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Globe Insiders | To Grammar’s House

Making our mark

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Discussions about punctuation needn’t be dull affairs. Consider these breathtaking scenes:

When they arrived, Smith said he and Jones hid on a porch and began to make calls to the person they planned to rob.

(A perpetrator furnishes a play-by-play while carrying out a crime!)

As glass flew and the building’s vinyl siding began to pop off, Smith said people fleeing the building told them others were still inside.

(Smith gives an interview with chaos all around!)

In the future, Smith said the district may offer administrators further training on how to conduct teacher investigations and require additional tracking of complaints.

(Smith has a time machine! And so do we!)

And each of these unlikely scenes is headed for publication unless the copy editor makes a subtle change. For purposes of illustration, we will show it a little less subtly here:

Continue reading below

When they arrived, Smith said, he and Jones hid on a porch and began to make calls to the person they planned to rob.

As glass flew and the building’s vinyl siding began to pop off, Smith said, people fleeing the building told them others were still inside.

In the future, Smith said, the district may offer administrators further training on how to conduct teacher investigations and require additional tracking of complaints.

Yes, all it takes is a second comma. By setting off “Smith said” in each sentence, the copy editor lets the scene unfold seamlessly. When they arrived, they hid. As glass flew, people sounded a warning. In the future, things may change.

The copy editor keeps this indispensable punctuation mark at the ready. The standard size works fine.

Charles F. Mansbach is the Globe’s Page One editor.

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