Tag Archives: book recommendation

Comma Confusion Clarified

Grammar encompasses the words we use as well as how we string them together and punctuate them. Confusion about comma use abounds.

My book, Grammar for People Who Hate Rules, addresses four scenarios of this often used — and often misused — punctuation mark: with Latin abbreviations (chapter 29), with academic degrees (chapter 30), with conjunctions (chapter 41), and with but (chapter 42).

This post focuses on commas when they are used to separate clauses, both independent and dependent.

An independent clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb and that expresses a complete thought. I often refer to an independent clause as a complete sentence.

We decided to go to a movie.
Susan is a gifted artist.
The employee handbook defines our corporate dress code.

When you connect two independent clauses, use a conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet) and a comma to separate them:

We decided to go to a movie. The bus stops a block from the theater.
We decided to go to a movie, and the bus stops a block from the theater.

Susan is a gifted artist. Her prices are too high for my budget.
Susan is a gifted artist, but her prices are too high for my budget.

The employee handbook defines our corporate dress code. Few people follow its dictates.
The employee handbook defines our corporate dress code, yet few people follow its dictates.

If you use a comma but no conjunction to separate the clauses, you get what is known as a run-on sentence:

We decided to go to a movie, the bus stops a block away from the theater.
Susan is a gifted artist, her prices are too high for my budget.
The employee handbook defines our corporate dress code, few people follow its dictates.

Note: A semicolon where there is a comma also would convert each example above to an acceptable construction.

A dependent clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb but does not express a complete thought.

When we decided to go to a movie …
Although Susan is an artist …
Because the handbook defines our corporate dress code …

When you combine a dependent clause with an independent clause, use a comma to connect them.

When we decided to go to a movie, we checked the bus schedule.
Although Susan is a gifted artist, her prices are too high for my budget.
Because the employee handbook defines our corporate dress code, you shouldn’t have problems deciding what to wear to work.

In American English, commas always go inside quotation marks:

“Let’s go to a movie,” she said.
The art critic described Susan’s paintings as “exquisite,” and I agree.
You might call our dress code “arcane,” but it is not open for debate.  

Final note: A comma indicates a pause. Read your full sentence aloud or in your head to help you decide if you need a comma to make your meaning clear.

Grammar puzzles pop up every day. Let me know what you read or hear that sounds wrong. We’ll learn together!

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10 Sets of Words That Confuse

I love words, but I often find myself second-guessing whether I’m using a certain word properly — especially when two words are similar in sound, spelling or meaning.

If you love words, you know how confusing the English language can be.

Consider this simple choice. Would you say:
Over a dozen skiers flew over the jump.

Or would you say:
More than a dozen skiers made it over the jump. Continue

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Content vs. Contents: What’s The Difference?

moving_boxes_contentsA colleague who was helping a family member move brought up content vs. contents. In her role as a technology expert, she deals with content in terms of words and images incorporated into websites, blogs and other electronic media.

But as a moving helper, she was dealing with the contents of a house and garage.

My google search proved that a seemingly direct word really is anything but. Here’s what I discovered: Continue

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Laugh While You Learn: 101 Myths, Urban Legends and Old Wives Tales

Book cover - tv rots brainIf you like to learn and laugh at the same time, I have a recommendation: TV Rots Your Brian … Or Does It? Was Mom Wrong?

An entertaining and educational read, this captivating collection of truth, fiction, urban legends and old wives tales makes a perfect holiday gift for just about anyone: friend, family member, boss, teacher, colleague, client.

This is the second book by author Brian Udermann, Ph.D., a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse professor and health and motivational humorist. It opens with a true/false quiz followed by short, easy-to-read chapters that explore topics related to exercise and fitness, nutrition, general health, and children.

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