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Mike’s Meanderings

By Staff | Sep 11, 2008

National Punctuation Day is Sept. 24.

Now you might wonder why I chose this topic for a column. Well, I thought of a couple good reasons.

Please read the following, an actual Associated Press story from about a year ago:

SIOUX CITY (AP) – A high school football player ingested drugs before boarding a team bus for Council Bluffs, where he collapsed before a game, a school district official said.

The player, who hasn’t been identified, took a combination of three unknown drugs on Oct. 5, then collapsed from an apparent drug overdose before North High School’s game against Council Bluffs’ Abraham Lincoln High School, said schools Superintendent Larry Williams.

The player is getting drug dependency treatment in Sioux City, Williams said.

Three coaches were stationed from front to rear in the bus but didn’t see anything unusual.

Now was this a high school football player, meaning a player enrolled in high school rather than college or in the pros, or was he a HIGH school football player who was high because he had ingested drugs.

I asked Iowa Associated Press Bureau Chief Carol Riha Wednesday about the AP’s policy to not hyphenate high school when it is used as a compound modifier and she said that is an AP convention. (By the way, the AP is not alone. I can think of at least one college grammar text that has the same recommendation). The American Heritage College Dictionary, however, does make a distinction between high school as a noun and high-school as a compound modifier

Our newsroom has debated this topic, and depending on the writer, you see either “high school” or “high-school” when the term is used as a compound modifier.

Another issue is AP’s tendency to not use a comma before the coordinating conjunction at the end of the series. Riha agreed that the example, “The defendant was tried, convicted and sentenced” could prove confusing as to whether two or three actions have occurred.

The whole point of this is that even professional writers do not agree on punctuation.

It’s enough to drive you !3@***! crazy.