punctuation for brevity and banality
(St. John's, NL, Canada)
I do a fair bit of editing at work for researchers and students who write technical reports. My pet peeve is over-use of commas - I threaten to charge $1 per comma but nothing for periods to encourage shorter, less wordy sentences. (I have seen a sentence that ran 5 lines long.)
Your tips on pesky problems are entertaining and helpful. I found your comments on "that/which" especially informative. But, I think I found a comma splice in your tip on dangling modifiers:
"I put down my cup of tea, and then turned around."
Shouldn't there only be a comma if the words after "and" were an independent clause?
Another peeve is jargon - arguably a necessary evil in engineering reports. Regarding quote marks - is it okay to use quotes around the first instance of jargon? I usually use that to indicate an unusual use of a common English word or something you won't find in a dictionary (and insist it be defined in the first instance). If that's not proper use of quotes, could you suggest a more acceptable way to indicate jargon?