Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weird Grammar Rules

Comma Momma
I have been trying to explain punctuation to my five-year-old because his inquisitive mind wants to know why his teacher will separate words by that weird dot that doesn’t really look like a dot. I’m glad he has an English major for a mom (though I doubt he is) because I can go into detail with him why certain punctuation marks are used. I’m glad he has me because when I was taught grammar, I was misinformed, and the weirdest grammar superstition I was taught involved comma usage. I was taught to do the thing where I breathe and the intonations in my voice indicate where I should use a comma. I thought, even back then in middle school, that that was a weird way of describing how someone should punctuate a sentence. Now I know it is complete and utter bull. I was curious after our class discussion how this concept worked so I looked it up on google. Luckily, the first thing that came up when I typed in comma usage was several places where I could go to learn the six rules. One of the best resources I found to explain comma usage was on; however, it was a little complicated. I doubt many students would have sufficient amounts of curiosity to stay and review all the concepts the website provides. It provided an example for each rule (21 rules on this page), after giving an explanation of the rule, and even divided rule five into two subcategories to avoid confusion. Unfortunately, she dismisses dividing two independent clauses with “, and” (or any conjunction, rather) as a stylistic preference. I understand it to be a hard and fast rule, but I can see why she would argue what she argued.     
I then looked up a short history of commas and found some really interesting information on It explained the origin of the myth that commas should be placed where the writer pauses for breath. Because language began as an oral tradition, punctuation did not come to be a problem until writing, because of a lack of punctuation, did not have the same affect when it was read as it did when it was written or spoken. The website says even spaces between words were omitted. This confusion had to stop. But it was not until the printing press was invented that any sort of standard for punctuation became an issue. I liked how the website explained comma usage. It described how commas are the most commonly used and abused form of punctuation.
But conjunctions are often helpful…
The idea that conjunctions cannot begin a sentence is a horrible misconception. If conjunctions cannot begin sentences then there might be streams of independent clauses that would be conjoined in either an abrupt choppy fashion or convoluted ideas within the body of a text. But then again, the idea that coordinating conjunctions should not begin a sentence does have some validity because they do function to join words, phrases, and clauses. However, if long streams of monstrous amalgamations of grammatical patterns seem to have no end then an author’s writing will be confusing. For example, William Faulkner linked independent clause upon independent clause in his writing. There are many fans of Faulkner out there, but his writing could be used as an example of why lengthy sentence formation can cause confusion in readers.    


Post a Comment

<< Home