Too bad we’re not studying Spanish (or French)

I’ve been telling the class that in twenty years’ time, comma splices will be gone. Everyone will use them, and nobody will think they’re wrong.

Normally, I don’t believe in making confident predictions about what’s going to happen twenty years hence, but when it comes to commas, I make an exception. I don’t see how the don’t-use-a-comma-to-join-independent-clauses rule can hang on much longer, given how few people follow it today — given how few people even know about it. 

So yesterday F.M. asked why I’m teaching the comma-splice rule if it’s going away.

Hah!

I’m teaching the comma-splice rule because today is today. Babies born this year won’t have to deal with comma splices when they’re twenty, but you’re not them.

You’re you, you were born when you were born, and today, in the year 2018, comma splices are still a thing. So I have to teach them, and you have to learn them.

Tant pis ! (That’s French for You have to learn not to use comma splices in English 110.)

(I don’t mind teaching comma splices, by the way. Not at all.)  

My own feelings about comma splices changed completely when I discovered that  the French don’t care about them. If French writers can use a comma to join two independent clauses, why can’t we ?

It looks like Spanish-speaking writers don’t have a comma-splice rule, either. Spanish writers may not even have to bother with run-on sentences.

Lucky them.
.
Continue reading

Compound sentence

A compound sentence consists of two or more complete sentences (independent clauses) combined into one:

Toes are chopped off; severed fingers fly through the air.*
Toes are chopped off; [INDEPENDENT CLAUSE] severed fingers fly through the air. [INDEPENDENT CLAUSE]

Toes are chopped off. [COMPLETE SENTENCE/INDEPENDENT CLAUSE]
Fingers fly through the air. [COMPLETE SENTENCE/INDEPENDENT CLAUSE]

There are 4 ways to combine independent clauses:

How to join independent clauses (compound sentence)
Important: these methods do not apply to joining a dependent clause with an independent clause (complex sentence)
Comma and FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet)   Toes are chopped off, and severed fingers fly through the air.
Semicolon   Toes are chopped off; severed fingers fly through the air.
Semicolon, “fancy FANBOYS,” & comma
(“fancy FANBOYS” = adverbial conjunctions or conjunctive adverbs)
Toes are chopped off; moreover, severed fingers fly through the air.
Colon The main reason that Zipes likes fairy tales, it seems, is that they provide hope: they tell us that we can create a more just world.*
“Don’ts”
DO NOT join two independent clauses with a comma! **   Toes are chopped off, severed fingers fly through the air. WRONG!
DO NOT simply run the two independent clauses together! ***   Toes are chopped off severed fingers fly through the air. WRONG!

* source:
Acocella, Joan. “The Lure of the Fairy Tale.” The New Yorker. 23 July 2012. Print.
** As with so many grammar and writing rules, the comma-splice rule has an exception. However, I wouldn’t worry about it for college writing. When you are writing papers for college classes, do not use a comma to combine independent clauses.
*** There are no exceptions to this rule that I’m aware of.

AND SEE:
5+2: the canonical sentence (clause) patterns
Independent clause
Compound sentence – how to punctuate
Complex sentence
3 ways to combine the 7 clause patterns

Commas after “introductory elements”

For example, [INTRODUCTORY PHRASE] the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” has appeared in many guises.

Reading “Little Red Riding Hood,” [INTRODUCTORY PARTICIPLE CLAUSE]* I am struck by the story’s lack of logic.

When I was little, [INTRODUCTORY ADVERBIAL CLAUSE] my mother read me the story of “Little Red Riding Hood.”

NEVER use a semicolon after an introductory element!

For example; the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” has appeared in many guises.
Reading “Little Red Riding Hood;” I am struck by the story’s lack of logic.

Doesn’t work!

* The participle clauses are often called the participle phrase.

“Connecting words”

Vincennes University has posted the shortest and simplest explanation of the current rules for using “connecting words” (or conjunctions) that I’ve seen. Extremely helpful.

The easiest category of connecting words to learn is the coordinating conjunctions or “FANBOYS“: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

Vincennes writes: “These words are found between independent clauses and require only a comma in front of them.”

An independent clause, as I’m sure you remember (!), is a complete sentence in and of itself. An independent clause has:

An independent clause does not have:

  • a “dependent marker word” at the beginning [“I ate breakfast” is a complete sentence. “When I ate breakfast” is not a complete sentence.]

The FANBOYS connect two or more independent clauses with a comma before the FANBOYS:

I woke up, and I ate breakfast.

I || woke up.
SUBJECT: I
PREDICATE: woke up
NO DEPENDENT MARKER WORD
INDEPENDENT CLAUSE

I || ate breakfast.
SUBJECT: I
PREDICATE: ate breakfast
NO DEPENDENT MARKER WORD
INDEPENDENT CLAUSE

Simple!

I was tired, so I went to bed.
I || was tired, so I || went to bed.
I [SUBJECT] || was tired, [VERB] so I [SUBJECT] || went [VERB] to bed.

I was annoyed, but I didn’t say anything.
I || was annoyed, but I || didn’t say anything.
I [SUBJECT] || was annoyed, [VERB] but I [SUBJECT] || didn’t [VERB] say anything.

etc.

NOTE: I suspect that many or most college professors would prefer that you not begin a complete sentence with a FANBOYS. However, I use FANBOYS at the beginning of complete sentences, as do many other writers. Using for, and, nor, but, or, yet, (or) so to begin a sentence is usually (though not always!) a more informal way of writing, so you may want to avoid it in college papers.

To be continued…


I’m including a link to the Vincennes page at the bottom of this page under the categories “Punctuation” and “Commas.” You’ll always be able to find it there.

AND SEE:
Richard Nordquist defines “clause
Identifying Independent and Dependent Clauses (OWL)
Clauses (Richard Nordquist at about.com)
The Main Clause (chompchomp)
Dependent Clauses: Adverbial, Adjectival, Nominal (Towson)
Clauses and Sentences (Internet Grammar of English)