Tag Archive - punctuation

Repetition, Redundancy, and Overused Punctuation—Oh My!

We’re continuing our look at Fatal Flaw # 1: Overwriting. Fiction writers often overwrite, and have trouble seeing how this manifests in their prose. Last week we looked at details, and considered how much is too much. This week editor Christy Distler delves into the topics of repetition, redundancy, and excessive punctuation:

The first time I heard the phrase “write tight” was in high school English class. Our teacher returned our short stories and called me to her desk when class ended. “I love your story line,” she said. “But you need to write tighter. I want you to go back through your story and cut out anything that’s repetitive or not necessary. Don’t use an entire paragraph to say what you can say with a sentence or two. And lay off the dashes.”

I no longer have that short story, nor do I remember the entire story line, but I haven’t forgotten the writing style I’d used. Three of its problems were repetition, redundancy, and overused punctuation. Just what are these three writing faux pas? Continue Reading…

Share and Share Alike

Would you say “This is Joe’s and Sally’s car” or “This is Joe and Sally’s car”? This type of question can come up a lot in writing. The rule is that you only need the apostrophe + s after the second name if the two people share the item noted.

  • John and Mary’s marriage is on the rocks.
  • Bill and Nina’s escrow closed last week.
  • Mike and John’s team won the division.

So, conversely, if two people do not share the item or issue in question, you would need them each to have the apostrophe + s.

  • Both Frank’s and Sara’s job contracts will get renewed
  • Bob’s and Ted’s adventures went well [no, this isn’t about their joint excellent adventure].

The same idea applies to words that are plural:

  • The doctors’ and the lawyers’ conventions went well [two different conventions].
  • The actors and actresses’ show went well [they were in the same show].

Don’t get me started, though, about how I feel when I hear “Hey, mine and you guys’s car is the same!”

Mind Other People’s Business

What’s a writer to do when she needs to make a normally plural word possessive? Words like others, people, children, and women  can muddy up the grammatical waters sometimes. I often see writers adding the possessive apostrophe+s in the oddest places. But I get the confusion. Let’s see if we can simplify this.

If you are talking about one person, you would write this:

  • It’s not my opinion, but the other’s opinion.
  • It’s that person’s car, not mine.

If you are talking about more than one “other” or national group or peoples, you would write this:

  • Those are others’ opinions, not mine.
  • It’s the Third World peoples’ problems [referring to more than one national group].

When you have words that are already plural, such as children or women, you don’t first make them plural and add the apostrophe. Here’s how you add the possessive:

  • I went to the children’s concert last night.
  • I attend the same women’s conference each year.

But you would say:

  • I enjoy going to writers’ conferences.
  • Drive a block past the dancers’ studio.



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