When to use possessive apostrophes and close quotation marks

Hello everyone:

Here is something that my students struggle with all the time: possessive apostrophes and where in the world should they close a quotation mark. Let’s take them one at a time.

Possessive apostrophes are used to show someone or something owns something. They are not used when you want to show more than one of something.

Here is a case in point (or two): All of our workers will get an employees’ bonus. This means that everyone at the company is getting a bonus.

The next example is one employee getting a bonus: John was the only person to receive an employee’s bonus.

The next example has more than one employee, but no bonus: Employees are not going to get a bonus.

The next topic about where to end your quotation mark is relatively easy to figure out. Your in-text citation is NOT part of the quote. Only the quote is part of the quote, so end the quotation mark after the quote is finished.

(BTW, both APA and MLA formatting requires that you cite either the page or paragraph number with a direct quote.  That means, if there are no page numbers, you literally have to count the paragraphs that the article has and list the correct paragraph number. In a paper I once wrote, I had to count to paragraph number 100 and something, but it had to be done.

Hope this helps! If you have any questions, just post them as a reply to this posting and I will be happy to answer.


Dr. Sheri

Unlocking locked doors

Hello everyone:

This is a little off topic, but I thought you might like to know how to get your toddle out of the bathroom if he or she is locked in.

Your toddler or grandchild has just locked him or herself in your bathroom. Short of calling 911, how do you get the child out?

It depends on the type of doorknob that you have (and how old it is). If it is a relatively new doorknob, you should have a small hole in the center of the handle. These locks usually came with a key-type piece of metal. It is recommended that you keep this metal key on top of your door frame, in case of emergency. Rub your hand over the top of the door, to see if your key is there. If it is, poke the piece of metal into the door knob until you hear a “click.” The door should now be unlocked. If you have a flat-sided key, then you may have to poke it into the handle and turn the key in order to get the door to unlock.

With some older doors, there is no hole to poke into the handle. Grab a Phillips head screwdriver (the one that looks like a starburst on the tip) and head towards the door. Remove the screws on the side of the handle that are visible from your side of the door. [Note: Keep the screws local- you will need them after you get the child out of the room.] Reach into the lock mechanism and unlock the door.

Plan on putting the handle back on the door after the child is freed. You will do this by putting the screws you took out a few minutes ago, putting them back on the handle area, and screwing them back into place.


Dr. Sheri


Finishing strong

Hello everyone:

Okay, you are at the end of your rope. You have almost made it through the semester but it is just so hard to finish things up. Surely missing a couple of small assignments won’t make a difference, right?

Wrong. I have a former student who decided to let her guard down at the very end of her time in my class. She had worked pretty hard and figured she would coast to the end.

That was not wise. She let go and let things ride….and almost did not graduate. She had two assignments that she told me she had decided not to do…and it made a difference between passing and not. It also became an issue because she had a job awaiting for her, but she couldn’t have the job without her degree.

So, she made a very quick decision that turning in something well after the due date and taking a chance on passing, even with a reduced score, was better than sitting out graduation, losing the job, and paying for the class again. That was very wise.

So hang in there, folks. Stick with the program and get the job done so that you won’t face the possibility that you won’t graduate and so that the job og your dreams won’t pass you by!


Dr. Sheri

Does stress have you down?

Hello everyone:

Stress can be a terrible thing. It can rob you of sleep, make you lash out at those you love, and it can make you physically ill. Like I said, it’s not nice.

I know a gal who holds many things inside. She now has ulcers in her mouth- the doctor says that they are totally stress-related. The ulcers make eating difficult and painful. They make sleeping uncomfortable. They make life pretty darn miserable.

What can you do about stress? Some folks find exercise helpful. Others drink (I don’t recommend this!) Others go to the movies, watch tv, or listen to their favorite music.

If you are stressed  from college, I recommend going and talking to your teachers. Tell them what you are going through. If you go to a Christian college, you can ask them to pray for you. (I have had students ask me to pray for them at the two secular colleges where I teach. I am happy to do it.)

What do you do to relieve stress? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Like the old saying goes: you don’t get ulcers from what you eat. You get ulcers from what is eating you. Literally, food for thought.


Dr. Sheri


Attitude of gratitude

Hello everyone:

Today’s blog is appropriate for Thanksgiving weekend. I am thankful for the wonderful students I have. When you teach at three colleges and have a total of ten courses to teach across a four-month span of time like I do, it is easy to get discouraged by students who do not put forth effort.

But then I run into students who are facing unplanned difficulty while trying to keep up with a crazy work, home, and school schedule.  These are folks who let me know when they are confronted with difficulties beyond the normal hassles and challenges of daily life.

One of my students was an older man facing life-threatening heart problems. Another student woke up one morning to find her bedclothes covered with blood. Diagnosis? Advanced breast cancer. Another gal faced the unexpected death of her 30-something hubby in a car crash. They still haven’t figured out exactly what happened, but alcohol and drugs were not an issue and it was about 5 pm when his fatal one-car accident happened.

These people all had one thing in common: they soldiered on in the face of great odds. Two of them ended up having to postpone the completion of their courses, but one of them will actually graduate on time.

I am thankful for the opportunity to help guide my students through their challenges and consider it a privilege to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dr. Sheri

Using holidays effectively

Hello everyone:

My topic for today is how to use your holidays to get ahead on your schoolwork.  Let’s say that you have Thanksgiving off. Oh, my, you do! What do you do with those four days of not being in school? I suggest you work ahead. Here’s how you do it:

Take your syllabi for each class and figure out what is due in the next three weeks of classes. Do your reading and research for any upcoming projects. As you do the research, make sure to mark down every where you got the information and bookmark the site if that is possible.

Lay out your research in piles according to topic and then begin to go through the piles and organize the piles within the piles. For example, let’s say that you have three research papers due in three different classes. Try to do the research in one fell swoop. I always email the articles I have found to myself, requesting a style format such as APA and MLA. The online library will send you the document with a cover page with the correct formatting that you need, which will save you a lot of time.

I always printed the articles out, marked them up so that I could see what I needed from each article, and then separate them into piles according to class. As you write the essays, you have the sources at your fingertips, with all of the information you want to use right there. (I made notes of which page numbers would have the most helpful information on those cover pages, so that I didn’t have to flip through the article as I wrote.)

Get as much done over the four day break, so that you have less stress at finals time. How do you make good use of the four-day weekend?


Dr. Sheri

To re-write or not to re-write, that is the question

Hello everyone:

Here I am, almost at the semester. My students at one college turned in papers on Wednesday that were, for the most part, pretty awful. It has taken me 45 minutes to plow through 6 of them, there are so many mistakes.

Here’s my dilemma: do I post an announcement, inviting the students to re-write their papers, knowing that the ones who need to the most are the least likely to do it, or do I hold my breath and go ahead and grade these monstrosities, knowing that this assignment is worth 20% of their final grade?

I could list the students who don’t have to do the re-write on our class page or just invite everyone to do it. I could give them till Monday at 1 pm to place their newly re-written papers in my mailbox on campus. I could even list all the things that were wrong with the current batch of papers. In fact, here is the list for your enjoyment:

One student wrote a plot summary for his favorite movie, and then added in three words from our textbook ….to the entire paper (four pages long). He put a Works Cited page at the end of the document, but did not cite anything (except those three words, scattered about the paper, once each).  Those words were never explained or analyzed, just plopped in.

I can hear his argument now, having been lambasted by him on the last writing assignment: “Boy, you sure are dumb if you don’t know the meaning of those three words. I shouldn’t have to explain the concepts to you.” To me, that is tantamount to saying, “Here is my exam. I only put my name on it but I deserve an A+ because you should know what all these terms mean. I shouldn’t have to tell you.” Right on, buddy.

Several students wrote sentence fragments. At this college, three fragments in a single essay means an automatic F on the assignment. Doesn’t anyone proofread anything? Several students wrote sentences that left out verbs, contained commas every few words, misused semi-colons like they were on a fire sale, and offered neither an introduction or a conclusion to their essay. One individual loved the words “as” and “such,” sprinkling them liberally in every paragraph.  Several students wrote sentences that were about 60 words long and went in numerous directions (these are known as run-on sentences).

So, what do you think I should do? Should I offer the re-write or not? I value your opinion.


Dr. Sheri

Finishing well or not at all

Hi everyone:

This is the time of the semester when many people just give up. I had a student recently who decided not to do the last two assignments. Then she realized that, by not doing them, she had flunked the class.  She came back to me and asked if she could complete them because flunking the class meant she would not graduate and the job she had waiting would no longer be hers.

What advice do you have for her? What do you think I should do in this situation? What do you think I did? Give me your thoughts and I will tell you how the scenario played out.


Dr. Sheri

Do your homework or dislike the results

Hello everyone:

I have been teaching college for 12 years now and one of the biggest mysteries to me is why students pay good money for their education, come to class on a regular basis, but do not turn anything in.

The only thing I can figure is that their parents are paying for their education, they enjoy coming to class, but they don’t want to do the work. Is college entertainment for them or did Mom and Dad say “go to college or get a job?” Do they figure that sitting in a classroom for hours every week is considered “going to college?” I guess it is, technically speaking.

I would love to read your comments about their mindset because they otherwise appear to be intelligent folks. Why do you think they do it (or actually, don’t do it, as far as homework is concerned).


Dr. Sheri

Parenthetic expressions and commas

Hello everyone:

i just wanted to clarify something. It has to do with the use of vocative commas. Vocative commas are used when you are separating a person’s name from the rest of the sentence, such as the following:

John, it’s good to see you.

You would use the vocative comma instead of writing: John it’s good to see you.

You also need to use a comma with parenthetic expressions. An example of this is a follows:

It is my opinion, and I travel once a month, that flying beats driving.

Please note that, if you use one comma in the sentence, you must use both. Sometimes students don’t use any when writing parenthetic expressions and that can be confusing at best.

Hope this helps!

Dr. Sheri

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