Take the hesitation out of using a comma

“I hate commas; it seems so random the way they are used.”
“It is so hard to know when to use the comma.”
These are common complaints that I’ve heard about this most ubiquitous of punctuation marks.

The comma simply indicates a pause in speech, so if you take a breath in your mind as you read something, put a comma there. In fact, it all started with the oral tradition, when information was passed down by word of mouth. Later, a way was found to immortalize the spoken word. Scribes used symbols to create written words, but with no spaces or definition between each word. Punctuation evolved on the heels of the written word, as a way to sort out the confusion of trying to read something aloud in a way that is easy for the listener to understand and the reader to interpret.

Here are the Basic Ways to Use the Comma

  1. Use it to bring two thoughts or sentences together.
    I love ice cream, there is always some in my fridge.
  2. Use it to break up a sentence that runs on and on. It is best to break up that sentence into separate clauses and use a comma after each clause.
    So, instead of this:
    The results of the investigation were inconclusive more time was needed to analyze the evidence and the victim died before he could be questioned.
    Write this:
    The results of the investigation were inconclusive, more time was needed to analyze the evidence, and the victim died before he could be questioned.
  3. Use it to define a list.
    Either this:
    The colors of the flag are red, blue, and white. (serial comma, with comma before and—my personal favorite, since it prevents ambiguity)
    or this:
    The colors of the flag are red, blue and white. (Associated Press style, with no comma before and)

Once you get into this rhythm of using the comma, you can hardly go wrong.

Let me help you put your best word forward on your documents, books, and theses. Go to my website or send me e-mail at dmariemarks.com. Then, let’s talk!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Simple Shortcuts to Make Work Easier

Use shortcuts and spend less time composing in Microsoft Word and Excel. Some of them you already know. Start using the ones you do not know. Substitute command for ctrl on the Mac.

Shortcuts without using your mouse:

Move right tab
Move left Tab + shift
Move down enter
Move up Enter + shift
Display print menu Ctrl + p
Save Ctrl + s
Create a new worksheet Ctrl + n
Undo an action Ctrl + z
Redo Ctrl + y
Cut Ctrl + x
Copy Ctrl + c
Paste Ctrl + v
Switch between open applications/files Alt + tab
Italics Ctrl + i

Style Options:

Bold Ctrl+2 or Ctrl + b
Italic Ctrl+3
Underline Ctrl+4
Strikethrough Ctrl+5
Font drop-down list Shift+Ctrl+F
Hide rows Ctrl+9
Hile columns Ctrl+0
Unhide rows Ctrl+Shift+
Unhide columns Ctrl+Shift+
Select line Shift + 3 clicks
Select files Shift + click

Do you have any favorite shortcuts you love to use? Tell me about them. I will share them in the near future.

Let me help you put your best word forward. Give me a shout at dmariemarks@gmail.com; and take a look at my website.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When a Noun Is Possessive…

i-dated-an-apostrophe-once-it-was-too-possessive-29934975The possessive: Joe’s heart belongs to me.
One of the main functions of the apostrophe is to indicate the possessive.

Mastering the possessive is often a slippery proposition for many writers. Rules for using the apostrophe tend to get murky and your final choices require review before you send your writing on its way to your readers. Be mindful of these basic rules as you review your work.

Basics—singular and plural

  • If the word is singular, add ’s to make the word possessive
    So: Mina’s jewelry (the jewelry that belongs to Mina) was stolen from her purse.
  • Add ’s, even when the word ends in ‘s
    So: Amos’s book is in the kitchen.
    –UPS’s trucks are brown.
  • If the word is plural and ends in s, just add the apostrophe after the
    So: The suspects’ car was parked on the lawn.
  • If the word is plural and does not end in s, add ’s.
    So: The children’s bus arrives at 8 every morning.
    –The United States’ representative at the games.

Special Use—Two or more nouns and the possessive

Ask yourself, “If the item belongs to two or more people, is shared among them or is it separate?”

  • Shared: Only the final noun takes the possessive.
    So: My mother and father’s business is doing well.
    –WMATA operates Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia’s commuter rail system.
    –Peter, Ty, and Jamal’s room is upstairs.
  • Separate: Each noun takes the possessive.
    So: My mother’s and father’s cars are in the garage.
    Zoya’s and Jason’s parents attended the school concert.
    The hamster’s and the mouse’s food is in the corner of the cage

Let me help you put your best word forward. Contact dmariemarks@gmail.com or visit editsbymarks.com.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hyphenate like a boss

Automatic hyphenation is a feature of all word processing programs used today. When this feature is on, the program consults its own dictionary to select word breaks. However, follow these tips to present a well-written, credible document.


After completing your draft of a report or business correspondence, your review should include proofreading with the following in mind:

  • A hyphen may appear at the end of no more than two consecutive lines.
  • The last word in a paragraph should not be broken. If the break is unavoidable, then carry the entire word to the next line.

Rules for breaking words

  • Keep proper names together on the same line; and do not separate a person’s initials or an abbreviated title or part of a name (such as , Dr., III, or Jr).
    The whole name should be on the same line.
  • Short words (those of five letters or fewer) should not be broken.
  • When possible, divide words after prefixes and at the natural breaking point for solid words (pre-cursor, lumber-yard, hand-kerchief).
  • Hyphenated words should be broken only at the hyphen.
  • Always check the dictionary to verify if a compound word should be hyphenated.
  • Words ending in “ing” are divided on the base word (sing-ing, writ-ing), except when the final consonant is doubled to form a participle
    (refer-ring, admit-ting).

Let me help you put your best word forward.
Link me at dmariemarks@gmail.com and check out my website editsbymarks.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Museum for Lovers of Words? This I’ve Got to See!

A new museum (yes, another one) is coming to Washington, D.C. and will open December 2019. It promises to immerse visitors in the wonders and rewards of words and language arts. It’s called Planet Word. And, its mission is to inspire a love of language in all its forms. Here’s what it has to offer, according to the website.

We’ll take our guests on an immersive journey that will awaken a love of language that will last a lifetime! We’ll show every visitor the fun of words and language everywhere they look – from the menu in the café to the walls in the bathrooms to the floors and the stairwells. And by welcoming readers of all ages and at all language levels, including non-English speakers, Planet Word is truly for everyone.

This is a welcome treat to those of us who love language and reading, and it just might encourage those who are not fond of language to get on board. It purports to promote the power of words and the adage that the pen is more powerful than the sword.

You will find Planet Word at 1300 I Street, NW, Washington, D.C. (in the old Franklin School building). It is a must-see destination for me and I will share my experience with you after I check it out. In the meantime, explore the website along with me here. #PlanetWordDC.

Let me help you put your best word forward–contact dmariemarks@gmail.com or editsbymarks.com.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are Writers Who Use Abbreviations Just Lazy?


An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase. An acronym is one type of abbreviation that uses the initial letters of a group of words. Abbreviations and acronyms have been used ever since man started writing, and every language uses them. They can represent either an understanding of the word or laziness. Here are some pointers for those who want to use abbreviations in their writing.

  • First, ask yourself if your readers will really understand your message. If not, you should spell out your abbreviation the first time you use it in your document, and about every five times you use the abbreviation after that if it is a report or a book.
  • It is shorter and easier to use abbreviations when you are addressing a very specific audience (e.g., abbreviations that are pervasive in the literature of a specialized field like psychotherapy).
  • Abbreviations are easy to use when writing to your peeps and BFFs.
  • Abbreviations can be acceptable if they are more popular than the full name (e.g., FBI, CIA, FAQ, Scuba, NATO, DNA, IQ). However, some abbreviations can stand for more than the more popular usage. For example, NATO usually stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. However, it has also been used to represent North African Theater of Operations and National Association of Theatre Owners, Inc., among others. Moreover, ASAP usually means as soon as possible. However, it has been used to represent Army Substance Abuse Program and Aerospace Safety Advisory Pane, among others. So, it pays to define your abbreviation at first mention, if it does not have the popular meaning.
  • Abbreviations can be acceptable when you have only a small amount of space to work with in a publication.

Avoid using abbreviations in fiction writing. You may think it is okay to be casual because it is fiction, but your readers may get confused and give up trying to get through your story.

It comes down to knowing your audience—the wider your audience, the less pervasive your use of abbreviations should be.

For help in putting your best word forward, e-mail dmariemarks@gmail.com.

IMG_1623 (1)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sympathy or Empathy: Finding a Way to Understanding and Healing

Sympathy means feeling sorry for someone, feeling pity for their circumstance, enough to send them a condolence card and some flowers. If someone’s house burns down, you feel sympathy for the person and their family and this may move you to let them stay in your house until they can get back on their feet. I felt sympathy for the flood victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria last year, in Houston, Texas, the northeastern Caribbean, and Puerto Rico; this led me to donate to the Red Cross.

Empathy is a whole other concept. It is the ability to understand what someone is experiencing; knowing what their thoughts and emotions are like, from one’s own walk or experience. I have empathy for someone who just lost their father because I recently lost mine. I share their experience. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I empathize.

Psychology Today offers this succinct definition:

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You try to imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/empathy)

Empathy doesn’t just mean “putting yourself in another person’s shoes.” Empathy is knowing what another person has been through by getting intimate and walking through their horrors or joys with them:
Sit down; have a cup of tea; look through my pictures; meet my family; feel the vibes in my house, in my neighborhood, among my people. Come back tomorrow for more, because it takes time to understand why we are the way we are.

I have grown to empathize with the people who survived the Holocaust in Europe and the genocide in Rwanda. Remembering and memorializing the intimate details of those atrocities, immortalized through museums and film and stories that last through generations, is what builds empathy (apart from personal experience). Empathy leads us to remember the pain and to search our hearts for peace, shalom (Jews), amahoro (Rwandans).

In my quest to fully understand the origins of the pain that has been passed down to me (and my children) because of my race, I am compelled to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Blacks terrorized by violence, by lynching, by the humiliation of racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color today who are burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence (https://eji.org/national-lynching-memorial).

As a nation, we are only as strong as our weakest link. We must move on from sympathy and end the silence and the sugar-coating and misunderstanding surrounding these injustices in order to heal and be whole. The struggles of Black Americans were embellished in recent history with pervasive lynching and demoralizing racist White supremacy culture. And, even more recently, the struggle screamed at us when two Black men were arrested and detained by police for simply waiting for a friend (without making a purchase) in a Philadelphia Starbucks coffee shop.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is set on six acres in Montgomery, Alabama. It uses sculpture, art, and design to contextualize racial terror. It is a tool to help ALL citizens move past sympathy and develop empathy enough to be able to join the Jews and the Rwandans in saying, emphatically, “Never again!”

It’s worth our time and effort to visit soon.




Let me help you put your best word forward. Contact donna@dmarks.com and visit editsbymarks.com.

Posted in general | Leave a comment