Mighty Red Pen

October 22, 2007

Eats quiz and leaves

Filed under: Perilous punctuation — mighty red pen @ 7:51 pm

Hat tip to the Word, where MRP learned of this little quiz from the website of Lynne Truss and her book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves:

The short quiz asks questions that test your ability to correctly use apostrophes and commas. MRP scored 92 percent on the quiz because I sided with the Word on this question:

The next six, on commas, are more complicated. “Stop, or I’ll scream”? The quiz demands the comma, but does it really belong in that short, urgent command? When I check the book, I see the problem: Truss thinks “Stop” is an interjection, like “blimey” or “golly” or “heh-heh.” But it’s not — it’s a verb. And in a short compound sentence like “Stop or I’ll scream,” that comma is absolutely optional.

How did you do?



  1. If she believes it to be an interjection then shouldn’t it, in this case, have been an exclamation mark instead?

    I will cite School House Rock as my reasoning.

    “Interjections (Aw!) show excitement (Darn!) or emotion (Hurray!).
    They’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point, or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.”

    “Stop or I’ll scream” conveys to me both excitement and emotion, it’s not a phrase I would utter halfheartedly.

    Comment by Molie — October 23, 2007 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  2. Who can argue with your expert source, Molie, the Bible (wink wink) of grammar and punctuation? I’d agree with you, but I think I would say “Stop or I’ll scream!” is the whole interjection. Otherwise, it would be “Stop! Or I’ll scream.”

    Comment by mightyredpen — October 24, 2007 @ 7:42 am | Reply

  3. LOL, see I’m thinking it’s more “Stop! Or I’ll scream!” 😉

    Comment by Molie — October 24, 2007 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  4. That song was in my head, too! Molie wins!

    Comment by Helen's Dad — October 31, 2007 @ 11:40 am | Reply

  5. I scored a measly 75% – mostly because this test revealed the fact that I am fine with most apostrophe usage but get stuck on plurals – e.g. “The kittens’ stockings” I think was one example I botched.

    Thanks for the link. I own the book and have been meaning to get to it – no time like the present 🙂

    Comment by A Bull In The China Shop of Life — October 31, 2007 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  6. I guess I’m confused. “The kitten’s coats are all wet.” Means that one kitten has many wet coats. Unless you are talking about actual fur coats and not some personified kitten with a closet of wet coats. “Of course the tickets are all gone” means something different than “Of course, the tickets are all gone,” but aren’t they both valid depending on the intended meaning?

    Comment by craig — November 28, 2007 @ 4:53 pm | Reply

  7. Okay, Craig, I had to go back and take the quiz all over again because I couldn’t remember! Truss was looking for the comma after “of course” but I think your case about not having a comma is a plausible one. I didn’t think her comma after “stop” in “stop or I’ll scream” was necessarily hard and fast, either.

    As for the kittens, I think Truss was looking for an apostrophe after “kittens” as in “the kittens’ coats were wet,” to show that the coats of several kittens were wet.

    Comment by mightyredpen — November 28, 2007 @ 7:40 pm | Reply

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