PUGS Pointers #2

Here are more of my “PUGS Pointers”–another reason to polish your “PUGS” (avoiding miscommunication) plus tips on punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling.

Ever wonder why you sometimes see a comma after “and” or “or” in a series of three or more, and sometimes you don’t? You’ll find out why here!

These are not based on my personal opinions, or what I’ve seen most often, or what I remember my English teaching saying (which, quite frankly, is practically nothing!). This is taken directly from the publishing industry’s standard references.


PUGS errors can cause miscommunication.
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.


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. (Per The Chicago Manual of Style.)

Example: “Frank, Greg, and Ken argued over whether to give their wives copy paper, printing cartridges, or writers conference tuition for their birthdays.”

, leave out the comma before and (or another conjunction) in a series, unless doing so would cause confusion or ambiguity. (See The Associated Press Stylebook.)


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.


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)