Welcome to another installment of Fun with Grammar. Grammar rules stink, but if you’re a writer or even just have a day job where you’re occasionally expected to string together a halfway coherent sentence, you’ve got know them.


A semicolon is needed when two independent clauses are not joined by a conjunction.  For example:

Please do not engage in horseplay on the playground; our insurance company is still upset over the whole five-kid pileup incident on the slide.

A semicolon is required to separate sentences in which a conjunctive adverb introduces the second independent clause. Don’t worry if you fell asleep halfway through that sentence. I shall ‘splain.  Conjunctive adverbs are those words like however, consequently, moreover, and therefore. For example:

Little Janey is known for her nefarious playground shenanigans; however, the nerds and the geeks have formed a powerful alliance against her.

A comma usually follows the conjunctive adverb that introduces the second independent clause. For example:

We identified the source of the cooties;  consequently, we were able to avoid an outbreak.

When to use Me or I


Joey disliked him and me because we said he had cooties.

Ignore the him  and remember that you wouldn’t say Joey disliked I.

Who Versus Whom

Even though it is impossible to use the word whom without sounding like a pompous jerk, sometimes whom is the correct word.

Who is used for the subject of the verb and whom is for the object of the verb. For example:

Who told Joey I said he had cooties?

To whom shall I deliver a painful slap for informing Joey of my cootie commentary?

Reflexive Pronouns – Myself, Himself, Herself

Reflexive pronouns reflect back to a noun or pronoun in the same sentence.

Not one to outsource, I conducted the slapping myself.

Don’t use a reflexive pronoun when a simple pronoun is better. For example:

I decided I wanted to do more damage, so the slapping was conducted by Carl, Susie, and me  NOT The slapping was conducted by Carl, Susie, and myself.

 Use the reflexive for clarity purposes when the pronoun may be unclear.

Billy should have slapped himself for being so stupid NOT Billy should have slapped him for being stupid. We need to be clear on who needs a good slapping.


A dash is used to indicate a change in thought or side (or snide) comment that is nonessential to the sentence. Type dashes with no spaces before or after. Key two hyphens – certain fonts will make it one long dash. For example:

Billy was indeed deserving of a slapping – especially due to his lack of cootie candor –and so it was given to him.

 Quotation Marks

For exact quotes, surround whole quote with punctuation inside. For example:

“I shall always reign as Queen of the Monkey Bars!” shouted Nancy, the class bossypants.

“You can kiss my monkey bars,” retorted Fred.

If it’s a quotation within a quote, the quotation marks for the inside quote go inside the bigger quote. For example:

Billy said “try to slap me and I’ll gnaw off your ears”; I’m pretty sure.

These are the Monkey Bar Queen’s “rules”: don’t go near the bars without my royal permission, the Queen is always right, and regulations are subject to change depending on the Queen’s mood.

If the whole sentence is a question, put the question mark outside the quote.

Was it Billy or Nancy who said “get off the monkey bars, don’t make me cut you” ?


Hyphenate compound adjectives – essentially words that only make sense in the sentence when put together. For example:

The black-and-blue mark on Fred’s arm was the unfortunate outcome of his insistence on using the monkey bars without the Queen’s permission.

The exception is when an adverb comes first. For example:

The beautifully constructed playground wasn’t quite as beautiful by the time the rowdy, cootie-infected children were done destroying it.

You wouldn’t hyphenate beautifully-constructed, but you would hyphenate cootie-infested.

If the compound modifier contains participles (verb forms functioning as adjectives), then hyphenate only when they come before a noun.


Harry had a well-healed scar from the last time he tangled with the Queen.

No hyphen

Nancy was dismayed to find that Harry’s scar was well healed.

When using compound adjectives with the prefixes self or all, and the suffix free should always be hyphenated.

Due to the Queen’s all-encompassing bad attitude, Fred’s self-esteem suffered but at least he remained cootie-free.