Monday, June 8, 2009

Your Simple Rules to Grammar, part 2

If you're not up on your grammar definitions, check yesterday's post here.

So, now you know all about the basics definitions, and what makes a sentence be a sentence (hint: sentence = subject + predicate).

But how do you hook them together?

Note: You do NOT put commas just "wherever it feels natural to pause in the sentence." BECAUSE THAT MAKES NO SENSE AND YOUR ENGLISH TEACHERS LIED TO YOU.

Here's how I teach my tenth graders: the IC/DC rules. IC = independent clause, DC = dependent clause, cc = coordinating conjunction (and, but, or--etc.)

  1. IC.
  2. IC DC.
  3. DC, IC.
  4. IC; IC.
  5. IC, cc IC.

That's it. Now you know grammar. See? Told ya it was simple.

OK, some explanation.

Rule 1: IC. Whenever you have an independent clause, all you need is a period at the end. IC.

Rule 2: IC DC. Whenever a dependent clause follows an independent clause, you don't need a comma, just a period at the end.

Rule 3: DC, IC. Whenever a dependent clause is in front of an independent clause, you DO need a comma to separate them.


Rule 4:
If you're joining together two independent clauses, there needs to be a semicolon separating them, or...

Rule 5: You can also join together the two independent clauses with a comma + a conjunction.

  1. The monkey flings poo. One independent clause = only a period at the end.
  2. The monkey flings poo when he sees you. Independent clause is before the dependent clause. Punctuation follows the dependent clause, so there's only a period at the end, after the dependent clause.
  3. When he sees you, the monkey flings poo. Because the dependent clause is now at the beginning of the sentence, and because punctuation follows a dependent clause, then the comma has to go after the dependent clause.
  4. The monkey flings poo; he laughs at you. Two independent clauses--hook them together with a semicolon, or...
  5. The monkey flings poo, and he laughs at you. ...or you can join them together with a comma and a conjunction. Same difference.
Rant. I think one reason (lazy) English teachers tell kids to just put a comma wherever it feels natural is because these rules do allow for natural pauses. It makes sense to pause in my third example where the comma is, and it doesn't make sense to pause in the second example, where there is no comma. BUT. We don't put the comma there because it's "natural" and "we feel like it." We pause because the comma is there BECAUSE THAT IS THE RULE OF WHERE TO PUT THE COMMAS. (Can you tell that English teachers who don't teach grammar really bother me?)

Easy-peasy, right? With those five simple IC/DC rules, you know when, where, and why to put a comma (or semicolon) in a sentence.

Questions? Feel free to ask below. I am a grammar nerd, and I love grammar questions.

Tomorrow: But what about prepositional phrases?!
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