ENGLISH ONLY

1 QUESTION MARKS OR NOT AT THE END OF REQUESTS

❚ The aim with requests is not to make them sound like orders. My advice would be to use a question mark at the end of all short requests written in a question form, e.g.

Could you get back to me as soon as you can?
Would you mind letting Carl know?

Alternatively you could add the word please and omit the question mark, e.g. Would you mind letting Carl know, please.

❚ With a longer, more complex ‘request question’, there is a stronger argument for not using a question mark, perhaps because the sense of its being a question has disappeared by the end. In the sentence below, the absence of a question mark seems fine to me as long as, once more, the word ‘please’ is included: Please could you remind students that if they don’t yet have an ID card, they should bring along an alternative form of identification, such as a passport.

 
2 THE RULES FOR COMMAS

❚ There’s a lot to be said about commas, but the rules below are the main ones.

a) When to use a comma:

– to separate items in a list: The play completed a very successful tour of Hungary, Bulgaria(,) and Romania.
– to introduce direct speech: Clara said, “Where will we find a chemist’s that’s open at this time of night?”
– in numbers, after thousands and millions: 550,000
– to separate a question tag from the rest of the sentence: It’s a long way to go, isn’t it?
– in clauses with participles, and with non-defining relative clauses: Stevenson plc lost the contract, leading to a sharp downturn in their business; Sebastian Coe, who won four Olympic medals, was appointed chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.
– after clauses beginning with connectors such as when, although and if: Although the fire caused no fatalities, the damage to the factory was extensive.
– with the words and phrases such as of course, for example and namely: There were, for example, two sightings of the bird in 2011 in the Scottish Highlands.

– to give additional, useful information (in a similar way to brackets):The journalist who investigated the incident, Mike Sams, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The oil tanker ran aground on Taransay, an island in the Hebrides.

b) When not to use a comma:

– before ‘that’ in a clause: The CEO announced that the merger would take place in October.
– between separate sentences; use a full stop, semi-colon or conjunction instead: Performance dates have been changed, you can find the new ones on the website. Performance dates have been changed, but you can find the new ones on the website.
– to join two sentences together using the adverbs consequently, however, therefore and moreover: The UK has built a number of major new roads, however it is the train system that really requires additional investment.
The UK has built a number of major new roads. It is the train system, however, that really requiresMadditional investment.

 
3 APOSTROPHES

a) With personal names ending in -s
– With first names, it’s much more common these days to add ’s: Lucas’s house, Frances’s new job
This reflects the /iz/ that we add to the pronunciation of the name.
– With surnames, it’s still common to add ’s: Keynes’s economic policies

– but you will also find the apostrophe on its own, particularly in cultural references: Ulysses’ journeys, Keats’ poetry

b) My parents bedroom or My parents’ bedroom
It should be my parents’ bedroom (or my parent’s bedroom if there’s only one parent). I can’t think of any
normal context where my parents bedroom would be correct.

c )A Beatles record, a Beatles’ record or a record of the Beatles
A Beatles record is the normal usage, where the word Beatles is being used as an adjective to describe the record. In the same way, you would say a Rolling Stones album or a Hitchcock film. A record by the Beatles would be another way of saying a Beatles record. If you want to use Beatles with an apostrophe, it would be possible in a sentence such as The Beatles’ first tour of America took place in 1966.

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