Punctuation Puzzle – Capitalization & Items in a Series With Alice in Wonderland

By Donna Reish & Zac Kieser


This week’s Punctuation Puzzle has to do with capitalizing references to people and commas with a series of three or more. The latter causes much confusion (and is covered, in part, in a recent LL slideshow, “5 Tips for Coordinating Conjunctions”). Moreover, the series of three or more is further confused with the great Oxford Comma debate.



Punctuation Puzzle: Homophones and Parentheses


by Zac Kieser & Donna Reish

“Homophones. Homophones. Homophones. Homophones!” Did you sing along with the old Veggie Tales song? I have never seen a Veggie Tale video, and I can even sing that! (Along with “Where Is My Hair Brush?”) The song is catchy, but the homophones are often not! They can be downright tricky at times! And then there’s parentheses (unrelated to homophones…well, not really…read on!), but tricky nonetheless.


Punctuation Puzzle: Compound Possessive Nouns and Pronouns


By Zac Kieser & Donna Reish


Compound possessives! They are incredibly tricky! Zac does a great job teaching them in this week’s Punctuation Puzzle, but I am going to give you three “Tricky Tricks to Help It Stick” right up front about possessives (a little cheat sheet before the test!):


1) When two nouns possess the same thing, only the noun closest to the “possessed” object needs to show possession.

2) When a noun and pronoun both possess something, use a possessive pronoun and show possession to the noun (both).


But the most important tricky trick of all is one that is taught incorrectly in many sources and handbooks.

The placement of an apostrophe to show possession is based on whether the word ends in S or not—not whether the word is plural!


Punctuation Puzzle: Split Quotations

By Zac Kieser and Donna Reish

If you want to show off in your writing, use a quotation properly. If you want to REALLY show off in your writing, use a split quote properly. Okay, maybe only one to three percent of the people reading your writing will know that your split quote has been written correctly, but YOU will know (and I will know if I see it!), so that counts for something, right? In my books, I teach quotes in an incremental fashion. (This is super important. I just saw a copy work assignment for third graders that contained a split quote {done incorrectly, but still}! Copy work for a third grader should contain very few quotes—and preferably only simple quotes with beginning speech tags at first!)


Punctuation Puzzle: Proper Nouns and Quotations


By Zac Kieser and Donna Reish

Oh, proper nouns and quotations. Where do I start to explain the myriad of difficulties that students (and adults!) have with these. Am I starting to sound more like Lamenting Lady than Language Lady in the openings to these Punctuation Puzzles? If so, I am sorry! When you have taught fifty to one hundred students (in second through twelfth grades) English/language arts every semester for nearly twenty years (and you write books and products for them literally every year for nearly two decades as well), you just start to really feel sorry for these precious people who have to navigate the grammar waters with all of its exceptions and varying rules. (Sympathetic, she is!?)


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