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 card. But 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!