Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Punctuation Puzzlement

In the spirit of Punctuation Day I thought it would be fun to post this challenge for all you writers and editors. It's a puzzle I was given by my high school senior English Composition class teacher. And yes, I got it right (smile).

Here is the challenge. Punctuate this sentence. And remember, it is one sentence - you cannot use a period except for the very end.


Where John had had had Mary had had had had had had had had the teacher's approval


The correct answer is below - do not scroll down to see until you have punctuated it yourself or unless you give up.

Where John had had "had," Mary had had "had had;" "had had" had had the teacher's approval.


  1. You are so crazy Marvin! I had had "had had," but before I had had a chance to answer "had had" I had had a "had had" revelation and hadn't had the nerve to answer.

  2. I had brainlock the first time, and it ain't better this go-round! I guess I'm a real "hads-been" when it comes to punctuation! But, I'm funny,huh?


  3. "Had" is one of those words I tend to overuse, especially the "had had" construction, so sometimes I set my find/replace function to find "had had" and replace it with "had." Wow, what it difference that makes in meaning. "Where John had Mary had the teacher's approval." The school board needs to hear about that.

  4. I've HAD it!In more ways that one! Now if you would have offered a 'has been' then I most definitely would qualify!!

  5. Wow... I fail :( Good job to anyone who gets it!

  6. And there we have the incomprehensible American insistence on attaching the semi-colon to the word "had". The semi-colon introduces the following clause; it is not a part of the quote!



The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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