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Photos from 1982 KMA Yearbook

We have a comforter in our home that is over 35 years old. I know that for a fact because this comforter was a gift we received at a baby shower in 1985 when Barbara was pregnant for our first child, Maria.

This three-color comforter is off white, gray, and burgundy and is big enough to easily cover a king-size bed. Through the years, we have used that comforter on our bed during the cold winter months in upstate New York. We have also used it in our guest bedroom. …


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Graphic by Jim LaBate

Recently, my wife and I attended a community festival, and we enjoyed sampling the food at the various booths. One vendor in particular caught my attention because his main sign read, “Tom’s Snack Shack,” and below that professional sign, Tom had handwritten the following small sign for that particular event: “Today were selling deep fried cookie’s.”

That big, printed sign and that small, scribbled sign both intrigued me because they highlighted the basic thought to keep in mind as you decide when to use apostrophes in your writing; sometimes, you need them, and sometimes, you don’t.

Apostrophes needed. Basically, you…


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When our two daughters, Maria and Katrina, were about nine and seven years old, they took gymnastics classes at a studio about 20 minutes from our home. As we drove to that studio each week, we passed a large, metal building with a sign out front that read “Hot Tub Factory.” As we passed the sign, I always asked the girls the same question: “Is that a ‘Hot, Tub Factory?’ or is it a ‘Hot-Tub Factory?’”

Initially, the girls showed some interest in the distinction between the two options, but after a while, they tired of my question and simply…


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Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Tony: Have you ever thought about using dashes in your writing?

Frank: Wh — Wh — What did you say?

Tony: Have you ever thought about using dashes in your writing?

Frank: I don’t give a — about writing.

Tony: Well, you should. You’re smart — smart enough to use proper punctuation.

Frank: I hate —

Tony: Don’t tell me what you hate.

Are you one of those people, like Frank in the conversation above, who hates punctuation and couldn’t care less about writing? I doubt it. If you were, you wouldn’t have read this far already. …


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Photo by Courtney Cook on Unsplash

If you’ve ever played a round of golf, you know that you have a full bag of clubs available to you. You have a driver and two or three woods to give you power when you tee off. You also have numerous irons to help you make those delicate approach shots to the green. You may even have a pitching wedge in case your ball ends up in the sand trap. Finally, of course, you must have a putter, so you can gently tap your ball into the hole. …


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Photo by Behzad Ghaffarian on Unsplash

My three favorite places in the world are Amsterdam, New York, London, and Paris.

If you were counting as you read that sentence, you probably noticed that I mentioned four cities even though I introduced my list with the phrase “My three favorite places.” So, either I should change “three” to “four,” or I should correct my punctuation; I should have used a semicolon.

The semicolon is located to the right of the letter “L” on your keyboard and is made up of a period above a comma. Generally, the comma alone tells the reader to pause, and the period…


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Image from Wikimedia

Hundreds of years ago, British playwright William Shakespeare came down from Mount Everest with two huge, stone tablets engraved with the ten basic rules about commas. Okay, that’s not even close to being true, but just as Moses had his ten commandments to live by, writers have ten basic comma rules that they need to know if they want their writing to be clear and precise.

One. Commas are used to separate the parts of complete dates and addresses. This is probably the easiest rule of all because most people know that they need to separate the date from the…


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Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

Do you mean to tell me you’ve never heard of Joe Comma and the FANBOYS? Why they’ve been around longer than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. They’re more popular than Gladys Knight and the Pips. And they’re much more useful than Country Joe and the Fish. In fact, if you become a big fan of Joe Comma and the FANBOYS, you may be surprised at what happens to your grades this semester.

Joe Comma and the FANBOYS have been around for about 1,500 years, ever since people began writing and punctuating in English. No, they’re not a musical group. …


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Drawing by Jeff Mosher

I grew up in upstate New York, in Amsterdam, so I have been shoveling snow my entire life — for almost 70 years now. And quite honestly, for most of those years, I did not mind. Growing up, I shoveled with my dad, I shoveled with the neighbors next door, and I shoveled with friends. Later, I shoveled with my wife, Barbara, and with our two girls: Maria and Katrina. Shoveling snow is one of those winter rituals we share, a rite of passage, if you will. …


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Photo by Jim LaBate

On Friday, we celebrated Christmas in a way similar to the family at the center of the Christmas story; just the three of us: father, mother, and child.

We were merely three because our first child, Maria, passed away five years ago at the age of 30, and since Katrina works in health care and interacts with COVID patients, we decided to be extra cautious.

Such a small Christmas gathering is an anomaly for us. Usually, we unite with Barbara’s extended family on the 25th, a get-together that typically includes 20–25 people. Then, on the Saturday after Christmas, we often…

Jim LaBate

Jim LaBate works as a writing specialist in The Writing Center at Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy, New York.

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