We’ve collected some common questions from teachers about how to teach grammar and mechanics. The questions and answers about punctuation and capitalization are below.

Commas between Adjectives


Is there a good way to help my students know when to place commas between two or more adjectives?


Display the visual below and review it with the class.

Have students test it with the following examples: 

Rob is a strong, energetic athlete. 

The two calico cats were her pets.

Hyphens in Compound Adjectives


How do I teach students when to use a hyphen in a compound adjective?


When a compound adjective comes before the noun it modifies, you usually do join the adjective with a hyphen. 

Example: Yahira is a full-time English teacher. 

When a compound adjective comes after the noun it modifies, you usually do not join the adjective with a hyphen. 

Example: Yahira teaches full time.

Punctuating Titles


When it comes to writing titles of works in running text, which titles should be italicized and which should be enclosed within quotation marks?


Generally speaking, titles of stand-alone, or whole, works are italicized, while titles of small works or works that are a piece of a larger whole are enclosed within quotation marks. Display this visual:

Students will soon understand which titles to italicize and which to enclose within quotation marks.

Separate and Joint Possession


My students have trouble using punctuation to show joint and separate possession. What can I do to help them?


Teach it mathematically. Write the following phrase on the board:

my mom and dad’s house

Say: Mom and dad are married. Jointly, they own one house. Then write:

my brother’s and sister’s weddings

Say: My brother and sister had two separate weddings. Write on the board the following equations:

1 possession = 1 apostrophe 2 possessions = 2 apostrophes

Repeat with several other phrases.

Spelling Out Numbers


What do you do if a sentence begins with a number? Do you begin the sentence with the numeral or with a word?


Remember the old rule: Every sentence must begin with a capital letter. A numeral is not a letter, so don’t begin a sentence with a numeral. Spell out the number word or revise the sentence so that the number is not used as the first word.

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