Super Grammar: May 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Quotation Marks

The Quotation Marks are members of the Super Symbols (A.K.A. punctuation), and as the guardians of direct quotes, our heroes are sworn to protect and preserve the accuracy, correctness, and integrity of any text that is in their care.

Quotation marks are punctuation symbols that signal the beginning and ending of a direct quote.  Direct quotes repeat what someone else has written or said.  Here’s an example: The evil villain said, “I will annihilate you.”  The start quotation mark (“) signals the beginning of the quote, and the end quotation mark (”) signals the ending of the quote.  And, after seeing the quotation marks, we all know, word for word, exactly what the evil villain said: I will annihilate you.

Now keep in mind, good citizen, that when you quote someone, you’re responsible for repeating exactly what that person actually wrote or said—honest and true—and word for word.  This is a high standard to live up to, but being honest, truthful, and correct is always something worth fighting for.  And in the end, your sentences, and your readers, will thank you for it.

Of course, all this talk of truth isn’t to say that The Quotation Marks don’t have a sense of humor, far from it.  You see, these two characters have a second power that lets them add some pretty witty (and sometimes biting) remarks into our sentences.  It’s called The Power of Ironic Quotes, and this power allows The Quotation Marks to ironically twist the meaning of a word (or words) into the opposite of what they truly mean.  Ironic quotation marks are most often used when kidding, joking, or poking fun at something.

Here’s an example: Of course I’ll “surrender” my weapon.  At first glance, it looks like this villain is willing to give up his weapon, but not so fast!  The word—“surrender”—has ironic quotation marks around it, and these quotation marks are meant to imply that the villain is using this word ironically (he really means the opposite: he will not surrender his weapon).  The Power of Ironic Quotes is a sneaky power, but when it’s used correctly, it can really add some “serious” fun into your sentences.

And now, good citizen, you know both sides of our two heroes, The Quotation Marks.  They’re honorable, faithful, and true to their word, except when they’re senses of humor get the better of them.  Though, truth be told, even when they’re being ironic, these two heroes are still being true to themselves, and true to their form—and you can quote me on that.

  • The Power of Direct Quotes
  • The Power of Ironic Quotes

    This power allows The Quotation Marks to repeat (quote) what someone else has written or said, word for word.  

    Captain Cliché said, “You’ll never get away with this."

    quotation marks: signaling a direct quote

    “Block the exits,” the chief commanded, “and surround the building.” 

    quotation marks: signaling a direct quote 

    “Prepare for battle!” she exclaimed. 

    quotation marks: signaling a direct quote 

    This power allows The Quotation Marks to ironically twist words into the opposite of what they truly mean. 

    This criminal “genius” forgot about the alarm. 

    ironic quotes: meaning that this criminal is no genius.

    I think I’ll “borrow” this diamond. 

    ironic quotes: meaning that he’s not really borrowing. 

    Your “foolproof” plan has failed again. 

    ironic quotes: meaning that the plan was not foolproof.

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    The Parentheses

    Just between us, The Parentheses are the very best at sneaking secret messages into your sentences (pretty cool, right?). 
    These super stealthy punctuation symbols, The Parentheses, have the power to sneak secret messages into your unsuspecting sentences.  Their shadowy operations might make them appear to be rule-breakers, but in actuality, their extra level of concealed communication (when used correctly) only adds to the overall effectiveness of our sentences.  

    Here’s how they work: the first parenthesis shields the front end of the secret message, and the second parenthesis closes off the back end.  Together, they create a covert barrier (like a cloaking device) that, both, hides the secret message away from the rest of the sentence and simultaneously keeps it visible to the reader (that’s you).  This way, the secret message never interferes with the structure of the sentence, but it still allows the reader to receive the hidden communication.  

    This ability to infiltrate sentences with their parenthetical notes makes The Parentheses a strong and strategic addition to the Super Symbols Super-Team.  With their punctuation powers, we can add secret messages of various sizes (including: single words, phrases, or even entire sentences), and we can add them to various places within our sentences, too (such as: the beginning, middle, or end)

    Just make sure to keep this one thing in mind. The Parentheses are a team, so always keep them paired together.  If you don’t—you’ll totally blow their cover. (And that would really suck.)

    The Parentheses have the power to sneak secret messages into your sentences. 

    • add clarification
    • add useful information
    • add commentary



    He’s robbed every bank in the country (US).

    Parenthetical note: adding clarification

    I have traveled one lightyear (about 6 trillion miles) to be here.

    Parenthetical note: adding useful information


    That missile must be stopped (no matter the cost).

    Parenthetical note: adding commentary


    You’re an evil tyrant! (And you smell bad, too.)

    Parenthetical note: adding commentary (sometimes very personal)

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    The Dash

    Usually, punctuation symbols are not meant to be overly flashy characters, but in the case of this eye-catching heroine—The Dash—flashy is good.
    The Dash is more than just glitz and sparkle, though.  She plays a very pivotal and functional role in your sentences by standing in for her Super Symbols punctuation teammates: The Comma, The semicolon, The Colon, and The Parentheses.  The Dash only stands in for them whenever a sentence calls for the extra emphasis that only she can deliver.  

    Technically, a dash, whenever used to emphasize a part of a sentence, is called an em dash because her symbol (—) is the length of a capital letter M (em).  This long length gives her symbol the super striking character it needs to set off a segment of a sentence with style—and power! 

    So, the next time one of your sentences needs to be empowered with some extra flair—remember The Dash.

    The Dash has the power to take the place of (more subtle) punctuation symbols, like: commas, semi-colons, colons, and parentheses.  She does this whenever a sentence calls for extra emphasis.  

    • In place of commas
    • In place of semicolons
    • In place of colons
    • In place of parentheses



    Surrender your weapons—now!

    The em dash: in place of a comma


    His weakness—fire—is my strength.

    The em dash: in place of commas


    I will strike—you will fall.

    The em dash: in place of semicolons


    I only want what’s mine—money, power, and obedience.

    The em dash: in place of colons


    The aliens—no big surprise—had the technological advantage.

    The em dash: in place of parentheses

    Although the Dash is a very appealing punctuation mark, she should be used sparingly so that she doesn’t become weak.  The more you use The Dash in a consecutive series of sentences, the weaker and less effective she becomes.

    It can be very tempting to always use an em dash in your sentences, but remember, it’s the better part of valor if you don’t. 

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    The Hyphen

    (Here’s another one of our latest character designs.  We had a lot of fun with this character, especially with his hair design.  We wound up using a lot more hair gel than we thought we’d need, but in the end, it was well worth it.)

    * * *

    All words have the power to communicate their own specific meaning, but very often, when you need to communicate a larger, more complex meaning—one word alone just won’t cut it.  That’s when you need the power of The Hyphen on your side.   

    --> -->This punctuation superhero has the power to join two or more words together into a single, one-of-a-kind, supercharged word.  Thanks to The Hyphen, we can use extraordinary words and expressions like sub-zero, outer-space, and cloak-and-dagger in our sentences.  And although joining words together is by far his most impressive power, The Hyphen is also capable of showing the connection between the two parts of the same word which have been separated by a line break in a sentence.

    The Hyphen has the power to join two or more words together, creating a new word or expression with a powerful, combined meaning.  The Hyphen can also show a connection between the two parts of a word which have been separated at a line break.

    • Two or more words that form a new word or expression
    • Adding prefixes
    • Compound numbers
    • Spelled-out fractions
    • To show a connection between the two parts of a word at a line break   


    Her powers are mind-numbing!

    mind-numbing: two or more words that form a new word

    We’ll have to fight them back-to-back.

    back-to-back: two or more words that form a new expression


    My anti-gravity boots are working just fine.

    anti-gravity: adding prefixes


    I’ve broken out of prison twenty-six times. 

    twenty-six: compound numbers

    My body is three-quarters robotic.

    three-quarters: spelling-out fractions


    If we don’t shut down the power to the experi-
    mental reactor, we will all be annihilated.

    experi-mental: to show a connection at a line break

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    The Apostrophe

    -->The Apostrophe is a Super Symbols Team member who is really packed with power.  In fact, this hero has three awesome powers all rolled up into his one very amazing punctuation mark.
    As you can imagine, keeping track of three powers is a lot of hard work, but don’t worry.  Our hero, The Apostrophe, is super tough and super organized, too.  

    Since the placement of an apostrophe can change the very meaning of a word, The Apostrophe uses a specific set of rules that he diligently follows down to the letter.  These rules assist him in making sure that he’s using each of his three different powers effectively and correctly.  Learn these rules; commit them to heart; and you too can possess the apostrophe’s amazing punctuation power—times three!

    The Apostrophe’s three powers are: The Power of Contraction, The Power of Omission, and The Power of Possession.  This powerhouse of punctuation uses his first two powers to help keep our sentences streamlined and efficient, and his third power helps to keep us informed about ownership. 

    • The Power of Contraction
    • The Power of Omission
    • The Power of Possession

    The Apostrophe has The Power of Contraction.  He uses this power to contract (squeeze together) two separate words into one single, shorter, efficient word. 

    Words like: I’m  (I am), you’re  (you are), they’d (they would), we’ll  (we will), and don’t  (do not) are all contractions.  The apostrophe symbol shows that the word is a contraction, and it also stays to represent the letters that are no longer visible. 



    Where's my grappling hook?

    contraction: Where’s = Where is

    He's levitating the building.

    contraction: He's = He is


    You shouldn’t touch plutonium.

    contraction: shouldn’t = should not

    The Apostrophe has The Power of Omission.  He uses this power to omit (remove or leave out) part of a word to help make it shorter and quicker to say. 

    The Apostrophe’s Power of Omission is very similar to his Power of Contraction, except that instead of affecting two words by squeezing them together; he’s only affecting a single word by removing a part of it to make it shorter.  The apostrophe symbol shows that part of the word has been omitted, and it also stays to represent the letters that are no longer visible. 

    Keep in mind, however, that The Apostrophe’s power of Omission is considered a very casual form of writing (slang), and it should be avoided in formal writing.



    I’m goin’ after him!

    omission: goin’ = going

    That ‘gator is gigantic.

    omission: ‘gators = alligators


    Prepare for a world o’ hurt!

    contraction: o’ = of

    The Apostrophe has The Power of Possession.  He uses this power to allow single nouns and plural nouns to show possession (ownership).  

    This is an important and useful power because it allows us to show and talk about the relationships between ourselves and other people (I'm Frog-man's sidekick.), as well as the things that belong to each of us (Kitty-Kat's claws are deadly.).  

    • Possession for Single Nouns
    • Possession for Plural Nouns

    To show that a single noun is in the possessive form, add an‘s.  (Like this: Hero’s)



    The creature’s breathe is horrible.

    The rocket’s thrusters are jammed.


    Turtle-man’s shell is bullet proof.

    For single nouns that already end in s (do the same thing), add ‘s.


    The Mantis’s fighting style is tough to beat.

    The Boss’s plans always work.


    The Killer Cactus’s needles are deadly.

    A lot of plural nouns are already going to end with the letter s (because it’s the letter s that is making them plural in the first place,) so for these words, add the apostrophe after the letter s.  (Like this: Heroes)



    His fists’ knuckles are like iron.

    The thieves’ loot was left behind.


    The scientists’ creation was out of control.

    For plural nouns that do not end in s, add ‘s.


    He is the people’s hero.

    The fungi’s spores are toxic.


    The children’s gratitude was his reward.