Quick grammar guide

Got Style? A Quick Reference Guide

PopMeC values its authors’ diverse and interdisciplinary backgrounds. The blog accommodates a wide range of scholarly methods, all while maintaining a welcoming, easy-going environment to share ideas. If you need some guidance on those pesky grammar rules that keep everyone up at night, our team invites you to use this quick reference guide. All suggestions are informed by The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition).

 

> Punctuation: inside or outside quotation marks?
In most cases, periods and commas should appear inside double or single quotation marks.

“To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer,” Hamlet mused. Suddenly, the actor’s eyes widened, and he blurted out, “Afterall, I knew Yorick well.”

However, if you are setting off a term with quotation marks, then periods, commas, and other punctuation marks appear outside quotation marks.

My desktop has several folders brimming with files labeled “IMG.00X”.

Semicolons and colons always appear outside quotation marks, whereas the placement of question marks and exclamation points depends on context. If “?” or “!” is part of a quote, it remains inside quotation marks. If not, place the mark outside quotation marks.

Langston Hughes begins his poem “Harlem” (1951) with a question: “What happens to a dream deferred?”
Why does Hughes equate “a dream deferred” with “a heavy load”?

 

> Is the Oxford comma in vogue?
Chicago recommends using the Oxford comma, or the serial comma. Per rule 6:19, “When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more, a comma…should appear before the conjunction.” Ultimately, using the Oxford comma consistently “prevents ambiguity.”

To her brother’s disgust, Fatima eats sandwiches with peanut butter, bananas, and pickles.
Over spring break, Marwan will visit his parents, a physician, and an archaeological site.

 

> How should I write numbers?
The Chicago Manual of Style adopts a general rule (9:2) for writing numbers in “nontechnical contexts”: spell out whole numbers from zero through one hundred. You should also spell out round multiples of those numbers.There are, of course, several exceptions, but here are some correct examples.

Marie owns seventy-four video games and one large television.
Charles has collected precisely 457 Star Wars toys.
More than two hundred thousand Americans attended Star Trek conventions last year.
The twenty-third book on Ari’s shelf is Michael Crichton’s Timeline (1999).
On the 274th day of fencing, Candice successfully parried an opponent’s strike.
Roughly 34.3 million people watched Netflix’s docuseries Tiger King (2020) in the first week it premiered.

 

> Does this need to be capitalized?
When deciding whether to capitalize a term, it is best to consult The Chicago Manual of Style. There are hundreds of specific instances, special cases, and exceptions outlined in the manual. However, below are some rules that may be especially useful for PopMeC’s contributors.

  • Official titles are capitalized when they precede someone’s name (e.g., President Abraham Lincoln). Otherwise, they are typically lowercased in academic writing (e.g., the president).
  • Capitalize the names of ethnic and national groups. Today, Black and White are increasingly capitalized when referring to racial and ethnic identity. Chicago recognizes such usage as correct, if preferred. PopMeC prefers its authors to capitalize Black, White, and similar terms to maintain consistency.
  • Terms related to sexual orientation and gender identity are typically lowercased.
  • Capitalize the names of major religions, their followers, and scriptures.
  • Only capitalize academic subjects when they are part of an official name or used as proper nouns.
    • Example: Ella likes to study the history of her ancestors. Therefore, she enrolled in the course History Research Methods at her local university.
  • Capitalize days of the week, months, and designated holidays. Do not capitalize the four seasons.
  • Capitalizing geographic regions is very complicated—check the manual for guidance!

 

 

 

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