USA National Punctuation Day® is TODAY! 9/24/15

One of my all-time favorite non-holidays!

USA National Punctuation Day® is TODAY! September 24, 2015
Jeff Rubin, Founder

national punctuation day 2015

Also, every year there is a CONTEST! YES! Sharpen your red pencils!

National Punctuation Day® 2015 contest will be announced on September 24

National Punctuation Day® will celebrate its 11th anniversary on September 24 with an homage to one of America’s greatest comedians and talk-show hosts.

As always, essays of no more than 250 words will be accepted through October 31 at

Please check back on National Punctuation Day (NPD) — September 24 — for contest details.

I’m guessing Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, but you’ll have to visit today to find out!

PLEASE visit Jeff’s website, where he has explanations of EVERY type of punctuation WITH PHOTOS of those used in English, AND pages of info and resources, like “Punctuation Products” and “Punctuation Playtime Program”!

He also has great posters/signage of excellent punctuation mistakes, videos, radio spots, schools’ participation pix, newspaper coverage of NPD (even right here in St. Louis, MO! from 2011, but you can no longer read the article), and much more!

Most unusual tribute? Video of a Punctuation Rap Song by Dots N Dashes: The participants make punctuation marks on the football field, as if they were a marching band. Hilarious.

Got a photo of an incorrectly punctuated sign?
E-mail it to Jeff Rubin and it will be posted on the
National Punctuation Day® web site–—with a photo credit!

Here are the most recent bad punctuation photo gallery submissions:

Jeff also does presentations and answers your punctuation questions: (510) 724-9507

Parallel Construction: What it is, what it isn’t, and how to write better despite hating your 8th-grade English teacher

Parallel Construction (PC from now on) is a type of sentence structure that confounds even “good” writers and many professional editors. Sorry! If you understand PC, then you must have HATED the title of this post!

YES! Points to you if you recognized that this post’s title is NOT written in proper Parallel Construction! I wrote: “…What it is, what it isn’t, and how to write better…”

parallel construction defn

image from

When we write a string (a series) of phrases or words, the rule of PC is: the members of any string must be in the same form or format.
When they are not in the same form/format, then they must be separated by giving them different wording and punctuation than when they are Parallel.

Here is what is incorrect about that part of the title, according to PC. In the title’s string, I start with “what it is” and then go on to “what it isn’t.” Fine, so far.

The mistake comes in the next phrase. This phrase seems as if it is part of the same string, but it can’t be, due to its differing format: “how to write better.”

If I can’t write what I want to say in the same format as the two or more members of the series that preceded the next phrase or word, but I insist on including that content in that series’ sentence, I must change the structure of the sentence, like this:
“…what it is and what it isn’t, and how to write better…” adding the “and” between the two similar series’ members and a comma after those before the “and” that precedes the odd one out.

Confused? Here is another example of a mistake in Parallel Construction I lifted from a video description on Youtube today: “Daniel Radcliffe is smart, rich, and has a good sense of humor.”

Here we have two members of the series that are one-word adjectives, “smart” and “rich.” To keep that string in its proper, parallel format, the next quality that describes Radcliffe also should be a one-word adjective, but it is not. Not only that, but the errant final phrase starts with a verb and keeps going.

The third member of that contumacious string is an imposter, not being a one-word adjective. This pretender to the above sentence’s string membership has an entire phrase as its quality’s entourage: “has a good sense of humor.” DISALLOWED!

If the author wishes to describe Radcliffe with these three qualities yet write correctly, s/he could write: “Daniel Radcliffe is smart, rich and funny.” See? The three one-word adjectives are in perfect Parallel form. No comma is needed or desirable after “rich” in this version, by the way.

OR, to maintain the exact meaning even better, try this: “Daniel Radcliffe is smart and rich and has a good sense of humor, too.”

Unfortunately, what I see (and hear) repeatedly are strings with two or more members that are properly Parallel while the final member is not. Errors in Parallel Construction are rampant. Fortunately, they are easy to detect. Unfortunately, they are sometimes awkward to correct.

The trick in correcting errors in PC is to avoid making the edited sentence sound phony or stiff while maintaining the precise meaning the author intends. Not so easy to do in many cases, you will find.

Some Tips to Recognizing and Correcting Errors in Parallel Construction:

Parallel construction advice

image from Thanks to Walden University for both graphics.

  • Notice sentences that have lists. Check the form/format of each part of the list. A series or string of three or more words or phrases is the only place PC can be used correctly (or incorrectly). Some editors talk about non-Parallel Construction of paragraphs or even chapters, but they are using the term incorrectly. What they mean is this author has problems with consistency in formatting or length of paragraphs, perhaps, or has style similarities that aren’t carried over properly among paragraphs or chapters (these are common problems but are not correctly called non-PC).
  • When the members of the string are verbs, make sure they are in the same form. For example, verbs in a string that have “ing” as their endings can’t suddenly change form. “She was glad to be eating, reading and walking…” should have no errant infinitives, such as “to take a walk,” sneaking in at the end.
  • Each member of a string that has phrases should have identical phrasing. That means that when the first two phrases each has three words, so the third and subsequent members should each have three words. Example: “I hate people who talk on the phone, eat at their desks, yell across rooms and pick their noses during lunch breaks” is correct. However, “I hate people who talk on their cell phones, eat whatever smelly food they want at their desks or cubicles, yell at their friends across the room, down the halls, or wherever they are, and pick their noses during lunch breaks” is not. Though presenting funny images vividly, the second sentence is a mess, grammatically.
  • Make sure the beginning of each bullet point or list is written in the same form/format. When you start a list (numbered or bulleted) with an action verb (“Make sure”), or an adverb (“How”), keep using that.
  • Also, when you start a list of items in which the first item starts with a capital letter or italics, keep doing that. When each point ends with a period, keep that format as well. The first piece of advice concerns Parallel Construction. The next two tips concern parallel formatting.

    I hope this brief lesson in Parallel Construction improves your understanding, your speaking and your writing.

    If it does not, don’t blame, call or come to find me and kill me.

    Correct my (intentional) errors in the comments section, below. That constitutes your final exam.

    Thanks for playing Grammar with me!

    The Anguish of Posting a 2-Star Review of a Colleague’s Book

    As an #Indie #Author, I am keenly sensitive to the ways we are each other’s main support. We have no publishing house, no “team” dedicated to our book unless we gather that team ourselves and pay them individually. Because of this, I have made it a point to join groups on Facebook, Google+ and elsewhere in the blogosphere of fellow indie authors, bloggers and reviewers in order to support one another and be part of a “team.”

    Some of these teams are better than others, and I have left a couple of them already (in less than a few months of membership) due to a lack of the very support I joined to acquire. However, some are excellent. #RaveReviewsBookClub is one of those. Its founder, president and fellow author, Nonnie Jules, and the team she has gathered to moderate and administrate the site and its activities (which are many!) are top-notch.


    President – @nonniejules

    V. President & Mentor Program Director – @bruceaborders

    Secretary & Blog Tour Host Co-Ordinator – @mlh42812

    Membership Director – @kathrynctreat

    PR/Marketing Director – @DanicaCornell

    Newsletter Co-Ordinator – @sharrislaughter

    Reviews Co-Ordinator – @voiceofindie

    “SPOTLIGHT” Author Consultant – @TeriGarringer

    I highly recommend joining this FREE group if you are an indie author wanting to get and provide reviews and other types of support: Nonnie’s own site (which leads to the RRBC site) is:

    I belong to several other great Facebook groups: Clean Indie Reads, Amazon Author Support, Female Writers, Science-Fiction Romance Brigade, Gutsy Indie Publishers, eNovel Authors at Work, and more. Many have their own blog or websites and activities beyond Facebook cross-postings and support.

    On Google+, I have recently joined several groups that I appreciate. Except for #BookMarketingTools, which provides biweekly Google On Air tools and info shows called “The Author Hangout,” hosted by Shawn Manahar (@ShawnManaher), I am not yet “known” or know many members since I’m not very active, yet.

    I am “in” many groups on Goodreads and LinkedIn, but mostly as a reader or sometimes visiting poster/”liker”. Not active, often, as an author, yet. Very much appreciate the tips, tools, ideas and support these offer, regardless of how often I visit, comment or post.

    All this is by way of saying: I am anguished to have to post a low rating and poor review of a fellow club member’s indie book. But, I just did. I had to. I do not do many reviews mostly because I am usually writing, marketing and job hunting or working as a consultant: in short, too busy. But,a requirement of joining some groups is to do reviews occasionally.

    So, I recently chose a book from the options provided that I thought I’d like and began to read. You can see the results, below.

    BTW: When I knew I wasn’t going to be able to give the book a positive review, I reached out to the club moderator, who was very helpful and supportive of my honesty and professional opinions. I also reached out directly to the author. I told her my dilemma and offered her some minimal feedback and also to provide more. She responded and thanked me, but declined.

    Since we couldn’t communicate privately, I put my feedback into this review. I sincerely hope my comments and questions inform the author so that, when she is ready to hire an editor and a proofreader for her next book, some new team members could be hired who are better than this book had.

    Review of C.E. Wolff‘s Common Denominator

    Disappointing: unrealistic and 2-D characters, horrible story arc, unbelievable plot points, poorly proofread /unevenly edited

    Common Denominator cover

    I rarely give bad reviews and hesitate to post this one. I wanted to like this book. I was pulled in, at first. Somewhat interesting story, main characters, situations. Despite some proofreading errors, I continued. Wanted to give a new author the benefit of the doubt.

    Then, the number of mistakes became ridiculous. Simple things, but signs of amateurish teamwork that are very frustrating and give indie pubs a bad name. Examples: confusions between “their” and “they’re,” “your” and “you’re,” other spelling and grammar mistakes and overall sentence structure. These all fell short of good publishing standards by a lot. Whatever this author paid the proofreader, it was too much. She should get a refund.

    Not wanting to give up because I had made a commitment to review this book, I continued. Parts of the story line and the two main characters showed some promise. However, every one of the secondary characters was a stereotype, without exception. They were 2-dimensionally and boringly depicted or came across as numbingly inconsistent. Each character was an insult to some group: women, men, British citizens, gays, mothers and criminals of all kinds. “Bimbo”? Really? Calling her own sister a “wench”? Harping on age differences between lovers, then going along with it: which is it?

    Why are the criminals all “sinister” with zero back stories? Why does the main antagonist have no obvious motivation? We learn more about her taste in clothes and plastic surgery than we ever do about what makes her do what she does.

    The main plot, a supposed thirty-year “love” story, is flat-out ridiculous.Maybe if these characters were in their mid-twenties, we could believe they didn’t yet acknowledge/know their true feelings for each other, having been childhood friends, blah blah blah. But, they’re hovering around and over 40, have stayed “best friends” all their lives, and work together every day. Meanwhile, they continually trash each others’ dates/lovers. Unless they have recurring amnesia or personality disorders, the concept is absurd.

    The female main character’s obsession with her appearance, physical attributes, clothing and underwear, even in the middle of public places, might have been funny if it weren’t so dysfunctional and unbelievable. What 39-year-old professional, educated woman, the VP of a large corporation, doesn’t know how to dress and conduct herself in public?

    And, what 42-year-old male behaves sexually as if he’s seventeen? i could just be out of touch, I suppose. A president of a successful corporation who has remained unmarried and not become a parent obviously has issues.

    This begs the question: what do these two see in each other? They’re each a mess. Are they supposed to be anti-heroes? Success.

    Whatever she paid the editor: also too much. There is a horrible amount of repetition: I swear, the main character and her sister have the exact same conversations, about two basic topics, more than three times. So do the two main characters. Why? Does this book’s editor not know how to tell an author to CUT and when to insert new material?

    The subplots are so thin as to be pulled directly from someone else’s novels and plopped into this one. Not even worth recounting. Cliche after cliche abounds without even one redeeming original moment. Could have phoned it all in.

    I stuck it out to the end, hoping she would redeem it, and then POOF: it just stops. No actual ending, no resolution worth discussing.

    Up until the non-ending, i was willing to give it three stars for effort and blame most of the problems on her “helpers,” but I just can’t. Two stars. Readers: not worth your time.

    I was not paid to review nor did I get the book for free.

    P.S. I posted the review on Goodreads and Amazon about two days prior to posting this entry on my blog. On the night of the second day the review appeared, I received this notice: “Fred liked your review of Common Denominator on Goodreads!” This book is also receiving a lot of 5-Star reviews. So it goes!