Tag Archives: punctuation

Teaching and Learning Support: The Serial Comma

[The Oxford Comma is a fairly contentious issue among writers, and this squib doesn’t address that issue in punctuation usage. If you want this material in typescript form click on that hyperlink.]

In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last.

Thus write,

Red, white and blue

Gold, silver, of copper

He opened the letter, read it, and made a note of its contents.

This comma is often referred to as the “serial” comma.

In the names of business firms the last comma is usually omitted. Follow the usage of the individual firm.

Little, Brown and Company

Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette

Excerpted from: Strunk, William Jr., and E.B. White. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. New York: Longman, 2000.

Coordination and Subordination

“I want to pause here to digress on the seemingly underwhelming concepts of coordination and subordination. I will ask you to stifle your yawn as I acknowledge that they are easy to dismiss–ancient, faintly risible, uttered once long ago by acolytes of sentence diagramming in the era of chalk dust. They smack of grammar for grammar’s sake, and almost nobody cares about that. Teachers instead seek mostly to simply make sure the sentences work and dispense with the parsing of parts. It is so much simpler to tell kids to go with ‘sounds right’ (an idea that inherently discriminates against those for whom the sounds of language are not happily ingrained by luck or privilege) or to make the odd episodic correction and not worry about the principle at work.

But coordination and subordination are in fact deeply powerful principles worth mastering. They describe the ways that ideas are connected, the nuances that yoke disparate thoughts together. It is the connections as much as the ideas that make meaning. To master conjunctions is to be able to express that two ideas are connected but that one is more important than the other, that one is dependent on the other, that one is contingent on the other, that the two ideas exist in contrast or conflict. Mastering that skill is immensely important not just to writing but to reading. Students who struggle with complex text can usually understand the words and clauses of a sentence; it is the piecing together of the interrelationships among them that most often poses the problem. They understand the first half of a sentence but miss the cue that questions its veracity in the second half. And so without mastery of the syntax of the relationships–which is what coordination and subordination are–the sentence devolves–for weak readers–into meaninglessness.”

Doug Lemov

Excerpted from: Hochman, Judith C., and Natalie Wexler. The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking through Writing in All Subjects and Grades. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2017.

Everyday Edit: Columbus Sets Sail

OK, here is an Everyday Edit worksheet, “Columbus Sets Sail,” which serves, I think, as a pretty good introduction to how Hispanic History begins.

Incidentally, if you, or more importantly, your students, like this kind of exercise, the good people at Education World give away a year-long supply of them at no charge. Just click on the hyperlink in the previous sentence to get to them.

If you find typos in this document…well, that’s the point of it. Ask your students to correct them.

The Weekly Text, July 5, 2019

This week’s Text is a pair of learning supports on using conjunctions.

Now it’s time to go swimming in the Connecticut River, in Putney, Vermont, with friends. I hope you’re enjoying your summer.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.