Thursday, February 11, 2016

Punctuation - the Comma

Don't you hate it when you are trying to read your friend's post but it doesn't make any sense because it is completely devoid of punctuation

If you act now, I'll add punctuation for free!

Nardvark prefers not to use punctuation, himself. He thinks it makes his posts seem more deep and poetic, but actually he's just incredibly lazy.

Nerdvark is so tired of trying to make sense of Nardvark's unpunctuated posts, he's offering to let Nardvark throw a piece of wet toast at him for every correctly placed comma he uses.

Small and ubiquitous, the comma is one of the most important punctuation marks for conveying meaning. But did you know, in the early days of writing, when the alphabet was first invented and most people were illiterate, stuff was written down with no punctuation, or even spaces between words? 
Now THAT'S a run-on sentence!
In the beginning of writing, alphabets were used to record texts that had previously been passed down orally. In the 3rd century BC, a Greek scholar invented a system of dots inserted in written text to indicate pauses to the reader. The mid-level dot was called "komma" in Ancient Greek, and even though it is now indicated by a little curvy guy instead of a mid-level dot, it is still used in a similar way and called by the same word: comma.
Can you find the komma in this illuminated bible passage?

In grade two, you probably learned that you should add a comma in your writing every time you would pause in speaking. That might be a good way to help decide whether or not to add a comma if you aren't sure, but it isn't a rule. 

Here are some of the most common rules for when you should add a comma:

1. In lists:

 If you list more than two items, you should separate them with commas. The oxford comma: There's a vicious debate raging in grammar circles about whether the penultimate item in a list (before the 'and') needs a comma. This comma is called the "Oxford comma". No matter which side you stand on, you should use an Oxford comma if it will clarify your list. This is the kind of confusion that might arise from not using an Oxford comma:
The Oxford comma - use it for clarification!
2. To separate clauses: In English, commas are used to separate a dependent clause from an independent clause, and to separate an embedded clause from a main clause. Don't use a comma to separate two independent clauses; if you do, this is called a "comma splice" and is grounds for punishment of up to ten years in a maximum-security punctuation prison. Two independent clauses should be separated by a semi-colon, or by a coordinating conjunction. There is some debate as to whether you should add a comma before the coordinating conjunction. As with an Oxford comma, you should insert a comma here if you feel it is necessary for clarity. 


3. After conjucts at the beginnings of sentences: Conjucts, or linking words, are used to show how an idea is linked to the idea before it. Some examples are 'therefore,' 'however,' and 'nevertheless.' If you use a conjuct in the middle of a sentence, you should separate it on both sides by commas.


4. Parentheticals: Parentheticals are phrases that are added to a sentence to give additional information. They can also be delineated by using parenthesis instead of commas.

5. Before quotations: If you're introducing recorded speech in your writing with a speech tag, you should use a comma. However, if you are using a quotation to support an assertion, you should introduce it with a colon.

Of course, these are not the only ways the comma is used. If you're not sure whether to use a comma, look at Wikipedia's comma entry or Purdue OWL.

And now for today's sentence challenge: Write a sentence for me in the comments below with correct use of commas! Easy peasy, right? If I like your sentence, I'll feature it in an upcoming video. But be careful: if your sentence is silly, I will make fun of you! 

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