32 posts categorized "Punctuation"

December 13, 2013

Accentuate the Appositive

Daisiesby Stefanie

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. —Gertrude Stein, “Sacred Emily”


One of the delights of life is that there is usually more than one way to describe something, and often those details matter. I may walk into a room and see a rose, a dog, and a book (I admit, my house is very messy). But that rose is of the Claude Monet variety, grown in my neighbor’s tucked-away garden. That dog is a tricolor beagle that never barks. That book with the oddly literal title is the fifth and final novel of a supernatural mystery series. The details of these items are what differentiate them from the other roses, dogs, and books that might be in the same vicinity (like I said, my house is messy).
 
An appositive is a restatement of what a thing is, in different terms, that adds to the understanding of that thing’s identity. The appositive can be short or long, restrictive or nonrestrictive; an appositive appears next to the noun it is renaming.
 
Appositives are usually set off by commas. That is, they are usually of the nonrestrictive variety, in that they provide extra information but the sentence is clear and complete even without them. By “set off,” I mean that when a nonrestrictive clause appears in the middle of a sentence, commas go both before and after the appositive (see also section 3.22 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed., p. 83, for additional examples).

The flower, a carefully cultivated and locally grown Claude Monet rose, drew the eye of my visitor.

My faithful dog, a tricolor beagle whose main claim to fame is his complete failure as a watchdog, didn’t even stir when the stranger entered the room.

The visitor touched the cover of the book on the end table, Blood Debt by Tanya Huff.

Restrictive appositives are essential for meaning and do not take commas (see section 4.03 of the Publication Manual, p. 89). Note in the examples below that because the narrator has more than one brother and because there is more than one blockbuster movie, the specific names offered in the appositives are necessary and thus should not be cordoned off with commas.

My brother John is much more reasonable than my brothers Paul and George.

The blockbuster movie Independence Day was blaring at a ridiculous volume from the other room.

Using appositives well can add detail and life to your writing. If you have comments or questions about appositives, please write to styleexpert@apa.org or leave a comment below!

 

November 21, 2013

Pluralize Numbers and Abbreviations Without Apostrophes

DB2



by David Becker

A common mistake people make is to include apostrophes when pluralizing a number or an abbreviation. Apostrophes are generally used in contractions and to indicate the possessive case, but they are not used to form plurals of numbers and abbreviations in APA Style.

For instance, writing “the 1960’s” when referring to that entire decade is incorrect; instead, one should write “the 1960s.” The same rule applies to the plural form of any other type of number, such as describing someone’s age (e.g. “clients in their 80s”), and is discussed further in section 4.38 on page 114 of the Publication Manual.

A similar rule in section 4.29 on page 110 applies to abbreviations. Just as with numbers, don’t include an apostrophe when pluralizing abbreviations. For example, when pluralizing an acronym, such as “CV” for “curriculum vitae,” all you need to do is add an s to the end, as in “CVs.” This rule also applies to standalone letters, as in “The students all received As.” For abbreviations that end with a period, such as “Ed.” to indicate an editor in a reference list entry, add an s before the period, as in “Eds.” When pluralizing an italicized abbreviation, remember not to italicize the s, as in “ps.” Just don’t add an apostrophe.

For more information, take a look at our other posts on punctuation in APA Style. Punctuation is also covered in more detail on pages 87–96 of the Publication Manual. And, of course, please feel free to comment on this post or contact us with any of your style questions.

September 20, 2013

Comma Usage and Compound Predicates

DB2





by David Becker

Time for a brief review of Grammar 101! As you know, a sentence has two major components—the subject and the predicate. The subject is the person, place, or thing that the sentence is about. The predicate says something about the subject. Here is a basic example with the subject in blue and the predicate in red:

Ritija scratched the cat’s head.

A compound predicate says two or more things about the subject. A common mistake people make is to insert a comma between two elements of a compound predicate. This comma adds a pause that creates distance between the subject and the predicate, so you should not include a comma in this case, just as you would not use a comma to separate a verb from its subject or object. Here is an example that demonstrates the correct and incorrect ways to write a sentence with a compound predicate:

Correct: Ritija scratched the cat’s head and rubbed his belly.
Incorrect: Ritija scratched the cat’s head, and rubbed his belly.

However, a compound predicate with three or more elements constitutes a list, so it would be correct to separate them with commas. Commas are essential in this case to distinguish one element of the compound predicate from the rest. (Don’t forget the serial comma!)

The cat closed his eyes, purred, and twitched his ears.

Also note that a sentence with a compound predicate is different from a sentence with two independent clauses joined by a conjunction. The latter requires a comma to create a pause between two distinct thoughts that could be separate sentences. Here’s an example:

Correct: Ritija scratched the cat’s head, and the cat purred.
Incorrect: Ritija scratched the cat’s head and the cat purred.

I hope this will help you avoid incorrect comma usage in the future. For more information on when and when not to use commas, see section 4.03, pages 88–89 of the Publication Manual. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us or comment on this post.

June 20, 2013

Forming Possessives With Singular Names

Tyler

 

 

by Tyler Krupa

I don’t think that I’m revealing a big grammar secret by letting you know that the possessive of a singular name is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s (e.g., Smith’s, 2012, study). But although this rule seems straightforward, one thing that trips up many writers is how to form possessives when the name being used ends with an s. For example, should you use “Adams’ (2013) work” or “Adams’s (2013) work”?

Per APA Style, the answer is that the possessive of a singular name is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s, even when the name ends in s (see p. 96 in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual). Therefore, in the example above, the correct usage would be “Adams’s (2013) work.” Although this presentation may look awkward to some writers, the rule for forming the possessive does not change just because the name ends in s.

However, it is important to note the following exception to this rule: You should use an apostrophe only with the singular form of names ending in unpronounced s (see p. 97 in the Publication Manual). Therefore, if you were writing a paper about the philosopher Descartes, to form the possessive with his name, you would need to just add an apostrophe (e.g., Descartes’ theory).

To help illustrate these guidelines, let’s look at a few more examples of properly formatted possessives:

Sigmund Freud’s method

Jesus’s disciples

Charles Dickens’s novels

Socrates’s life

François Rabelais’ writings (note that Rabelais ends with an unpronounced s)

We hope these examples clear up this point of possible uncertainty. Still have questions? Leave us a comment.

April 18, 2013

Punctuation Junction: Question Marks and Quotation Marks

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Punctuation Junction: A series about what Man at two roadshappens when punctuation marks collide.

The proper use of question marks and quotation marks in combination all depends on context: Namely, are you (a) quoting a question or (b) asking a question of a quotation? Let’s look at the two scenarios and how they impact punctuation.

1. When the quotation itself is a question, put the question mark inside the quotation marks.

  • Correct: Participants were asked, “How many days, on average, have you felt depressed over the past 2 weeks?”
  • Incorrect: Participants were asked, “How many days, on average, have you felt depressed over the past 2 weeks”?

2. When the sentence as a whole is a question, but the quoted material is not, put the question mark outside the quotation marks.

  • Correct: To what degree will social desirability influence participants’ responses to the statement “I always remember to take my medication as prescribed”?
  • Incorrect: To what degree will social desirability influence participants’ responses to the statement “I always remember to take my medication as prescribed?”

For more on how quotation marks work, see APA Publication Manual §4.07. Stay tuned for more Punctuation Junction posts coming soon! 

April 11, 2013

Punctuation Junction: Periods, Exclamation Points, and Question Marks

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Punctuation Junction: A series about what happens when punctuation marks collide.

Periods, exclamation points, and question Confusing signsmarks are three types of end punctuation—that is, they indicate the end of a sentence. Two properties of end punctuation are (a) that they are almost never used in combination with one another (even though sometimes it seems like they should be) and (b) that there is a hierarchy among the marks that determines which one you should use for a given sentence.

Follow the guidelines below to ensure you use end punctuation correctly in your APA Style papers.

1. If a sentence seems to call for both a period and an exclamation point or both a period and a question mark, use only the exclamation point or question mark, respectively. These marks are stronger than the period and take its place.

  • Correct: The therapist began the session by asking, “How do you feel today?” The patient replied, “I feel 100% improved!”
  • Incorrect: The therapist began the session by asking, “How do you feel today?”. The patient replied, “I feel 100% improved!”.

2. If a reference title ends in an exclamation point or question mark, this mark takes the place of the period that would have otherwise appeared after the title. These marks are stronger than the period and take its place.

  • Correct: Raftopoulos, A. (2009). Cognition and perception: How do psychology and neural science inform philosophy? Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Incorrect: Raftopoulos, A. (2009). Cognition and perception: How do psychology and neural science inform philosophy?. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

3. Only the exclamation point and question mark can ever appear in combination, to indicate an exclamatory question (this will rarely be used in an academic paper, however).

  • Correct: When the professor told John he would have to repeat the psychology course, John’s eyes grew wide as he exclaimed, “What?!” Then he ran from the room.
  • Incorrect: When the professor told John he would have to repeat the psychology course, John’s eyes grew wide as he exclaimed, “What?!.” Then he ran from the room.

For more on periods, see §4.02 of the APA Publication Manual.

Keep an eye out for more Punctuation Junction posts coming soon!

March 28, 2013

Punctuation Junction: Commas and Semicolons

Chelsea profileby Chelsea Lee

Punctuation Junction: A series about what happens when punctuation marks collide.

Commas and semicolons separate parts Trafficof sentences from one another. Although each mark has plenty of uses on its own, there are several more complex scenarios in which the marks are used together. Learn how to avoid grammar gridlock by following the punctuation guidelines shown below.

1. Separate independent clauses joined by a conjunction (and, or, but, etc.) with commas; separate independent clauses not joined by a conjunction with semicolons. Use commas within clauses as needed. 

  • Correct: Some errors are more major than others; for instance, calling a tiger a mouse is a larger error than calling a tiger a lion, and adults may be less forgiving of large errors than small ones.
  • Incorrect: Some errors are more major than others, for instance, calling a tiger a mouse is a larger error than calling a tiger a lion, and adults may be less forgiving of large errors than small ones.

2. Separate items in a list with commas; however, if any item already contains commas, separate the items with semicolons. 

  • Correct: Even in families where books are absent, leaflets and magazines offer text-based information about consumables and services; e-mails and text messages can give information on the whereabouts, plans, and activities of friends; and computers may be used to find out about films or prices of consumables and holidays.
  • Incorrect: Even in families where books are absent, leaflets and magazines offer text-based information about consumables and services, e-mails and text messages can give information on the whereabouts, plans, and activities of friends, and computers may be used to find out about films or prices of consumables and holidays.

3. Separate multiple citations within one set of parentheses with semicolons; separate author(s) and date within citations with commas. 

  • Correct: Recent research in developmental psychology has explored this issue, often using the term selective trust to describe the ability to distinguish who should be trusted from who should not (e.g., Bergstrom, Moehlmann, & Boyer, 2006; Clément, 2010; Harris & Corriveau, 2011; Harris & Koenig, 2006; Heyman, 2008; Heyman & Legare, in press; Koenig & Harris, 2005).
  • Incorrect: Recent research in developmental psychology has explored this issue, often using the term selective trust to describe the ability to distinguish who should be trusted from who should not (e.g., Bergstrom Moehlmann & Boyer 2006, Clément 2010, Harris & Corriveau 2011, Harris & Koenig 2006, Heyman 2008, Heyman & Legare in press, Koenig & Harris 2005).

For more on how commas and semicolons are used independently, see Publication Manual §4.03 and §4.04. Keep an eye out for more Punctuation Junction posts coming soon!

***

Examples 1 and 3 adapted from “Knowing When to Doubt: Developing a Critical Stance When Learning From Others,” by C. M. Mills, 2013, Developmental Psychology, pp. 404, 406. Copyright 2013 by the American Psychological Association.

Example 2 adapted from “Reading to Learn: Prereaders’ and Early Readers’ Trust in Text as a Source of Knowledge,” by E. J. Robinson, S. Einav, & A. Fox, 2013, Developmental Psychology, p. 512. Copyright 2013 by the American Psychological Association.

March 21, 2013

Punctuation Junction: Periods and Parentheses

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Punctuation Junction: A series about what happens when punctuation marks collide.

On their own, periods and parentheses aren’t too hard to use: Put a period at the end of a sentence; put material that’s helpful but not crucial to the main text inside parentheses.

But to use these two punctuation marks effectively in combination takes a little more finesse. Here are a few scenarios:

1. When part of a sentence falls inside parentheses and part falls outside, the period goes outside.

  • Correct: Students completed several psychology courses (social, personality, and clinical).
  • Incorrect: Students completed several psychology courses (social, personality, and clinical.)

The period is a strong punctuation mark—think of it as controlling the action in the sentence, which occurs outside the parentheses.

Confused streets

2. When a whole sentence falls inside parentheses, the period goes inside.

  • Correct: (Several other courses were offered, but they were not as popular.)
  • Incorrect: (Several other courses were offered, but they were not as popular).

Again, the period is strong and governs the main part of the sentence. Because the whole sentence is inside parentheses, the period goes with it.

3. These two approaches are incompatible.

  • Incorrect: Students completed several psychology courses (social, personality, and clinical. Several other courses were offered, but they were not as popular.).

Parentheses cannot enclose part of one sentence plus an additional whole sentence. If you follow one punctuation principle, then you violate the other; if you follow both principles (as shown above), you wind up with three periods for only two sentences—also an unworkable result. If you follow neither principle, you leave the reader hanging because one sentence has no ending punctuation.

Instead, there are three ways to allow the two approaches to work in parallel. 

You can separate the statements into separate sets of parentheses:

  • Students completed several psychology courses (social, personality, and clinical). (Several other courses were offered, but they were not as popular.

Rewrite the parenthetical so that it consists of one sentence rather than two:

  • Students completed several psychology courses (social, personality, and clinical; several other courses were offered, but they were not as popular).

Or drop one set of parentheses:

  • Students completed several psychology courses (social, personality, and clinical). Several other courses were offered, but they were not as popular.

Keep an eye out for more Punctuation Junction posts coming soon!

March 29, 2012

Jr., Sr., and Other Suffixes in APA Style

Timothy.mcadooby Timothy McAdoo

 Henry W. “Indiana” Jones Jr.: “I like Indiana."
Henry W. Jones Sr.: “We named the dog Indiana.”

Much like the intrepid Dr. Jones, when writing a paper, you never know what riddles you’ll have to solve. (Unlike Indiana, you can always ask the APA Style team for help!) I hope to clear up one such riddle here: how to handle suffixes in author names.

Quick Summary (in case you need to make a dramatic exit before the end of this post!)*

"Jr.," “III,” or other suffixes are not included with in-text citations, but they are included in the reference list entries.

References

In a reference, include the suffix, set off with commas, as shown here:

Jones, H. W., Jr., & Jones, H. W., Sr. (1941). My adventures in Alexandretta.
      The Journal of Fictional Archeology, 1, 1–19. doi:46.34262/56637
Belloq, R. (1926). Shiny things. In B. C. Explorateur Jr. (Ed.), Artifacts lost and
      found
[E-reader version] (pp. 210–223). Paris, France: Gaxotte Publishing.

 

You may note that in the first example, because the names in the author portion of a reference are inverted, commas are needed before the suffix. In the second example, the suffix is in the editor name; because names are not inverted in the editor portion of the reference, the comma is not needed. More examples can be found in this post on citing book chapters in APA Style.

If the suffixes are numerals, alphabetize the entries by these numerals. For example,

Lucas, G., I. (2001). Tinkering with details (Vol. 1). Hollywood, CA:
      A.G.F.F.A. Publishing.
Lucas, G., II. (2012). You can always change it later. Hollywood, CA:
      A.G.F.F.A. Publishing.

 

Citations

For the citation in your text, do not include the suffix. Just use the author’s last name as you normally would:

...which would lead to a fear of snakes (Jones & Jones, 1941). Jones and Jones (1941) also found that...

 

*If you’re feeling adventurous, you can find the keys to this post throughout the Publication Manual. The fourth bullet on page 184 explains how to punctuate suffixes within a reference, and page 204 has an example with “Jr.” (Example 24). The guideline for alphabetizing appears in the second bullet at the top of page 182.

January 13, 2012

APA Style Interactive Learning

AnneGasqueAnne Gasque

Have you ever had the urge to read the Publication Manual from beginning to end? We thought not. 

It takes a special kind of stamina and devotion to approach a manual of writing guidance and style rules with the excitement a person might bring to, say, John Grisham’s latest legal thriller. To help you find your way in the manual, we’ve created an interactive online course. This course, available for continuing education credit, provides a comprehensive tour of the guidance in the Publication Manual

Basics of APA Style: An Online Course follows the organization of the manual and offers an in-depth overview of the types of articles used in psychological and social research, manuscript elements, heading style, reducing bias in language, punctuation, capitalization, italics, numbers, tables, figures, citing references in text, creating a reference list, and reference templates and examples. Many of the sections in the course include relevant examples to provide context, and each section ends with two or three review questions to help you learn as you go along. The course ends with 20 assessment questions and offers 4 CE credits upon successful completion. We hope you find the course a helpful tool for learning APA Style!

If you would like a broader less detailed overview of APA Style, we offer a free tutorial, The Basics of APA Style, which shows you how to structure and format your work, recommends ways to reduce bias in language, identifies how to avoid charges of plagiarism, shows how to cite references in text, and provides selected reference examples.

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