There are hard ways to learn things. And there are easy ways to learn things. Teaching is in my blood. Love for students runs deep within me.
Those two things combined make me want to ALWAYS teach students the easy way to learn things.
Life is hard already. Let’s make grammar as easy as we possibly can. And for sure, let’s teach things that students actually need and use in real writing.
“Conjunction Junction—what’s your function?”
Did you start to sing along? Can you picture the images?
How old are you????? lol
Most kids today are not raised on “School House Rock,” which is such a shame! Because you really can’t forget the songs, jingles, rhymes—and dare I say—rules learned from those little ditties. (You can still find them on Youtube!)
And those little ditties are really needed when it comes to commas! Commas are a mystery to many people–and rightly so! They are extremely subjective at times across the board. And then, different handbooks and authorities stress different rules for them, making them even more elusive.
Are you ready for your quiz? Can you create compound sentences with the sentence pairs given below?
Use either of the following:
1. A semicolon (with a complete sentence on the left and a complete sentence on the right)
2. A comma-coordinating conjunction between two complete sentences (,for/,and/,nor/,but/,or/,yet/,so—FANBOYS)
“Sometimes I see colons used before quotes; other times I see them used before lists. Which is correct? How do I know when a colon is the right punctuation mark?”
Just taught this yesterday to a dozen kids preparing for the SAT–and I’ll be teaching it again tomorrow to a dozen more who are preparing for the SAT. I will tell you what I told them:
1. You want to learn how to use colons. That skill will make you look smart since so few people know how to use them properly!
2. You should always have a complete sentence on the left side of the colon:
a. This means that it CAN be used following a speech tag (before your quoted words) IF the speech tag is a complete sentence:
i. Yes: HE SPOKE WORDS OF COMFORT: “You can get through this. You are strong. I know you can make it.” (Words on the left of the colon could stand alone; you could place a period there, and it would be a real, complete sentence.)
ii. No: HE SAID: “You can get through this. You are strong. I know you can make it.”
b. This means that it CAN be used to introduce a list IF the introduction to the list is a complete sentence:
i. Yes: I NEED SEVERAL THINGS FROM THE STORE: milk, bread, eggs, and bananas.
ii. No: I NEED TO GET: milk, bread, eggs, and bananas.
c. This means that it CAN be used to ask a rhetorical question IF the words preceding the colon make up a complete sentence:
i. Yes: WE LOOKED FOR HIM EVERYWHERE: suddenly he appeared!
ii. No: WE LOOKED AND: suddenly he appeared!
3. A colon should NEVER follow two types+ of words:
a. An action verb used as an action verb. No: SHE WANTED US TO GIVE: money, time, and household goods.
b. A preposition used as a preposition: No: SHE ASKED US TO: come early, stay late, and work non-stop.
+When a sentence ends in an action verb or a preposition, that word usually makes the sentence into a non-sentence (i.e. you can’t put a period there and call it a real sentence): She asked us to.
4. Colon use is often subjective in technical writing, such as text books, blogs (!), and other places where they are used to teach or expound upon topics in list form, etc.
PUNCTUATION PUZZLE—plus a couple of other errors for you to find!
The shepherd lead them to the brook and they drank alot, because they were very, hot, and thirsty.
Here is the answer with an explanation for each aspectbelow: The shepherd led them to the brook, and they drank a lot because they were very hot and thirsty.
LED vs LEAD: The shepherd LED them to the brook……
1. LEAD (pronounced ledd with as short e) is only pronounced ledd when it refers to a metal or pencil graphite. 2. Otherwise LEAD is pronounced leed (long e) and is the current tense of the verb lead (LEED). 3. LED is the past tense of the verb LEAD (pronounced LEED, with a long e).
CS ,cc CS–Do you remember these rules for compound sentences?
1. CS stands for complete sentence; cc stands for coordinating conjunction.
2. You can join one CS (complete sentence) with another CS by using a comma-cc (,For/ ,And/ ,Nor/ ,But/ ,Or/ ,Yet/ ,So).
3. You may not combine two complete sentences into one with a cc only–you must put a comma before it: The shepherd led them to the brook, AND they drank….
ALOT vs A LOT: ALOT is not one word; it should be two words–A LOT—meaning a bunch or a large amount: The shepherd led them to the brook, and they drank a lot….
No comma before a subordinator at the end of a sentence unless it is a WHICH clause-
1. You do not need a comma before the BECAUSE.
2. You do not hear a pause (like you would if it were a WHICH clause): The shepherd led them to the brook, and they drank a lot because they were very hot and thirsty.
No Comma Between an adverb and the adjective it describes—
1. Or more clearly put, no comma between a qualifier and a describer: VERY hot and thirsty (not VERY, hot, and thirsty).
2. Very is an adverb telling how hot (an adverb describing an adjective or qualifying it).
3. Tip for this:
a. If you can put an AND where you are trying to put the comma, then a comma is needed (in place of the and): they were muddy, hot, and thirsty (muddy AND hot AND thirsty).
b. If you cannot put an AND, do not put a comma: very AND hot—NO!).
c. Also, do not use a comma when you have only two adjectives and you are placing an AND in between them–either use a comma (hot, thirsty) OR place an AND (hot and thirsty) but not both.