Thursday, February 9, 2012

Breaking Up is Hard To Do (In Which I Talk About the Comma)

I'm just going to go ahead and talk about the comma. Or more importantly, HOW MUCH I HATE THE COMMA. (riveting stuff, I know)

Here's something to know about me: I am a comma user, and abuser. In fact, I don't even know if my previous sentence should have a comma or not. Should it? I don't know. I think I use Google for punctuation and spell checks more than anything else.

I was agonizing over my punctuation incompetence with my good pal Jonny a long while ago, and he recommended:
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss.

Which I bought, and began to read, and my eyes glazed over, and.... well, I flashbacked to my school days, when I ignored all lectures on punctuation in order to read the book I was hiding under my desk. Then promptly set Eats, Shoots, and Leaves down, and grabbed a different book.

Gracie ignores punctuation of every sort - which makes following along as she's reading aloud nearly impossible. And it's funny to me that I work with her on it (and by funny, I mean crazy) because when I get critiques from my awkward-sentence polishing crit partners, it's obvious I'm the last person who should be showing my 6-year-old where to place a comma.

Commas are hard, yo.

When I was in college I volunteered in a 6th grade Core class (language, literature, social studies) a few hours a week. I loved it. The kids were awesome, the teacher was awesome, and I can barely go a single day without remembering Mrs. T's lesson on the dreaded COMMA.

"Breaking up words is hard to do," she told her students. "There's even a song about it."

The kids looked at her like she was insane, so she put a tape in the tape player, and the music began.



Mrs. T sang along, all the way though, emphasizing the comma comma down doobie doo down down part in the background, and the chorus. The kids giggled, and the braver ones joined in. And I have had this song stuck in my head every day that I have corrected a misplaced comma in one of my manuscripts since.

Which means this song is constantly stuck in my head.

I've decided I need to add a new goal on Marisa's Great List of Goals for 2012. Make it all the way through Eat, Shoots & Leaves, and actually apply the information.

Because my comma woes are bad... but don't even get me started on the apostrophe...

Also, I might need to begin with the illustrated kid's version first - maybe I'll be less likely to set it down.
How about you, folks? Are you a punctuation lover, or hater?

xoxo,

10 comments:

Melissa said...

Some things you have to chalk up to personal style. ;-)

AlyGatr said...

I'm a habitual ellipsis user and a parentheses whore :) I felt the need to admit that...you know...and stuff (in case you didn't get my drift)

A. McBay said...

I had a friend on Inkpop.com that helped me better understand them. I still don't understand them completely, but I'm better :P

Heather Faesy said...

My high school senior English teacher was the one who got me to finally figure out the comma thing...basically two great rules to live by are... 1) you put a comma where you would normally pause when speaking the sentence out loud. And 2) if you can technically break a sentence into two separate sentences, then you should add the comma in (two subjects, two verbs, two predicates, etc). That's the harder one to master. I'll be glad to read over some stuff if you want help :) Example: "I ran and threw the ball to Calvin and then Alex. -versus- "I ran to Calvin, and Calvin threw the ball to Alex."

side note to AlyGatr: I obviously love ellipsis's too! Always editing those out.

Denise Felton said...

It would be easier if there were consensus; but style, grammar, and usage references often disagree--sometimes strenuously. I saw a recent video (anniversary of the Chicago Manual of Style), and one editor, vehemently advocating use of the serial comma, cited the example of a book dedication. "For my parents, the Pope, and Mother Teresa." Without the serial comma, it says, "For my parents, the Pope and Mother Teresa," raising questions about the celibacy of certain church leaders. Another editor countered to take the dedication, "For my father, the Pope and Mother Teresa." If you ADD the serial comma, you turn it into, "For my father, the Pope, and Mother Teresa," casting aspersions on the Holy Father. You cannot win.

Tina Laurel Lee said...

I'm a hater and a abuser. Don't even get me started about spelling...

Laura Pauling said...

After relearning my punctuation rules I understand them but there are certainly times that I can use less commas b/c it fits better with the sentence. I go with is there a natural pause there and is the meaning of the sentence changed - if not, forget the rules.

Kathy said...

OH, commas. I was just rereading some stuff I wrote in high school.

I did (and still do) have a habit of starting sentences with "and" or "but"...

But (hee) back then, I would put a comma after it...reading it now drives me nuts.

And, Kathy is now done leaving her comment for Marissa.

But, she will comment again on another blog post.

(UGH.)

Angela Ackerman said...

I should probably learn how to use commas better. I hate commas too! I think the issue is that rules change. Before, you always put on a comma with and, now, some say don't worry about it, others say yes. *shrieks*. Everyone just needs to get on and stay on the same page, lol!

Angela

Kelly Polark said...

Now, that, song, is , stuck, in , my head! :)

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