One of the NewsU of Poynter courses I have completed so far is “Cleaning Your Copy: Grammar, Style and More.” In this post, I’m going to use the three-pronged approach to relay some important points about my experience with this particular course.
1. What did you learn?
I learned several grammatical tips and tricks from this course. I’ll share just a few of them that I wrote down in my notes straight from the course.
Lesson A: Use “which” for clauses that offer incidental info. Use “that” for clauses that give information necessary to the sentence. If you could put the clause in parenthesis or set it off with commas, use “which.” If the clause is needed to understand the sentence, use “that.”
Lesson B: The phrase “city council” does not need to be capitalized when it is used in a general sense. If it accompanies a city, such as Boston, then the result should be “Boston City Council.”
Lesson C: Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quote.
2. What surprised you?
One thing that surprised me is that to be grammatically correct, a simple series of elements that is separated by commas should not contain a comma before the conjunction. I’ve gotten in the habit of placing commas before conjunctions in simple series, so this will be a hard thing to break.
Another thing that surprised me is that the dash, semicolon, question mark, and exclamation point go outside of quotation marks when they apply to the whole sentence. They only go within the quotation marks if they apply to the quoted matter only. Only very rarely do I run across a time when I want to use those punctuation marks to emphasis the whole sentence, but this is good information to know for future reference.
3. What do you want to know more about?
I want to know more about the conditions necessary for using phrases and words similar to that if “which,” “that,” “a while,” and “awhile” because it is information that addresses tricky topics and I can use it in my everyday writing, as well.