Charles movements for wondering what he will be called next time. Will it be plain Charles or will something be done with Commissioner? When the choice lies between monotonous repetition on the one hand and clumsy variation on the other, the repetition is to be preferred to the variation (original and variations in the following examples are italicised):

I must ask the reader to use the same twofold procedure that I before requested him to employ. [Better: I must ask the reader to use the same twofold procedure that I asked him to use before.] Eighty-three volumes are required for letter M, seventy-seven are demanded by L, and seventy-six are perforce conceded to B; but the former of the last two [Better: Eighty-three volumes are required for letter M, seventy-seven for L, and seventy-six for B; but the letter L]

At its worst, variation of this kind is less offensive than that which, in violation of the second principle, introduces extra information:
Our representative yesterday ran down to Brighton to interview the Cambridge Captain. The weight-putter and high-jumper received him with his usual cordiality.

tails off. It has no balance. By inverting it: Among the guests were A, B, and C we introduce several improvements. First, Among the guests is protected from being virtually annihilated as it would have been if left at the end. It is an essential phrase and the sentence would not be a sentence without it; but it is a weak phrase and needs protection. Second, we give it prominence and enable it to discharge its humble office, that of a sign post pointing to the guests of particular interest (A, B and C). Third, we give balance to the sentence which before was front heavy. Fourth, we give prominence to the subject (A, B and C) by placing it in an unusual position at the end of the sentence. It follows that balance inversion is used not for the sake of variety, but with the object of avoiding a bad balance. To justify the change we need:
1. An emphatic subject, carrying in itself the point of the sentence. 2. Unemphatic signpost words, essential to the connection, standing originally at the end of the sentence.

This is a favourite newspaper style. Inversion Balance Inversion Inversion is the abnormal placing of the subject after its verb. A typical sentence structure in English is I went to the beach. The inverted form is To the beach I went. The inverted form looks silly, and in this case it is silly. But inversion does have a place when it is used properly. Unfortunately, it is overused by budding and mediocre writers. Before using inversion, the novice should ask himself three questions:
1. Is there a solid reason (ornamental reasons will not do) for tampering with the normal order of subject and verb? 2. Does the inversion sound natural? 3. Am I using too many of them?

The results of the inversion must be:


3. That the signpost stands at the beginning. 4. That the subject stands absolutely at the end.

When these four points are fulfilled, the inversion, far from being objectionable, may tend greatly to vigour and lucidity.
Original: You say he is selfish. Well, everyone is so. Inverted: You say he is selfish. Well, so is everyone.

So is too weak to stand at the end. The original could be recast with rhetorical effect as: You say he is selfish. Well, everyone is selfish. This sentence is in no need of inversion as selfish is strong enough to look after itself. Now, to a literary example that could be improved:
The arrival of the Hartmans created no little excitement in the Falconet family, both among the sons and the daughters. Especially was there no lack of speculation as to the character and appearance of Miss Hartman.

The following are familiar and legitimate types:


First on our list stands the question of local opinion. Among the guests were A, B, and C.

We give the name balance to this type of inversion because, although the writer when he inverted the sentence may not have done so to correct its balance, the fact that it was unbalanced before is the true reason for inversion. Put the sentence back in its original form and we shall see why inversion was desirable: A, B and C were among the guests. Observe how miserably the sentence

This does not read comfortably, in part due to the cumbrous phrase Especially was there no lack of speculation. This sentence resembles in form our old type Among the guests were but with the important difference that the especially phrase is emphatic and can therefore stand at the end. Lets invert an already inverted sentence to see how it originally looked:
As to the character and appearance of Miss Hartman, especially was there no lack of speculation.

It could be improved. Fowler states that sentences in which both subject and predicate are emphatic should be avoided, quite apart from the question of inversion, because italics are more or less necessary to secure the correct emphasis: in this case Miss Hartman amongst all the Hartmans:
As to the character and appearance of Miss Hartman, especially was there no lack of speculation.

And italics are a confession of weakness (according to Fowler). The authors decision to invert can be explained by the emphasis which he needs to give to Miss Hartman (these are my ideas based on Fowlers). The idea the author wants is:
The arrival of the Hartmans created a lot of excitement in the Falconet family. Miss Hartmans character and appearance were, especially, subject to numerous speculation.

placing of any words other than the subject at the beginning of a sentence merely for variety or to give an impressive effect, is not desirable. It leads to mediocre, pedestrian writing that has a hackneyed feel. The writer cannot be bothered to make his writing more interesting other than by simply moving phrases around. The steps downwards are marked by the examples that follow. In the first, inversion may be on the analogy of negatives, or may be designed for emphasis; in the second and third, emphasis is clearly the motive; and in the rest there is variety for varietys sake, mere impressiveness not to say mere mannerism. The uninverted forms are in brackets:
With difficulty could he be persuaded (He could be persuaded with difficulty) Almost unanimously do Americans assume that (Americans, almost unanimously, assume that) A book of levity, it would seem from the authors dedication, is this set of twelve essays named after the twelve months. (Westminster Gazette) (It would seem from the authors dedication that this is a book of levity; a set of twelve essays named after the twelve months.) Finely conceived is this poem, and not less admirable in execution. (Westminster Gazette) (This poem is finely conceived and not less admirable in execution.) Then to the resident Medical Officer at the hospital for an authoritative opinion on the subject went the enquirer. (Westminster Gazette) (The enquirer went to the resident ) Nisbetts new book will not disappoint those who know the writers Lays and Legends. Fascile and musical, sincere and spontaneous, are these lyrics. (Westminster Gazette) (The lyrics are fascile and musical, sincere and spontaneous.)

Without resorting to inversion the original sentences could be recast as:


The arrival of the Hartmans, especially Miss Hartman, created no little excitement in the Falconet family. Among the sons and the daughters, her character and appearance invited much speculation.

To me this reads clear and crisp compared with the original:


The arrival of the Hartmans created no little excitement in the Falconet family, both among the sons and the daughters. Especially was there no lack of speculation as to the character and appearance of Miss Hartman.

Negative Inversion and False-Emphasis Inversion Nor, except when used in conjunction with neither, always stands first. If the subject appears at all, the sentence is always inverted [examples needed]. Many other negative words and phrases are thrown to the beginning of the sentence. Again, inversion is the result and is preferable to the univerted sentence (in brackets):
Never had the policy been more triumphantly vindicated. (The policy had never been more triumphantly vindicated.) Nowhere is this so noticeable as in Tasmania. (Only in Tasmania is this so noticeable.)

In the last example, note also the elegant variation the writers instead of the straightforward his. Better:
Nisbetts new book will not disappoint those who know his Lays and Legends. The lyrics are fascile and musical, sincere and spontaneous.

Misconceptions about Inversion Misconception can creep in when authors see the effects of inversion. When properly used, there will be a good reason for it. But wholesale inversion, the

Miscellaneous Inversions Compound verbs (e.g. had sung, had said) do not lend themselves to inversion:
I wont plot against Tom, had said Isaacs. (Isaacs had said: I wont plot against Tom.) I am the lover of a queen had often sung the steward in his pantry below. (The steward had often sung: I am the lover of a queen.)

We may [will] not quote the lengthy passage here: it is probably familiar to many readers. (Times) Mr Shaynor unlocked a drawer, and ere [before] he began to write, took out a meagre bundle of letters. (Kipling) How oft [often] do those who train young minds (Daily Telegraph) I trow [think] not. (Daily Telegraph)

An inverted said at the beginning of a sentence is another pitfall: Said a friend to me the other day It is tolerable, if anywhere, only in light, playful verse. With verbs other than said, this form of inversion is still more decidedly a thing to be left to the poets: Comes a new translation, in four neat olive-green volumes. After inversion of any kind the novice should go his rounds and see that all is shipshape. For want of this precaution, a writer who was no novice produced curiosities such as this:
It is true that, disagreeing with Comte, though I do, in all those fundamental views that are peculiar to him, I agree with him in sundry minor views. (Spencer)

It is a mess. There should not be a comma before though, and the inversion is unnecessary. Rewritten:
It is true that, though I disagree with Comte in all those fundamental views that are peculiar to him, I agree with him in sundry minor views.

Archaism Archaism is always a fault, conscious or unconscious. It might be thought that unconscious archaism could scarcely exist. To use a word that was once familiar, and is so no longer, can happen to few writers. The guilt varies inversely as the writers knowledge, for the learned may plead ignorance (he is familiar with the word and used it as he would any other word), whereas the novice knows too well what he is doing. It is conscious archaism that offends; above all the conscious archaisms of the novice. This is only natural. An educated writer chooses archaisms less hackneyed; he uses them, too, with discretion. The novice may indulge us with his whole repertoire, charmed with the discovery of antique words. The list below begins with educated specimens, but lower down are instances of fatal incongruity of style: modern abutting archaic:
Don Quixote shall [will] last you a month for breakfast reading. (Spectator)

Sustained archaism in narrative and dialogue A writer who places his story in the past will try to avoid glaring absurdities (using the word biro in a sixteenth century story, for instance) but is not really concerned with using the everyday speech of Shakespeares England. However, an author may try to present a living picture of the time of which he writes. With regards to speech, he probably has no accurate knowledge of the language of his characters as they would speak it, and if he had this knowledge and used it he would be unintelligible to most of his readers and burdensome to the rest. Accordingly, he will avoid modern terms that would destroy the time illusion and will aim instead at a certain archaic directness and simplicity, but will have little to do with the archaic vocabulary. This may be called negative archaism, as used in Treasure Island. Only the novelist who is unwise indulges in positive archaism the determination to have everything in character at all costs. Instead of preserving the illusion, positive archaism only reminds us that there is an illusion to be preserved. Stevenson, having tried negative archaism with success in Treasure Island, chose to give us a positive specimen in The Black Arrow. Even in the hands of Stevenson, archaisms become forced:
Put me your hand into the corner and see what ye find there. Mark me this old villain on the piebald. I slew him fair. I ran me in upon his bow, he cried. Swallow me a good draught of this, said the knight.

He is like a child with a new toy. Repetition Rhetorical repetition (effective and significant repetition) is a valuable element in writing. Rhetorical implies that the words repeated would ordinarily be varied or left out. Used with judgement it is a good thing:

As the lark rose higher, he sank deeper into thought. As the lark poured out her melody clearer and stronger, he fell into a graver and profounder silence. At length, when the lark came headlong down he sprang up from his reverie. (Dickens)

But there are writers who, from the fact that all good repetition is intentional, rashly infer that all intentional repetition is good. Repetition is abnormal and is likely to become objectionable if it occurs frequently. The writers who have most need of repetition are those seeking clarity. A broad distinction should be drawn between rhetorical and non-rhetorical repetition. One is an ancient device designed to impress; the other a modern development to aid clarity. The motive for non-rhetorical repetition is always the businesslike one of clarity, though it is sometimes clarity run mad:
He analysed not a particular government, but what is common to all governments; not one law but what is common to all laws; not political communities in their features of diversity, but political communities in their features of resemblance. He gave politics not an interesting aspect, but a new aspect.

idea they convey. All that a writer does by turning such a phrase backwards, or otherwise tampering with it, is to give us our triteness second-hand; we are put to the trouble of translating tear and wear only to arrive at our old friend wear and tear, hackneyed as ever. There is nothing clever or literary about it.
How beautiful is noble sentiment; like gossamer-gauze beautiful and cheap, which will stand no tear and wear. (Carlyle) Bloated promises, which end in nothing or little. (Emerson) The universities are also [part and] parcel of the ecclesiastical system. (Emerson)

Causal As-Clauses There are two permissible kinds of causal as-clauses: the pure and the mixed. The pure as-clause states, as additional explanation, some fact that is already known to the reader and is sure to occur to him in the connection:
I have an edition with German notes; but that is of no use as you do not read German.

Without the non-rhetorical repetition this might read:


He analysed not a particular government, law, or political community, but what they share in common with others of their kind. He gave politics a new aspect.

The mixed as-clause states what is not necessarily known to the reader. It has the function of conveying a new fact:
I caught the train, but afterwards wished I had not as I presently discovered that my luggage was left behind.

For the novice, non-rhetorical repetition if included for the sake of clarity is likely to be acceptable in the readers eyes. At any rate, by using the same words over and over he will not have the vice of elegant variation. However, rhetorical repetition should be used sparingly. As the spontaneous expression of strong feelings in the writer it is sometimes justified by circumstance; employed as a deliberate artifice to impress the reader it is likely to be frigid and to fail in its object. Cheap Originality Just as elegant variation is generally a worse fault than monotony, so the avoidance of trite phrases is sometimes worse than triteness itself. Children can satisfy an early thirst for difference by merely turning their coats inside out. Distinction of style has been secured by some writers simply by writing a common expression backwards. Wear and tear becomes Carlyles tear and wear; and Emerson acquires an exclusive property (so, at least, one hopes) in nothing or little. Hackneyed phrases become hackneyed in the first instance because they are useful. They can derive a new efficiency from the very fact that they are hackneyed and easily understood. Their precise form becomes an essential part of the

A good writer will seldom use a causal as-clause of either variety at the end of a sentence. Fowler tries to explain it, but the reasoning is quite subtle. I agree that sentences with causal as at the end look clumsy:
Very true, Jasper; but you really ought to learn to read, as, by so doing, you might learn your duty towards yourselves. Everyone likes to know that his advantages cannot be attributed to soil, sea, or to wealth, but to superior brain, as it makes the praise more personal to him Emerson.

The sentences read better when recast:


Very true, Jasper; but you really ought to learn to read by so doing you might learn your duty towards yourselves. Everyone likes to know that his advantages cannot be attributed to soil, sea, or to wealth, but to superior brain: it makes the praise more personal to him.

Slang The place of slang is in real life. The writer who deals in conversation may sometimes find it necessary to include slang, and if he is wise he will make the least possible use of this resource. To interlace the non-conversational parts of a book with slang quotation marks or no quotation marks is as bad as interlacing with French. Foreign words and slang are spurious ornaments on the same level. The effect of using quotation marks to isolate slang is merely to convert a mental into a moral weakness. When they are not used, we may assume that the writer sins in ignorance: he does not know the difference between slang and good English. When they are used, the writer is telling us: I dont like using these words. Theyre beneath me, unclean, and Im going to isolate them from the rest of my writing. He wants to tittilate his reader and give his writing more realism, but doesnt want to associate himself too closely with a word he has chosen to use. There is a certain amount of snobbery and dishonesty in using quotes to isolate such words. Fowler puts it like this: Writers would rather be taken for knaves than for fools, and so the quotation marks are usually there. Good and sufficient reason will rarely arise for using slang. As style is the great antiseptic, so slang is the great corrupting matter; it is perishable and infects what is round it the catchwords that delight one generation stink in the nostrils of the next. Split Infinitives A split infinitive is the insertion of one word (usually an adverb, e.g. kindly), between to and the verb: Ask him to kindly stroke the kitten. This rule has lost much of its force the unsplit Ask him to stroke kindly the kitten sounds uppity. Split infinitives are considered very useful in modern English, especially to avoid ambiguity. The following example (unsplit) has a different meaning from the previous one: Ask him kindly to stroke the kitten.

WORD USAGE Most (if not all) Australian spelling of words like organise is with an s not an American z. Around/round are used interchangeably to describe a generally encircling placement or movement:
The boat sailed round/around the island Police stood watch around/round the oval.

Where such movement is indiscriminate, about is preferred:


Clothes and childrens toys were scattered about the room.

Actual, actually are frequently unnecessary:


In (actual) fact This is (actually) what happened.

Ago/since For a statement about the past, ago followed by a qualifying clause usually takes that because a particular time is being specified. Use since when a certain amount of time is being described:
It was five months ago that [not since] it happened It is five months since it happened.

Both sentences are rather clumsy and would be clearer as:


It happened five months ago.

All right Two words, not alright. The merging of all and right to form the one-word spelling alright was first recorded near the end of the 19th century (unlike other similar merged spellings such as altogether and already, which date from much earlier). There is no logical reason for insisting that all right be two words when other single-word forms such as altogether have long been accepted. Nevertheless, although found widely, alright remains nonstandard. Also is not a conjunction. So you should say:
He bought a car and also a caravan; not He bought a car, also a caravan.

In many sentences also may be dispensed with because and does its work:
He bought a car and a caravan.

Alternative Do not write the other alternative for the alternative. Among/amongst There is no real distinction between among and amongst. Select the one that sounds right in the context. Anymore/any more Anymore is an adverb usually used with a negative or in questions. It means to any further extent or any longer: She refused to listen anymore / You dont get men like him anymore. Contrast this usage with: Is there any more soup? Anyone/any one Anyone refers to a single entity usually a person in a general way and means the same as anybody: Anyone could do it. In any one there is a specification of one: Any one of them could do it. As is frequently overworked when since or because would be better (see also causal-as clauses):
I shall not try because [not as] you have already started.

Both/each One thing cannot be in two places at once, so to say: There is a tree on both sides of the fence is not as clear as: There is a tree on each side of the fence. Dependant/dependent Dependant (noun) is a person who relies on another: A single man with no dependants. Dependent (adjective) is depending on something else for aid or support: An economy heavily dependent on oil exports Note: independent is always spelt with an e. Despite/in spite of are usually interchangeable. Different Do not use different unnecessarily when separate identity has otherwise been established: Two children [not two different children] got sick. Doubt whether/doubt that The word used depends upon the writers opinion as to the reasonableness of the doubt. But there are exceptions (see Fowler). Whether proclaims an open question; that proclaims a certainty. If there is a alternative, even if it is not mentioned, use whether: I doubt whether this is true. If it is obvious the writer disapproves of the doubt, i.e. there is no alternative admitted, use that:
I do not doubt that... Who can doubt that...

Awhile The adverb awhile (we paused awhile) should be written as one word. The noun phrase, meaning a period of time especially when preceded by a preposition, should be written as two words: Margaret rested for a while / Well be there in a while. Back of is colloquial American usage. It is neither accepted English nor as clear as the simple word behind. Backward/backwards are both permitted as an adverb, although good Australian usage favours the s form: He fell backward(s). Because/for These words are similar in meaning. Use because when a specific reason follows: I must hurry because my train is due. Use for to link the main clause with a less significant statement added by way of explanation: I shall have to go, for a mans work is never done. Both Do not use both with words that already suggest two. That is, omit both in:
between [both] his hands they [both] arrived together they are [both] equally competent.

Each other/one another are often interchangeable, but there is a tendency to use each other to refer to two, and one another to refer to more than two:
The two boys hate each other. We all get along with one another.

Else is sometimes used when it is not necessary: They wanted nobody [else] but Shirley to sing. Every time There is no word everytime. Everyday/every day The adjective everyday, pertaining to the every day, the ordinary, is correctly spelled as one word (carrying out their everyday activities), but the adverbial phrase every day, meaning each day is always spelled as two words (it rained every day). Independent is always spelt with an e.

Into/in to In to (two words) is used only when the to is part of a compound verb such as to get. Compare: I went into town, I dived into the river with I went in to get the paper. Learnt/learned Interchangeable, but learnt is preferred because it is used more commonly in speach. Licence A noun the actual licence. License A verb to authorise, to grant. Licensee of a hotel. Off/from Off is to remove something which is situated on something else; from is to take away in the sense of depriving:
I took the biscuit off the plate. I took the biscuit from him.

Passed/past Passed is used as a verb (he passed the ball, he passed to Valhalla, another day has passed). Past is used as an adjective for time (the past year) and as an adverb when you go past or beyond something (the troops marched past). But note this distinction: the troops passed through the town. The difference can be confusing. Macquarie Dictionary in its 33rd definition of pass says: to go by or move past, as a procession, thus using past to define pass. i.e. the procession passed through the town, but the procession moved past the town. Plus Use plus in its mathematical sense, not in sentences such as: I shall send you the machine plus [and] the instruction book you asked for. Post Office Use capitals in my books rather than lower case. It gives a better look, even though it should only be capitalised when it is the name of an actual post office: Julia Creek Post Office. Rather It was rather a [a rather] poor performance both uses are acceptable. Reason Avoid saying: The reason is because. Use that to introduce the clause giving the reason: The reason is that he has been ill. Size/sized Use sized to form compound adjectives: He has a medium-sized car. Street I will use the form St (without the period) in my books i.e. Burke St not Burke Street. That/which These pronouns are frequently used interchangeably in relative clauses, but there is a difference. Which is used to introduce a general, nonrestrictive clause (also called a non-defining clause):
His letters, which were always full of jokes, amused the family.

Okay I will spell the word, rather than use the initials OK. On/onto/on to Keep these words separate so that their meaning is clear:
He put food on the table. They walked onto the stage. They walked on to the village.

Only The following sentences all have different meanings. I think the rule is: the word only should appear immediately before the word or phrase it qualifies. To highlight the different meanings, I have italicised the word referred to by only.
Only he asked for a loan of five dollars. He only asked for a loan of five dollars. He asked only for a loan of five dollars. He asked for a loan of only five dollars. He asked for a loan of five dollars only.

I cant tell any difference between the last two. When only is placed at the end of a sentence, it can appear before or after without changing the meaning. Onto/on to Something is placed onto something else, but I drove from Nelia on to Minamere.

Such a clause serves as an additional explanation and can easily be left out without destroying the main sentence. Note that when used correctly, a nonrestrictive clause should always be separated by commas. The pronoun that should not replace which in such clauses.

That draws attention to something specific and restricts the meaning of the main sentence. In the second example below, that and which should change places. The first use is general, the second (down the eastern side), is specific.
I want to read the letter that amused you. The sandy strip along the coast is fed only by a few scanty streams that furnish a remarkable contrast to the vast volumes of water which roll down the eastern sides. The sandy strip along the coast is fed only by a few scanty streams which furnish a remarkable contrast to the vast volumes of water that roll down the eastern sides.

Where Avoid using where to define something. The second example is preferable:
Scabbing is where a person works against a union decision Scabbing is working against a union decision.

Where should not replace that: I read that [not where] he went to jail. If you wish to be precise, say in which or to which instead of where:
Im working on a calculation in which [not where] accuracy is essential.

That can be used for people as well; whom may sometimes be too formal: He is the sort of man that I always fall for. In some cases, that can be omitted altogether if the sentence runs pleasantly without it: I know the problems [that] you have. Though/although If there is any difference between these words, although is the more emphatic of the two and is usually preferred at the beginning of a sentence. Till/until are generally interchangeable, except that until is usually chosen to begin sentences. There is also a tendency to use till about a point of time, and until about a longer period:
She didnt leave till two oclock They stayed in Europe until the end of summer.

Whose There is no objection to using whose for inanimate objects: Federation Peak is a mountain whose reputation all bushwalkers respect. While Originally meant a period of time: We chatted for a while. It has a legitimate use in the sense of whereas in contexts in which whereas might sound inappropriately formal:
While you say you like her, youve never stood up for her. Whereas you say you like her, youve never stood up for her.

However, be aware of colourless use of while to begin a sentence. Such sentences are never found in quality writing:
While the fireman was killed on the spot and the driver slightly injured, the up-line was blocked for some time with debris from broken trucks of the goods train. The fireman was killed on the spot while the driver was slightly injured.

Toward/towards Either form is acceptable, although towards has greater currency in Australia. Thank you Two separate words. Well When used as an adjective is generally hyphenated: well-educated, well-fed; but not in sentences such as: a good work well done, to be well supplied. When When is an adverb of time. Do not replace it with where (an adverb of place) in sentences that clearly imply an element of time:
When [not where] a vote becomes tied the chairman has a casting vote.

And be aware of using it as a mere elegant variation for and:


Avoid using when to define something. The second example is preferable:


A wicket is when a batsman is dismissed. A wicket is the dismissal of a batsman.

TYPOGRAPHIC CONSIDERATIONS Paragraphs Should be indented or spaced, not both at the same time. Quotations Lengthy quotations should be indented, one size smaller. Numbers Spell numbers up to nine (seven, nine), then use numerals (10, 24). The reasoning is that numbers ten or greater, are lengthy when spelt (seventeen, sixty-seven) and not as easy to read as numerals (17, 67). The other reason is that numbers ten and above have two digits and seem to look better than a single digit which can look awkward by themselves. The writing of numbers can be changed for appearance:
We marched 9 or 10 miles [and not] We marched nine or 10 miles.

When the number is a word, it may be better to retain the word:


What, other than seventy-seven, rhymes with eleven and has four syllables? [not: What, other than 77, rhymes with 11 and has four syllables?]

The nine generalisation does not apply:


to dates: 3 February

to mathematics: If it takes 7 men 3 days to build a house, how many men to units of measurement: 3 metres, 7 hours, 9 kgs to time: It is 11:25 a.m. precisely.
half-past 9 (the half-past hyphenated).

to ages: When Im 64; Im 6 years old.


to grades: I was in grade 4. to numbers at the start of sentences: One hundred and fifteen million years ago [not: 115 million years ago]

Or vice versa:
Its ten to one Ill get lost [and not] Its 10 to one Ill get lost.

Examples: We marched 1015 miles every day. We went into Nelia or Maxwelton eight or ten times a year. We might have gone nine, ten mile a day. Twenty by ten, no lining, and a dirt floor. After two days I continued my journey. We have been most unfortunate with the sheep the last two seasons. Wed get up at half past 5. I was in grade 2.

As with punctuation, consistency is the key.

Sometimes it is better to use words:


A thousand years ago [A 1000 years ago] A million years ago [A 1,000,000 years ago] A billion years ago [A 1,000,000,000 years ago]

REFERENCES Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lyn Truss Cassells Guide to Punctuation, Loretto Todd The War Against Clich, Martin Amis Room Temperature, Nicholson Baker (Chapter 9 is a reverie on the comma) How to Write and Speak Better, Readers Digest (excellent all round guide and the only one that uses commas logically and consistently when quoting speech) The Kingss English, HW Fowler http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:STYLE