Blogger Grammar Basics: Periods, Commas, and Semicolons

fashion blogger grammar

I remember my first “grammar lesson” during my freshman year of college. I was an English major with a film minor, and I had just finished a paper on women in horror films that I was really proud of. When I got it back, I was surprised to see a big, fat, effin' red F at the top of it.  My professor (who later became a great mentor) left a note saying, “For content, this is a B paper. Your grammar earned you an F.”

I wasn't the only student in my class with that problem, and a tradition began where she would give us a 15 minute lecture on how to use punctuation.  The lecture was staggeringly easy to understand, and I never understood why learning the rules hadn't been so easy in grade school.

And you know what? From there on out, I always received As on my papers.

When to use a Period.

I'm ashamed to start this post with “When to use a Period,” but I have to.  Many bloggers are afraid to use a period.  Why? Periods aren't demanding. They're not mean.  A period simply means “this is the end of the sentence. My thought is complete.”  Yet, so many bloggers use a comma or ellipsis to transition from thought to thought.

Periods are your friends; they're NOT your enemies.  Using commas and ellipses when writing can create confusion for the reader, especially if you're transitioning between multiple topics.  When in doubt about what kind of punctuation to use– use a period.

Go from: So in last week's episode of Gossip Girl, Blair told Chuck she loved him, dumped Dan to return to him…they got married and lived happily ever after…and wasn't Serena's outfit TODIEFOR!!! OMG…it was the best.

To: So, in last week's episode of Gossip Girl, Blair told Chuck she loved him.  She dumped Dan to return to him. They got married and lived happily ever after.  Wasn't Serena's outfit TO DIE FOR? OMG…it was the best.

Do your readers a favor, and stop writing in big rambling stream of conscious chunks of text.  Use periods to break up your thoughts.  You'll be amazed at the impact it has.

When to use a Comma,

Commas are tricky, because many people use them whenever they'd take a pause in real life conversation, but that's not exactly correct. It CAN be, though!  My fiance pauses every 10 seconds when he speaks, but I can guarantee you there wouldn't be a comma in all of those pauses!

A comma connects two COMPLETE sentences by means of a conjunction: + , +

Little J wanted to go shopping, but she just maxed out her daddy's credit card. Whoops, Little J.

In this example you have two complete sentences (each represented by a + sign): Little J wanted to go shopping. She maxed out her daddy's credit cardBut is the conjunction, and the comma goes before it.

A comma connects a dependent clause and an independent clause:   – , +  OR + , –

A dependent clause can't stand alone as a sentence, because it's incomplete. When the dependent clause is combined with a complete sentence (the independent clause), it creates a complete thought. <– Kind of like this sentence.

When the dependent clause is combined with a full sentence (the independent clause) isn't a complete sentence.  What happens when it is combined? The thought hasn't been fleshed out.  It creates a complete thought. is a complete sentence, so you're connecting the incomplete thought with the complete thought through the comma.

Or in Gossip Girl language, you'd say: Serena, while rich and beautiful, has a self-destructive streak that prevents her from being happy. 

In this sentence, Serena has a self-destructive streak that prevents her from being happy is the independent clause.  while rich and beautiful is the dependent clause, because it depends on the rest of the sentence to finish the thought.

A comma is used to separate out items in a list.

This one may seem obvious, but it's often neglected.

Blair and Serena were planning a lunchtime shopping date at Bendel's, Bergdorf's, and Barney's. The best Bs in the city. Next to Queen B, that is.

Whether you put a comma between Bergdorf's and Barney's has become a matter of preference.  If you put a comma between Bergdorf's and Barney's, it's an Oxford comma.  They're been deemed obsolete.  Many people prefer writing with them (myself included!), so you can go either way.

When to use a Semicolon;

A semicolon isn't just half of a winking emoticon any more than a colon is half of a smiling emoticon. A semicolon, very simply, connects two complete sentences with one another. It's equation would look like + ; +

If you're connecting two complete sentences with a semicolon, you do NOT use a conjunction.  If you're connecting two complete sentences with a comma, you would use a conjunction.

For example, you could write: Serena was excited she and Dan were pretending to date; she missed him and hoped to get back together.  

If you're in need of a sophisticated bit of writing, semicolons can also be used as “serial commas,” in sentences such as:  Blair had several great loves: Nate, her first love and long-time boyfriend; Chuck Bass, her greatest love; Louie, her real life Prince (Not So) Charming; and, Dan, her most reluctant love.  

Please note that these are really simple, basic rules for using punctuation. They should help most bloggers say what they need to and clearly.  There are additional rules (especially for commas and semicolons) that can get complex, but I've left them out because you're not likely to use (or see) them outside of academia.

I hope you've enjoyed Grammar via Gossip Girl, and tune back next week when I'll cover our friends the colon, dash, and ellipsis!

xoxo.

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20 Responses

  1. Jessica Flores

    You could potentially write an entire blog post on the difference between YOUR and YOU’RE. I just saw someone post a really sweet Mother’s Day message on IG but wrote “mother’s are..” instead of “mothers are”.

    I felt bad but these are common mistakes. Personally, I would prefer someone point these mistakes out to me [in a kind, polite way] rather then feeling embarrassed about it if and when I discover it after many views.

    Very helpful. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Ashley "Ashe" Robison

      ”Personally, I would prefer someone point these mistakes out to me [in a kind, polite way] rather then feeling embarrassed about it if and when I discover it after many views.”

      Absolutely! Hell, I had two errors in this post when it went up– and I assure you, I edited it about 5 times. (I think it was my over-editing that cause the mistakes!) I always welcome a DM or quick email that says, “Psst, Ashley, you made this little error!”

      We all do it… but I think sometimes we get so terrified of punctuation when it can be relatively easy!

      Reply
      • Jessi @ Quirky Cookery

        I think being “polite” would be to do it privately in an email or even a quick tweet directly to the person. I feel bad for people when I read the comments and several people are all talking about the spelling or grammar errors….but because the comments have other content, the author leaves them up even after the corrections are made. So despite the mistakes no longer being there, they’re still having attention drawn to them in the comments later on.

  2. Ashley "Ashe" Robison

    ” Personally, I would prefer someone point these mistakes out to me [in a kind, polite way] rather then feeling embarrassed about it if and when I discover it after many views.”

    Absolutely! Hell, I had two errors in this post when it went up– and I assure you, I edited it about 5 times. (I think it was my over-editing that cause the mistakes!) I always welcome a DM or quick email that says, “Psst, Ashley, you made this little error!”

    We all do it… but I think sometimes we get so terrified of punctuation when it can be relatively easy!

    Reply
  3. Toyosi

    I’ve always been pretty good at grammer, but this was a helpful reminder!

    Also, I just wanna say, that I give an eff about the Oxford Comma. (Only Vampire Weekend fans would understand 😉 )

    Reply
  4. Bohmyi

    This bothers me so much! I’ll read a blog that has potentially good content but the grammar is just so off and it drives me absolutely crazy. I mean, I know as a fourteen year old my grammar is obviously not perfect but it’s (somewhat) understandable – at least I hope, haha. This article is so relevant – THANK YOU for writing it! x

    Reply
  5. Vanessa Sarah Dione James

    This is so helpful and I’m glad it comes with ‘Gossip Girl’ examples. I think in the rush to write down your ideas and thoughts, punctuation can get lost. I know it’s something I struggle with. I’m going to keep this article on the side and try not to be so hasty. Thank you!

    http://vanessalovesralph.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  6. Eliza

    Thank you so much for this post series! Sometimes I’m pretty confused how to use commas and periods, since I’m no native speaker (I’m from Germany) and German grammar is quite different (were using commas way more often), and they don’t really teach English grammar rules here..
    So yeah, thank you 🙂

    Reply