- The Oxford Comma
You will always use the Oxford Comma. There is never a reason not to use the Oxford Comma. It will always be used. If you do not use it, I will know. This is important. I will live on through the Oxford Comma. I would be happy to go more in depth about why the Oxford Comma should always be used no matter what but I only have a certain amount of space here. If you would like to discuss this, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to tell you why you are wrong.
- Independent Clause, Coordinating Conjunction, Independent Clause
Although you should have mastered this one in the fourth grade, I will explain it to you again to exhibit the great amount of care that I have for this publication. An independent clause consists of a subject and a verb. A sentence that can stand on its own and has a subject and a verb is an independent clause. “I am” is an independent clause. “I” is the subject, and “am” is the verb. When you put a coordinating conjunction between one independent clause and another independent clause, you must place a comma before the coordinating conjunction. Always. Coordinating conjunctions are For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So. Some people remember this using the childish acronym of “FANBOYS.” This is juvenile. You will not use “FANBOYS.” You will use For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So.
Do you understand this rule? Yes? False — you don’t. If you did truly understand this rule, you would have noted the purposeful error of this nature that I made on line five.
- Em-Dashes, En-Dashes, and Hyphens
This is an em-dash: —. This is an en-dash: –. And this is a hyphen: -. They are different. They are not the same. Their purposes are dissimilar from one another. An em-dash has multiple purposes, but I believe two of them to be the most important. The first purpose is to replace a colon (:). And why would one use this instead of just using the humble colon? To add emphasis. And drama. The second purpose is to replace a comma. The em-dash cannot replace all commas, but it can replace some commas — specifically, commas on either side of an appositive or non-essential clause. If you would like an example of either of these purposes, I am happy to enlighten you over email.
Recently, AP format was changed so that em-dashes should be separated from the words on both sides of it with a space (see three lines above). This was displeasing to me. It is ugly, inferior, and unsettling, but you will do it because it is correct.
Note: if you’re writing in MLA format, which you should never be for this paper, do not include the spaces.
En-dashes are used in number ranges and dates. Example: I will likely have a mental breakdown 1–2 months after leaving the E3W.
And you should all know what a damn hyphen is.
In truth, your readers will not know if you use a hyphen instead of an en-dash. But I will know, and that should be enough for you.
- Not worthy of its own section but still extremely important:
-Do not use semicolons in dialogue. That does not make any sense. How can one speak in a semicolon? How can the pause that one takes when supposedly speaking in a semicolon in any way differentiate itself from the natural pause when speaking in periods? It cannot. It is possible to speak in commas, periods, and question marks, but one cannot speak in semicolons.
-Your headlines should not have lingering verbs after commas. I really don’t want to see this one as I scroll down Facebook — it would ruin my morning. Please follow this rule. Example of what not to do: Favorite Professor Gives Bad Grade, Relegated To Third Least Favorite. This can always be rephrased to sound way better (Favorite Professor Relegated To Third Least Favorite After Giving Bad Grade). You just need to think about it for half a second.
-You already know this one, but capitalize every word in the headline. This includes “and.” And “to.” And “if.” And especially “of.”
-Be bold, never go on airplanes, and if anyone is searching for a handsomely-paid copy-editor to join their company, please inquire using the aforementioned email address.