However, we just had a presentation on punctuation today in my Writing in Neuroscience class. And when I say I'm horrified I mean that I just discovered that I have been using my favorite punctuation mark (the em dash) incorrectly. Furthermore, I was shocked to realize that I do not actually know everything there is to know about commas.
"According to most American sources (e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style) and to some British sources (e.g., The Oxford Guide to Style), an em dash should always be set closed (not surrounded by spaces)."
Um, I have always surrounded my em dashes with spaces. Apparently, this is wrong. Take, for instance, a line from a previous entry:
All four of us jumped sky high — Mom accidentally punched Dad in the face and inadvertently dropped baby's feet into the pile of poop that was suddenly there.
When, really, if I were punctuatorily correct, it would read:
All four of us jumped sky high—Mom accidentally punched Dad in the face and inadvertently dropped baby's feet into the pile of poop that was suddenly there.
Furthermore, I have been occasionally been using hyphens in place of en dashes. I may or may not cry.
Here we come to a comma shocker.
Supposedly the following two sentences are incorrect:
December 19, 2002 was the day I had my spinal fusion surgery. Phoenix, Arizona is the place where it occurred.
Do you know why those are wrong? Are you stumped, as I was?
Here are the supposedly correct methods of punctuating those sentences:
December 19, 2002, was the day I had my spinal fusion surgery. Phoenix, Arizona, is the place where it occurred.
That just looks and feels so... so... wrong to me. However, the style manuals all assure that this is correct. The year and the state are to be treated as parenthetical. Because they are "nonessential elements" in their own special way... You could just remove 2002 and Arizona from those sentences altogether.
Sick. I am no longer the grammar/punctuation champ I thought I was.