If a will stated, “The inheritance will be divided equally between Tammy, Vicki and Mary,” do you realize that Tammy would be entitled to half of the money, and that Vicki and Mari would each get a fourth? Why not equal thirds? Because the word between indicates that the inheritance is to be split into two parts. For more than two, among would be appropriate. Since there’s no comma between Vicki and Mary, those two heirs would have to split one half between themselves. This may not be what the writer of the will intended. But grammatically, that’s what this sentence indicates.
Don’t cause PUGS errors to create miscommunication between you and your reader.
PUNCTUATION TIP Serial Commas
In a series of three or more elements, separate the elements with commas.
FOR BOOKS, when a conjunction (and, for, or, nor, etc.) joins the last two elements in a series, always use a comma before the conjunction.
Example: “Frank, Greg, and Ken argued over whether to give their wives copy paper, printing cartridges, or writers conference tuition for their birthdays.”
FOR ARTICLES, leave out the comma before and (or another conjunction) in a series, unless doing so would cause confusion or ambiguity.
USAGE TIP a while/awhile
a while (noun) means “a period of time.”
“Marilynn spent a while editing her manuscript.”
awhile (adverb) means “for a period of time.”
(NOTE: for is part of the meaning.)
“Mallory asked me to stay awhile.”
Rule of thumb: If you’ve got a preposition before awhile, split it into two words.
GRAMMAR TIP as vs. like
Use as when comparing phrases and clauses that contain a verb.
“Jeanie proofreads her work carefully as she should.”
Use like to compare nouns and pronouns.
“Tracey writes like a pro.”
barbed wire (not barb wire)
iced tea (not ice tea)
Submitted by Kathy Ide, founder and director of the Christian Editor Network.
For more tips on Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling (“PUGS”), and reasons it’s important for writers to polish their PUGS, see the Polishing the PUGS page on my website.