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"Halloween: the one day where we encourage children to accept candy from strangers, go to strangers' homes, and vandalize property and terrorize people if they don't get their own way."

Original quote by Yvette Colomb

I also notice grammar checks often rebuke my apostrophe placements.

I am wondering if there is a missing comma and if the apostrophe at strangers is correct. Does it have to include an apostrophe for ownership?

I tend to overdo it with commas, and restricted myself this time.

the vandalize property and terrorize people if they don't get their own way

is an inclusive point after the other list items.

Usually I would write:

the one day where we encourage children to accept candy from strangers, go to strangers' homes, vandalize property, and terrorize people if they don't get their own way.

which is not the same thing or:

the one day where we encourage children to accept candy from strangers, go to strangers' homes, and vandalize property and terrorize people if they don't get their own way.

Which is the best or most correct way (if there is one) to write this?

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    The apostrophe is fine in its place. There are no grammar issues. Commas are not strictly grammar. Proof-reading is incidentally off topic on ELU. – Kris Oct 31 '13 at 5:54
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    @FumbleFingers: what elephant would that be? I don't see one in this sentence, either figuratively or literally. The sentence looks just fine, to me. As far as the apostrophe is concerned, there is some disputation over whether that strangers’ should be followed by an "s". Strunk says it should, but others not. My Microsoft Word grammar checker likes strangers' but not strangers’s. I am unsure, but tend nowadays to forget the possessive ending with an -s. – Cyberherbalist Oct 31 '13 at 6:56
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    @Cyberherbalist I omitted the colon after Halloween: and edited it after FF's comment cheers.. is this Q on topic? – Yvette Colomb Oct 31 '13 at 6:59
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    I think it is on-topic. I don't think this is proof-reading, @Kris. Skippy is asking about something written by someone else in a publication, not asking for proof-reading he/she wrote him/herself. Sorry, Skip, don't know your gender. – Cyberherbalist Oct 31 '13 at 7:03
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    @AndrewLeach, in the US the accepted spelling of Hallowe'en is Halloween. I hardly ever see it spelled any other way, here. – Cyberherbalist Oct 31 '13 at 15:01
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The sentence as written is perfectly correct, and not only that, it is quite clear and well-written. It makes interesting and humorous points about Hallowe'en. There is some ambivalence about the spelling of Halloween, but that's because of that darned apostrophe. In the US (and possibly Canada?) the apostrophe is largely dropped, but is still the rule in the UK.

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"Halloween, the day we..." would be equally grammatically correct, and I personally promote the use of commas in substitution of colons.

  • thank you Jacob, that is something I also think about +1 – Yvette Colomb Nov 10 '13 at 22:38
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The sentence looks fine, but let me just emphasize that adding a comma after "property" would change the meaning (and would make the "and" before "vandalize" superfluous); it would limit the scope of "if they don't get their own way" to just the "terrorize" part, rather than the "vandalize ... and terrorize" part. (I assume this is what you meant by "which is not the same thing", but I want to make the difference completely explicit.)

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