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Oh No He Ditn’t – Punctuation

March 30, 2010 :: Admissionado Team

That’s right, kiddies.

Today’s topic?


I know it. Nothing could be less important in the grand scheme of things… and yet… kinda important. Goes without saying, a perfectly punctuated and error-free batch of essays that aren’t compelling to read will do you absolutely no good. And an incredible story with a few busted rules here or there will likely not cause anyone to bat an eyelash.

But the goal is to put our best foot forward right? You don’t work out 5 days a week, sit in the tanning booth, eat a strict diet, and spend a ton of money on the best tuxedo imaginable on Big Night… only to NOT care about whether your shoes are polished.

You spend the extra twenty minutes to polish your shoes, no?

K, so here are a few punctuation rules that people wreck all the time. (And yes… there are “devotees of certain schools of grammar and usage and punctuation” and not exactly a One-And-Only right way…… but the following tips should keep you out of trouble.)


Nice and simple (at least in America–it’s different overseas, single quotations and all that jazz). Periods and Commas ALWAYS go inside Quotation Marks, period. End of story.

It doesn’t matter when or “where,” you always “double down on eleven.”

Pick up a book, newspaper, any reputable publication (internet is a maelstrom of broken rules–do not turn to IT for answers), and you’ll see what’s up. When in doubt, always put periods and commas INSIDE quotation marks.

Colons and semi-colons go outside. Here are all the reasons I love “Family Ties”: (1) Michael J. Fox’s mind-blowing sense of timing; (2) Alex P. Keaton’s self-importance; etc etc etc.

With Question Marks… it depends on what the quotes refer to. If the entire sentence is the question, the Question Mark sits outside. If the thing in quotes is the only question, the Question Mark is contained inside.


Why is that we have to “hold hands”?


I am not bothered when people stop to ask me, “Why are you so damn handsome?”



Holy crap. This rule has been wrecked so much in the mainstream, it pretty much doesn’t matter anymore. Like, it’s almost pretentious to be right because the hoi polloi have just trampled this one forever.

A word, name, whatever… can either be SINGULAR or PLURAL

When you’re making a word possessive, we have two choices. We can either add ‘s or simply’

Let’s start with words that are singular.

Mark, girl, group, bass, Paris

So we have ONE guy named Mark, ONE girl, and ONE group (of many people… but still it’s just ONE group), ONE fish that is a bass, ONE city called Paris. These are all ssssssssinggggular — one thing. Some end in “s” and some don’t. Now, each is going to “possess” something. So what do we do?

Simple. We add ‘s to EVERY single one.

Mark’s girlfriend is very, very attractive.

That girl’s attitude is quite grating.

This group’s philosophy does not agree with my own.

That bass’s mouth was unharmed in the fishing incident.

I love Paris’s charming layout, especially at night.

When it’s singular, no matter how WRONG it feels… you add the ‘s.

TELUS — Canadian company. If you’re referring to the reputation of TELUS, you’d write TELUS’s reputation.

Looks and sounds absurd, but that’s how it be.

Now, let’s go to the second category—words that are PLURAL. It gets slightly confusing here, but as long as we understand what’s going on… it’s pretty logical, ultimately.

Let’s take a list of singular words and first MAKE them plural.

desk, goose, girl, Clooney (as in George Clooney), Hanks (as in Tom Hanks), Moses (as in tablet Moses), critic

Now we’re gonna make these suckers PLURAL:

desks, geese, girls, Clooneys, Hankses, Moseses, critics

With me so far? Some of those feels right, others feel wonky. Imagine a play where a bunch of people are auditioning for the role of “Moses.” We’d refer to all those Moseses over there, for example.

Now, we need to make these POSSESSIVE. Okay, the hard part is over, and we’re off the hook. Now if one of these PLURAL words ends in an ‘s’ then we only add the apostrophe. If the word does NOT, then–as usual–we add ‘s.

Looking at this room, I now feel that the desks’ designer was out of his mind when he chose metal instead of wood.

The geese’s slumber was disturbed by Dr. Jones.

The girls’ behavior during dinner tonight was impeccable; each should be rewarded.

The Clooneys’ smiles are all incredibly charming in this photograph. George clearly had some lucky genes.

The Hankses’ houses were all built next to one another.

The Moseses’ singing ability was lousy across the board, but their dancing was impressive.

How important is any of this?

Not very. But, again, imagine showing up to the Oscars with an incredible suit, incredible hairdo, incredible sparkling smile, and… shoes that aren’t polished. Kinda dings it. Why not go for it? If you were to get a grammar/punctuation freak, proper treatment of stuff like this might just endear you to him/her.