Friday, April 10, 2009

PUGS Pointers #19: Commas with Cities and States

PUGS* Pointers
(*Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling)
by Kathy Ide

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling (“PUGS”).


Commas with Cities and States

States, when spelled out or when the older abbreviation format is used, are enclosed in commas following the name of a city. Commas may be omitted with the newer (two capital letters) format.

Example: “Zondervan is in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Moody is based in Chicago, Illinois, but Karen has lived in Bedford CT for years.”

See The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) #15.31 and Associated Press Stylebook p. 235.


back up/backup
back up (verb) means “to move into a position behind” or “to make a copy of.”
“Don’t back up,” the waitress said, balancing the tray of food.
“I back up my computer files every day.”

backup (noun) means “a copy of computer data.”
“I make a backup of my computer files every day.”
backup (adjective) means “serving as a substitute or support.”
“Wendy decided she needed a backup plan.”


Generations of English teachers have taught students certain rules that are either personal preferences or rules that have changed over time. For example:

Never use the word hopefully in place of “It is hoped” or “I/we hope.”
Many writers have been upbraided in recent years for using what is sometimes considered the colloquial usage of this word. The argument is that hopefully means “in a hopeful manner.” Therefore, a sentence like “Hopefully this will clear things up” could only mean “This will clear things up in a hopeful manner.”

However, according to the latest edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, hopefully has two meanings. #1 is “in a hopeful manner.” #2 is “It is hoped; I hope; we hope.” The example given is “Hopefully the rain will end soon.”

Webster’s further explains that this second definition of hopefully is in a class of adverbs known as disjuncts. Disjuncts are a way for the author (or speaker) to comment directly to the reader (or hearer) based on the content of the sentence. Many other adverbs (interestingly, frankly, clearly, luckily, unfortunately) are similarly used. Webster’s states that the second definition of hopefully is “entirely standard.”


lightening (verb) means “becoming lighter,” “illuminating, shining, brightening,” “making something brighter,” or “reducing in weight or quantity.” Examples:
“The acceptance went a long way toward lightening Veronica’s mood.”
“Sybil’s boss refused to consider lightening her duties after the accident.”

lightning (noun/adjective) refers to the flash of light in the sky that usually accompanies thunder.
“The lightning bolt lit up the night sky for an instant.”


PUGS Pointers are based on the current industry-standard references in the United States.

For books:
The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition, © 2003)
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, © 2003)

For articles:
The Associated Press Stylebook (© 2004)
Webster’s New World College Dictionary (© 2002)

Many publishing houses have their own in-house style guides that may differ in some aspects from the standard references. However, unless you’re writing exclusively for one particular publisher, it’s best to follow the standard references and let the in-house proofreaders adjust to house style.

For more PUGS Pointers, see Kathy Ide’s Web site. Or get her book Polishing the PUGS, available here.


Kathy Ide has been writing for publication since 1988. She has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for aspiring writers, established authors, commercial book publishers, subsidy publishers, and magazines. Her services include proofreading, copyediting, substantive/content editing, coauthoring, ghostwriting, and mentoring/coaching. She also speaks at writers conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network and the Christian Editor Network. To find out more, please visit Kathy's Web site.

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