Language is fluid. It is a living, breathing, constantly changing organism. The dictionary updates each year adding new words (McJob anyone?) and removing old ones (though not as common).
I was taught to never put a comma before the word “and” but if you have a series of three, you do use a comma. It’s referred to as the Oxford (or serial) comma (image below is not mine but it demonstrates the Oxford comma and I think it’s hilarious).
Most magazines, newspapers, and online websites have specific formats for publishing. If you are hoping to land work as a freelancer, check the publication before submitting your article to see what style they prefer. It’s important to understand the tone and manner in which a publication presents itself.
If you want to be a journalist or are inspired by the AP, you should check out their FAQ, style guide book, and their “Ask an Editor” page.
I’ve been checking to see if some of the rules I learned in school are still applicable and some aren’t but more often than not, I come across “recommended” suggestions or “commonly accepted” formats. If you intend to pitch an article to a magazine, make sure your format matches their format.
A note on apostrophes from Grammarbook.com
“Rule 1b. Many common nouns end in the letter s (lens, cactus, bus, etc.). So do a lot of proper nouns (Mr. Jones, Texas, Christmas). There are conflicting policies and theories about how to show possession when writing such nouns. There is no right answer; the best advice is to choose a formula and stay consistent”
As you can see from the above, not everything is a rock solid rule (though I’m sure some would disagree). If your writing is full of grammatical errors, you will not be taken seriously as a writer. I cringe as I write this, hoping I’ve caught each typo and applicable comma. Use spellcheck, dictionary.com, and read your work out loud to catch all of those missing words that you thought, but didn’t actually type.
Your homework: Check out the links above and brush up on what’s acceptable.
Saturday: The Spark will update tomorrow. Come back next Friday for a new post!
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