Monday, 26 March 2012

Cleaning up that grammar #5

Yes, it's back!
Feedback below would be much appreciated :-)


There are around twenty or so rules for the correct use of commas.

The rule I am going to focus on is the use of commas around names, as it was requested. Commas are used to ‘surround’ a name if the person is being addressed directly. For example:

Well done Jill you got full marks on the test!
Well done, Jill, you got full marks on the test!

Obviously, whether you’re addressing someone by their name or just their title (Dr, Mr, etc,) you must capitalise it.
Something else to bear in mind when deciding whether or not to surround the name: is the name vital to the sentence? If the name is vital to the sentence then there is no need for commas, however, if the name is not vital to the sentence then you need commas. You may be thinking something along the lines of: what?! How can a name be vital/not vital? If you are, bear with me and I will explain.

You should know that the noun is the subject of the sentence (sometimes a whole ‘simple clause’ is the subject) and, therefore, this next bit should be easy. Take a sentence, find the noun— not including the name/title of this noun— and then ask yourself this: is the noun one of many? An example is: does this person have only one brother or do they have more than one.

My friend Jill came with me to the cinema. 

The noun is this sentence is a friend.

One of my friends Jill came with me to the cinema.

I have more than just one friend, therefore, she is one of many. This makes the name in the original sentence vital because without it, you wouldn’t know which friend I am talking about. What do we do with sentences like this? We don’t use commas.

Jill’s boyfriend Jack met us there.

The noun in this sentence is Jill’s boyfriend. Jill only has one boyfriend, I hope, so the name isn’t vital. What do we do with these types of sentences? We do use commas. Therefore, the correct grammar would be:

Jill’s boyfriend, Jack, met us there.

Does it make sense now?

This rule applies to using all types of names/titles— book titles, movie titles etc…

So, to recap, if a name/title is vital then we don’t need to use commas— if it isn't vital then stick in inside some commas. If you are speaking to someone directly, use commas.

I am going off topic for the end of this post. There are two things I need to clear up for people before I sign off and those are: run-on sentences and irregular verbs.

Run-on sentences & comma splices

Run-on sentences are easily confused with comma splices. Ever heard of these two terms? Don’t worry; I’ll explain.

A run-on sentence is a sentence where two strong clauses are joined without any punctuation— effectively you are mashing two separate sentences together without a conjunction or breath.
E.G: I get butterflies in my stomach when we are together we are always together.
To fix this, you would say something like: I get butterflies in my stomach when we are together; we are always together.
Alternatively, you could just separate the two sentences with a full stop between together and we.

A comma splice is when two strong clauses are joined together with just a comma instead of separating the two clauses with a conjunction, semicolon or period (full stop.) If I spliced that same sentence with a comma instead, we would get this:

I get butterflies in my stomach when we are together, we are always together.

However, the sentence should not be like this. To solve the problem we can do one of the things below.

Conjunction: I get butterflies in my stomach when we are together, and we are always together.
       I get butterflies in my stomach when we are together and we are always together.

Period:        I get butterflies in my stomach when we are together. We are always together.

(Note: If you don’t know what a strong clause is it is just another name for an independent clause. An independent clause is a statement that can stand on it’s on and still make sense.)

Irregular verbs

Admittedly, there is nothing much that I can say about irregular verbs. If there was a set rule it would be easy. Alas, they are irregular and, therefore, don’t follow a rule— that’s the point! I would
give you a list right here of all of the irregular verbs if it didn’t pose the following two problems:

1) There are around 620 irregular verbs in the English language! That’s way too many for me to list here.

2) I could never— in a million years— expect anyone to learn all 620 odd verbs.

The best advice I could give is that you keep a list close by and check it if you are unsure. If you already do this, I can’t help any more. If you need a list then click this link.

The only other thing I have to say on the subject is this: if it’s writing these irregular verbs down that stumps you then saying your sentence out loud to check if it makes sense.

That concludes this grammar post. If you have any requests for the next one— or any feedback— please comment below!

1 comment:

  1. ZOE! Thank you! While the comma issue should always be a no brainer. It still sometimes stumps me when I am writing. I find it's never a bad idea to be reminded on the rules of grammar.

    Thanks so much for posting this! It was a huge help!


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