EGGs and NEGGs

A core principle we were taught at Morningside Academy’s Summer School Institute: whenever you introduce a concept, you must always provide not only examples, but nonexamples, as well, especially what Kent Johnson called “close-in nonexamples.

A close-in nonexample is close but no cigar

That’s what gasstation does herewhen he points out that a lot of people, having learned that colons introduce lists:

So that in the nature of man we find three principle causes of quarrel: first, competition; secondly, diffidence, thirdly, glory. The first maketh men invade for gain; the second for safety; and the third, for reputation.

Thomas Hobbes

. . . proceed to put colons before every list:

So that in the nature of man we find: first, competition; secondly, diffidence, thirdly, glory. The first maketh men invade for gain; the second for safety; and the third, for reputation.

In other words:

I went to the store and I bought supplies for breakfast: eggs, bacon, juice. (RIGHT)

I went to the store and I bought: eggs, bacon, juice. (WRONG)

Gasstation solves the how-to-teach-it-fast issue by simply telling people not to put a colon after a verb. 

Wonderful!

I think this approach would work when teachers crash-tutor standardized language tests. The challenge, tutoring ACT & SAT English, is that you’re trying to cram a not-insignificant amount of material into a student’s head in a very short period of time.

The material itself is easy, but learning it via brute memorization in 6 weeks’ time is not. 

Don’t put a colon after a verb is exactly the kind of super-short, super-efficient rule a student can pick up quickly and hold on to. No need to get into “completers” and direct objects and all the rest of it.

Just: no colons after verbs.

I like!

gasstationwithoutpumps on colons (and a link to his book)

7.12.2 Colons

Colons are also frequently misused, generally by inserting them where no punctuation at all would be best.

The colon is normally used between a noun phrase and a restatement of the noun phrase. A common noun phrase before a colon is the following—consider the following: thing one, thing two, and thing three. This usage is so common that a lot of people try to put colons before every list, which is simply wrong. Note that having the list displayed as bullet points doesn’t change any of the punctuation rules. There are no colons unless you are separating a noun phrase from its restatement.

OK: . . . include the following: a resistor, a capacitor, and a transistor.
No colon: . . . include a resistor, a capacitor, and a transistor.

Don’t use a colon between a verb and its object, nor between a preposition and its object, even if the object is a displayed list or a math formula.

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The book is on electronics, but there is a chapter on writing design reports. That chapter is available in the free sample chapters . . . 

I’ll be updating the book soon (probably December, before the winter courses start in January). People who buy the book get notified of the updates, which are free to purchasers.