Sunday night, a few people mentioned their desire to improve their knowledge and understanding of grammar. I thought I’d post a few rules that are easy to remember and hopefully will be easy to apply.

1. Punctuation inside quotation marks = ALWAYS put commas and periods inside quotation marks. All other punctuation depends on whether the text inside the quotation demands its use inside or outside. For example, a question mark goes inside the quotes if the quoted material is a question, but the question mark goes outside the quotation marks if the material inside the quotes is not a question (i.e., Did the girl say, “We want to go home”?)

2. Only use a colon if you could put a period in place of the colon.
We went to the store for three items: eggs, bread, and milk. (correct)
She asked for: eggs, bread, and milk. (incorrect)

3. Active voice is preferred by most editors.
Cain killed Abel. (active voice)
Abel was killed by Cain. (passive voice, not preferred)

4. The serial comma seems to be preferred, though this changes over time. The serial comma is the comma after “and” in a list.
While on vacation, we went shopping, ate at restaurants, and played games. (preferred)
While on vacation, we went shopping, ate at restaurants and played games. (not preferred)

5. Introductory adverbial clauses take a comma.
When we go to the movies theater, remember to bring a blanket. (correct)
When we go to the movies theater remember to bring a blanket. (incorrect)

If you find this to be helpful, let me know, and I’ll see what other rules I can share.