I’ve written several blogs about ways to have sentence variety and clever sentence structures to use for emphasis and enhancement. Sentence variety is easily achieved by shifting the subject to other places in the sentence. (Here’s a practice.) This one, however, gets to the rudiments of Sentence Variety. Look for the others in the archives.
As we continue our focus on the classic and not-so-classic marks of punctuation for the ends of sentences, we do need to spend a little time considering the sentence itself. What is it? How does it work? What’s important in it and about it? Here we go.
In January, we looked at the various keys for sentence starters. Now we’re going to venture to the end of the Punctuation Road with sentence enders.
Just as we have starting signals for our sentences, we have sentence enders.
While three marks of punctuation are classic signs for the end of the sentence, we also have two additional punctuation marks that create a “stop and go” situation. The Ellipsis and the Asterisk follow a discussion about the sentence, in form, variety, and length. Watch for those blogs to come in March.
3 Classic End Marks
The period is a simple little dot on the base line > . It shows the end of a complete thought.
The exclamation mark also contains its own period with a straight-line effect above it > !
The question markcontains that little period dot to show the completion of the thought while suspending a mark in the air, as if waiting for more to drop—like the answer > ?
All appear at the end of a sentence to show its stop point.
Most communication is not a single sentence. It is a series of sentences, each of which presents an element of the entire thought process. Within a paragraph, the sentence end marks guide the reader through the development of the idea or concept that is being discussed.
We pause and stop and go on as we read, just as drivers do on the roadways.
The end mark helps the writer and the reader work through the ideas as they build to the writer’s presentation. When writers run on for an entire page without ever stopping a sentence, the reader can feel exhausted and lose track of the development process. The writer may have presented a series of complete thoughts. Without end marks, those thoughts all run together into a mishmash that becomes difficult to understand.
The period is designed to represent the definite end, an emotionless stopping point. Once we are reading, our eyes register the meaning of the period even as they glide on to the next sentence. We see the thought stop, the next start, and we continue on.
Basically, the exclamation mark presents strong emotion or sound.
Exclamations are short, brusque, and intense. They rarely contain both nouns and verbs.
- Not yet!
- What a goal!
Tone and volume by words alone are difficult to convey. The exclamation mark communicates that intensity.
However, the use of the exclamation mark should be limited. Overuse seems like shouting, just as all caps SHOUTS AT THE READER. (There. Didn’t that seem rude?)
In formal communication, shouting should never occur. Formal Communication (business and finance, law and education, medicine and the other fields) is reasoned and logical. It is the mind forming thoughts after the emotions have helped determine our opinion.
In a fictional story, one statement might be shouted, maybe even two. In reality, few people can maintain a constant roar.
The Question Mark is slightly more involved than the period and the exclamation mark.
The nature of a question looks to an answer. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the comma-like look of the suspended element of the ?. The period is certainly evident, to show the end of the question.
That question can be one word, a phrase or fragment, or a complete sentence.
When the question is a phrase or fragment, the answer statement will serve to complete that thought, one part having the base noun and the other the base verb.
In Spanish, an upside-down question mark ¿ opens the question while the ? closes it. (This up-down flipping is also the rule for the exclamation mark). I can see the benefit to opening a question with this signal, especially when no opening question word like “who” or “where” is used.
¿ To form the opening Spanish question mark, click CTRL + ALT + Shift + the question mark key at the same time.
¡ To form the opening exclamation mark, substitute the exclamation key for the question mark key.
The Direct Question demands the question mark. Some Indirect Questions do not.
- John, do you know where the fish are biting?
- When I asked him, John did not know where the fish were biting.
The question has become subordinate rather than standing as a separate element.
Another form of the Indirect Question is the question imbedded inside another question.
- Can you tell me where the restroom is located?
The imbedded question has been called a more polite way to ask a question. Notice that the imbedded question is slightly reworded from the direct “Where is the restroom located?”
- Can you tell me what time it is?
- What time is it?
Well, it’s time for the end of this blog.
With communication as our primary goal, before continuing on with information about our two special end marks, we should talk about the sentence. That will be our focus for the next three blogs: the sentence itself, sentence variety, and sentence length.
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As part of our introduction to Punctuation (New Eyes for Old Codes), we discovered that students need a great understanding of the keyboard and a widely used word processing program.
Last week, we had a quick survey of the options available in MS Word.
This week, we look at keyboarding short-cuts, also known as keyboard commands.
Knowing these short-cuts was once de rigueur for anyone using a keyboard, but tablets and smartphones are driving a few of the more arcane commands back to the hinterlands.
These short-cuts are called keyboard commands because they originated before the mouse did. For long time after the invention of the mouse as a user interface, the keyboard commands still worked. Some are now lost to history.
I love keyboard commands. They allow me to continue typing without having to lift my hand to use the mouse, which is time-consuming. When someone keyboards a LOT, as I do, seconds quickly add up to minutes and minutes over the course of a week become HOURS.
Anyway, here we go.
For people who are only familiar with smartphones, a few bits of advice about the keyboard will help.
Moving Words Around
We use TAB indenting paragraphs. We don’t space over; that creates ragged indentation throughout your document. TAB keeps everything nicely aligned.
Use Alignment or the Shift options in the Paragraph box in HOME if you want to move phrases or blocks of text, such as to center a title or to shift a bulleted list.
Allow the machine to wrap words automatically. This means that you continue typing even when you reach the margin. The application will jump down to the next line at the appropriate time.
Accessing Upper-Case and the Upper Symbols on the Keys
You can use SHIFT to capitalize one letter or a series of letters. Most people only use CAPS LOCK when they want to capitalize a series of words. Access the characters above the numbers and the punctuation marks above other marks by using SHIFT.
The dash is formed on a computer by using two hyphens without a space between them. To get the two hyphens to convert into the joined dash, you must not space between the opening and closing hyphens and its preceding and following words.
NUMLK is Numbers Lock. Click this key to turn on the numbers keypad on the keyboard. Or you can just use the numbers above the letters, which is not affected by NUMLK.
The ARROWS are an easy way to move around on a page. Use the scroll bars or the scroll function on the mouse to move over many pages. Use the Navigation Pane to make huge jumps in a document. Navigation is located in HOME at Editing by clicking Find.
Right-click on the mouse while hovering over a word. A pop-up offers quick options to change the text as well as synonyms or to make a comment.
As you type, if you make an error that the computer program does not automatically correct, a red or green squiggly underline may occur. “Red” stands for spelling error while “green” is for a grammatical error.
Some old keyboard commands still remain; we have lost other shortcuts, like New Document: CTRL N or . Those of us who “grew up” with keyboard commands find them faster than reaching for the mouse.
- Ctrl A will select everything in a document.
- Ctrl C will copy anything selected.
- Ctrl V will paste the selected item wherever the blinking mouse cursor is located on the screen.
- Ctrl P will open the printer window.
- Ctrl Z will undo while Ctrl Y will redo what you just took out.
- Ctrl B or I or U will perform bold, italics or underlining what you have selected.
- Ctrl S will perform a quick save. If you are worried about losing information in a document, use this quick save every five minutes or so, and you will not lose very much.
- CTRL O will open the window to find a document to open.
- CTRL N will immediately open a new document in whatever MS program you are working in.
Take a Picture of your Screen
Hold Ctrl and PrntScr to make a screenshot. In any Word document, you can then paste in the screenshot. Right click the image and select “save as picture” to turn it into an image that you can manipulate (size, crop, tint, etc.) . Screenshot is just as helpful on the laptop as it is on the smartphone.
Accent marks ~
- To create an acute accent mark above a letter, at the same time press Ctrl and the single quotation mark, after which type the letter: é.
- For a grave accent, press simultaneously Ctrl and `, after which type the letter: à.
- This operation will create a tilde, but three things must be pressed simultaneously: Ctrl and Shift and ~ then type the letter: ñ.
- Ctrl and Shift and : will create ï for words like naïve.
- Experiment with other accent marks for letters. Or, go to Insert > Symbols > Symbol to find a selection of letter options.
- Bullets can be changed as well by going to Insert > Symbols > Symbol. In the dropdown menu of the pop-up window for Symbols, you can select Webdings and Wingdings. These symbols usually do not change if you import to other computers or upload to other websites whereas other font symbols may do so.
There are more commands out there and certainly many more shortcuts. For example, we can record what we are doing on a screen.
Explore around. Use Google and search for the instructions of what you want to do. If someone hasn’t written a 10-item instruction list, then there’s bound to be a youtube video.
HowToGeek has a list of the 20 most important keyboarding shortcuts. Go investigate.
Consider the keyboard a challenge. Accept the challenge. And wonder of wonders, soon the keyboard will become your friend (instead of a frustration).
In February, we return to Punctuation Coding with the Enders: the three marks of punctuation that end sentences as well as the ellipsis and the asterisk, with guide us into a detour (a temporary end that allows us to head back to our route).
See you in February!
Last week, as we concluded Function I of Punctuation Coding, we realized an obvious weakness that many students have: keyboarding skills.
In years past, high schools offered keyboarding classes. As more students had access to computers, those classes shifted to the middle school. They are now gradually disappearing–while I think students need keyboarding skills more than ever.
While tablets and smartphones have their places, the laptop and desktop computers are still necessities in the business world. Tablets may get for more sophisticated; smartphones definitely will. However, for long documents, for presentations, nothing is better than the laptop computer for mobility and ease of work.
And to use the laptop well, keyboarding skills are needed. So, here it is ~
Introduction to Basic Keyboarding Information
Serious work requires a serious computer. While smartphones can use Google Docs and stripped-down applications for Word or Powerpoint or similar programs, the best work should be presented using a laptop or a desktop computer to generate the document or file.
School is serious.
Treat your work with the seriousness that it deserves. What is learned in 12+ years of school serves as the foundation for over 50 years of your life.
Most word processing programs—whether PC or Mac, whether from the realm of Microsoft or Apple or Google Docs—have default set-ups for paragraph indents, line spacing, alignment, and margins and more.
Much of what I am going to mention now may be obvious to you, but bear with me for those who are familiar with smartphone apps but not necessarily the stronger apps for laptops and desktop computers.
Google and Apple usually follow what Microsoft has designated. While differences do show up, similarities abound. With Microsoft’s Office programs so ubiquitous, MS Word will guide this information.
The series of options across the top of the application screen, whether using a word processor or a slides application or a spreadsheet, is called the ribbon.
The Ribbon opens up Option Boxes.
The Clipboard box needs only a glance. Clicking the little corner arrow just opens up a window showing your last copied item.
The Font dropdown box allows you to select the size and shape of your letters as well as the ways that you can emphasize certain words, either through B for bold or I for italics or U for underline.
Digression: A Word on Fonts
Most apps default to Arial or Courier fonts, which most people do not want to use. Many people (such as professors in college) might specify a primary font such as Times New Roman.
TNR is preferred over the two defaults: Arial is lacks serif, the little extra line that helps our eyes read the letter. Courier is more widely spaced than TNR, but that spacing means that it unnecessarily takes up extra room on the line.
For many years, I used Comic Sans, Palatino or Papyrus, Century or Georgia, or Lucida Calligraphy or Vivaldi, experimenting with different fonts for different purposes. I prefer Comic Sans to TNR. An old favorite, Black Chancery, which I once used to title documents, is no longer available in Microsoft products.
Many fonts have particular purposes. Fonts with all caps are only intended for Headlines (Heading 1) and should never be used for body text (Normal).
Fonts are downloadable (many times for free or a low cost) from various web sources. Use only TrueType fonts. You will need to download then unzip and then extract the file for it to be used. The download can remain located in your download file in the File Explorer.
Selecting a font can be a distraction. Students usually get excited about selecting font types and wish to try each one.
The only rule for fonts is to select something that is easily read. The font should be uniform throughout the document: for example, use only one font for body text (considered “Normal”). If you wish, you can change a font for each different Style: Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3 and so on can all be different fonts. However, changing fonts can clutter the page for our eyes, especially when headings have different sizes.
A Word on Font Size
Font size is also important, selected through the dropdown beside it. Most documents use TNR in font size 12 for body text, size 14 for headings, and size 16 for chapter titles. These are good increments for Word applications.
For presentation apps, when laying out a slide, the defaults for font types ramp up the font size. Slides are intended to be projected; therefore, the font size must be larger. Should you decide to tinker, then most desktop publishing rules are to work in similar increments, such as 6—for example, the main title might be set at 42, then the main heading will be 36, subheadings at 30, and body text at 24.
Options are also available to color and highlight words. You may tinker with the word art options later.
The Paragraph option sets choices for text placement. Selections for placement are alignment: left, center, right, and justification.
You can choose to place bullet points or numbered points separate from the body text. You can shift bulleted items to the left or right. That bulleted list can be sorted A to Z.
You can click the paragraph symbol and see all formatting options for a text, including page breaks and tabs.
If you insert a table, you can alter the settings for the table’s lines.
Styles are pre-configured formatting options. Notice that different types of Styles are offered. The Normal Style works for body text. Heading 1 and Heading 2 and so on can be designated for chapter titles, main headings, subheadings and more.
You can access each style’s option by right-clicking the particular one and selecting “modify”. Here you make changes to font type and size and color, changes to placement on the page, and more. Caution: Keep your modifications to the document you are working on.
If you are going to generate a Table of Contents for your document, then using Styles makes your life simple. An automatic TOC can be accessed from References in the Ribbon.
The Editing Box is also a Quick Find. If you need to locate an unusual word, click “find” and type in your search. All options will show up in a Navigation pop-up window. Click “results” in the pop-up to see every use of that unusual word.
The Navigation pop-up allows a quick overview of the sections of your document when you select “Headings”. Click a section, and the document will jump to it. The “Pages” option in Navigation gives you a small preview of each page.
Back in the ribbon Editing box, “replace” allows individual or wholesale changes. If you notice that you have misspelled a word in a particular way several times (“esle” for “else”), this function will find and fix the error. Type in the word you need to find, type in the change you want, then select either “replace” or “replace all”. “Select” is available for objects rather than words.
This portion of the Ribbon offers numerous options that can be confusing. For now, on the far left, notice “Page Break” in Pages. This function stops one page and jumps to the next. Now when you insert information, your chapter or section headings that you wanted at the top of a page or your Works Cited page will maintain position. Without “Page Break”, when you back into a document, the text will constantly shift down and down and down.
The Tables box allows you to draw a table with a specific number of columns and rows or use a default template. Tables are helpful charts for basic lists.
Illustrations, Add–ins Media, and Links have obvious functions. The Comments box gives you something like a sticky note attached to a specific portion of the text.
Header & Footer create information, including page numbers, that will appear without change on every page of the document. Usually, your last name followed by the document’s title and the page number will be inserted with the header. The full heading for the document (name, course, instructor, date) will only appear on the first page or the title page. The footer is usually reserved when only page numbers are used.
The Text box was formerly located with drawing objects (replaced by Illustrations) and now has its own location, still in the Insert Ribbon. Symbols should need no explanation.
Skipping to Layout in the Ribbon, we find adjustments for the whole document.
In Page Setup, margins can be changed, with several options offered as well as custom margins available. Orientation needs no explanation. Size, however, does. When you change the size of the document, you are working with the size of the paper that you will print on. Most printer paper is either letter or legal sized. If you are working with photographic paper, this area allows you to change to the appropriate size.
Columns can be dangerous. Long lists are often better when broken into two or three columns. However, before and after the column, you may wish to insert a Section Break, which you can find right beside Columns at “Breaks”. Otherwise, the column will control the body text that follows.
Here is also Indent and Spacing, yet I work with them in the Paragraph box of the Home option on the Ribbon. I find that box allows me to work with more elements at once rather than jumping from one place to another to deal with all of those elements.
If you have added drawn objects (shapes, text boxes, illustrations, etc.), then you may need to work with the Arrange box. The most important element is “Wrap Text”, which allows you to wrap the text around the inserted object or set the object off. If you have a lot of small drawn objects that you want to group, then this is the location of that option, as well as align and rotate and move the object forward and back (as if they were layers over each other).
References, Mailings, & Review
In References is an automatic Table of Contents box as well as a Footnotes box. Footnotes are returning to modern documents after a multi-decade loss to Endnotes and the Bibliography page (or Works Cited page).
As software programs (applications) become more sophisticated, they help students with the tricky research-required citations that many in the past would flub. The MS Word Citations & Bibliography tool box is touted by many students as better than online services.
Mailings is primarily used with Bulk Mailings, such as 25 or more people.
Review should often draw your attention. First is the Proofing box with its spelling and grammar checker, more and more sophisticated with each iteration—but still not as good as a human.
Select Read Aloud, select a word, and in the pop-up window, click the arrow. The sophisticated reader will continue from the selected word to the end. You can change the type of reader in the settings of the pop-up.
The benefit of the Tracking box is not obvious until you share a document with someone who will alter it then send it back which often happens in the business world. You can then accept or reject that person’s changes. In Google Docs, two or more people can simultaneously work on a document, with real-time changes occurring. In school settings, the teacher can view which student made what corrections.
I used to ignore the Ribbon’s View except to find the Ruler.
However, changes have drawn me to it. Seeing your document pages side by side helps when you will publish it (Page Movement). If you work with drawing objects and the like, the gridlines in Show help you see the workable margins you must maintain.
I don’t use the Zoom or Window sections. To enlarge or reduce the screen, I use the slidebar tool at the bottom right of my screen. As for switching between documents, I find it easier and less confusing to access the Taskbar across the bottom of the laptop screen.
Last of all is the first item in the Ribbon, all the way to the left: File. Beyond basic functions like Save and Print is the all-important Save as. If you want to keep various versions of your document, use Save as to change the name of the document to reflect the newest version while keeping the original document: for example, Punx Draft 2.
The other important element is Options. Leave most of this information alone; tinkering is unnecessary. However, in Proofing, ensure that the box for “Show Readability Statistics” is checked. When you run the spelling and grammar checker (located in Review), at the end of the check, a window will pop-up, giving you counts and averages. More importantly, you will see the percentage of passive sentences (a number that should be low) and Flesch Reading Ease and Grade Level.
Readability Statistics in File > Options
The Flesch Reading Ease and Grade Level information helps you learn to write to a particular audience. Informative documents, which people use to learn information, should be easy to read and at one or two grade levels below their current level of education.
Reading for entertainment should be at grade level.
Here’s some background on the Flesch Reading Ease, considered the world standard.
Under File > Options, Readability Statistics is a wonderful gadget that gives the Reading Ease for any document.
Most newspapers and magazines in the United States are written at sixth or ninth grade levels. Fiction documents usually match newspapers and magazines as to reading level.
Consider these authors:
- Cormac McCarthy writes at a 5th grade level. One of his best known works is No Country for Old Men.
- J.K. Rowling = The first Harry Potter book in the series is close to a 6th grade level. The last is close to an 8th grade level.
- Stephen King = primarily writes on a 6th grade level.
- J.R.R. Tolkien = The great Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as my favorite The Hobbit are all written on a 6th grade level..
- John Grisham = 6th.
- Leo Tolstoy = War and Peace is written on an 8th grade level.
- Michael Crichton = of Jurassic Park fame writes close to a 9th grade level. Crichton bases his books on scientific issues like cloning or sabotage photographic evidence or virtual reality. The scientific terms and concepts raise the difficulty level of his writing. Apart from those, however, he is extremely readable.
- The Affordable Care Act = Along with many government documents, such as the Internal Revenue Service brochure and the Medicare brochure that I helped my mother wish, the ACA and others are written on a 12th grade reading level.
- KJV Bible = Just considering the reading level of the KJV Bible can cause controversy. Several websites list a variety of reading levels, from the lowest at a grade level of 5.8 to a high of 12th grade. However, if you’ve ever read through the Bible, you know that many of the books are easier to read than others: Just compare the easily accessible Ecclesiastes to the difficulties of Isaiah.
I don’t remember who first said the following wonderful statement, and the internet failed my search. (Surprise! The internet does NOT have all the answers.)
“It doesn’t take a genius to make something hard. It takes a genius to make something easy.”
Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is a wonderfully rich allegory with symbolic dreams and lyrical passages . . . and is written at a 4th grade reading level.
Quality of writing is not in “big words”. Obfuscation obscures; clarity reveals.
Quality of writing is in approach, perspective, and craft. Remember, we are in writing to communicate.
The next time you wonder if you are “showing off” rather than communicating, find out by checking the reading level.
. ~ . ~ . ~ .
We have more information that introduces you to keyboarding basics. Come back next week!