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Proofreading your Articles through the Proper Use of Capitalization, Punctuation and Spelling

December 05, 2011  by: joeldgreat  Points: 30   Category: Blogging    Views: 1148

Mechanics refers to the standard practices for the presentation of words and sentences, including capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. As with grammar, there are many rules for mechanics, but here I will cover the ones that cause many article writers the most problems.


a. Capitalization

Capitalization is necessary both for specific words and to start sentences and quotes. However, many writers overuse it. Only six occasions require capitalization:

1.The first word of a sentence
2.Proper nouns (names of people, places, and things)
3.The first word of a complete quotation, but not a partial quotation
4.The first, last, and any other important words of a title
6.The pronoun I, and any contractions made with it

b. Punctuation

There are dozens of punctuation marks in the English language. They're used to separate ideas, form words, and make the meanings of sentence clear. Poor punctuation can confuse your readers and change your intended meaning. For example, one comma completely changes the meaning of this short sentence:

Don't call me, stupid!
Don't call me stupid!

Here's a quick punctuation review:

a.IF YOUR PURPOSE IS TO: end a sentence
EXAMPLE: Use a period to end a sentence.

b.IF YOUR PURPOSE IS TO: connect complete sentences
USE THIS PUNCTUATION: semicolon [;] or a comma [,] and a conjunction [and,
or, nor, or, so, but, yet]
EXAMPLE: A semicolon can connect two sentences; it is an
excellent to show that two ideas are related.

c.IF YOUR PURPOSE IS TO: connect items in a list
USE THIS PUNCTUATION: comma [,] but if one or more items in that list has a
comma, use a semicolon [;]
EXAMPLE: The table was overturned, the mattress was torn apart,
and the dresser drawers were strewn all over the floor.

The castaways included a professor, who was the
group's leader; an actress; and a housewife.

d.IF YOUR PURPOSE IS TO: introduce a quotation
USE THIS PUNCTUATION: colon [:] or comma [,]
EXAMPLE: Colons have three functions: introducing long
lists, introducing quotations, and explanations.
He said, "This simply won't do."

e.IF YOUR PURPOSE IS TO: indicate a quotation
USE THIS PUNCTUATION: quotation marks [" "]
EXAMPLE: "To be or not to be?" is one of the famous lines
from Hamlet.

f.IF YOUR PURPOSE IS TO: indicate a question
USE THIS PUNCTUATION: question marks [?]
EXAMPLE: Why are so many engineering students obsessed with
Star Treck?

g.IF YOUR PURPOSE IS TO: connect two words ogether
EXAMPLE: brother-in-law, well-known author

h.IF YOUR PURPOSE IS TO: separate a word or phrase for emphasis
EXAMPLE: I never lie - never.

i.IF YOUR PURPOSE IS TO: separate a word or phrase that is relevant but not
essential information
USE THIS PUNCTUATION: parenthesis [( )]
EXAMPLE: There is an exception to every rule (including this one).

j.IF YOUR PURPOSE IS TO: show possession or contraction
USE THIS PUNCTUATION: apostrophe [']
EXAMPLE: That's Jane's car.

c. Spelling

Proofreading for spelling errors after you've run a spell-check program means looking carefully for real-word errors. If you typed tow instead of two, that mistake is still in your essay, waiting for you to find it. A simple tip is to use the professional proofreading tricks on my other article ( http://www.exposeknowledge.com/kb/6632-how-to-proofread-your-article-for-grammar.aspx ) to scan for mistakes.

Limitations of Spell and Grammar Check Programs

Studies on grammar and spell check programs show that they are more effective when used as a first (not final) step in proofreading. After you've clicked your mouse through grammar and spell check, print out a hard copy of your essay and complete proofreading manually by checking the errors in grammar and mechanics.

There is no excuse for not using spell and grammar check programs. They're fast and simple, and catch many common errors. However, they're not foolproof. Spell check has three important limitations you should be aware of:

1. Non-Word versus Real-Word Errors

Most of us think of spelling errors in the first category - that is, a string of letters that does not make a real word. You might type "sevn" instead of "seven", or "th" for "the". Spell check is an excellent tool for catching these types of mistakes.

However, if you are discussing the seven years of piano lessons you have taken, and you leave off the "s" in the word "seven", the result is "even", which spell check won't flag, because "even" is correctly spelled. This is known as a real-word error. You have typed a legitimate, correctly spelled word; it's just not the word you meant to type, and it doesn't convey the meaning you intended. Spell check can't find these types of errors.

2. Proper Nouns

Spell check uses a dictionary that does not include most proper nouns and words in other categories, such as the names of chemicals. You can always add a word or words to the dictionary once you are sure of its spelling, but the first time, you will need to use another source (a reliable print one is best) to verify the spelling.

3. Errors Spelled Similarly to Other Real Words

If you misspell a word in such a way that it is now closer, letter by letter, to a word other than the one you intended, spell check will probably offer the wrong word as a correction. For example, if your article includes a coffeehouse scenario, and you type the word "expresso", spell check will correct the error with "express" rather than "espresso". Similarly, "alot" will be corrected to "allot". You must pay careful attention to spell check's suggested corrections to ensure the right selection.

Grammar check programs are also effective but not foolproof. They can make two kinds of mistakes: missing errors, and flagging errors that are actually correct. The first problem, missing errors, is illustrated by the following examples. A grammar check on the following sentence did pick up the subject/verb agreement error (I / is), but did not notice the participle error (I studying).
- I is ready to take the exam after I studying my notes and the textbook.

Similarly, the punctuation problems in the following sentence were not flagged.
- The recipe, calls for fifteen ingredients and, takes too long to prepare.

When grammar check does highlight an error, be aware that it may in fact be correct. But if your knowledge of grammar is limited, you will not know whether to accept grammar check's corrections. To further complicate matters, you may be offered more than one possible correction, and will be asked to choose between them. Unless you are familiar enough with the specific problem, this may be no more than a guess. It is important to understand the type of error highlighted, and get more information if you are not sure about it.


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