- For Teachers
Here are examples of how I was taught to use the comma before the word which and now I am being told that is wrong. Can you tell me if it is right?
"The first of the four grants is for 144,227 dollars, which will allow us to replace an old dump truck with a new one."
"The charges will exceed 25,000 dollars, which we will need approval on."
I have never been able to use commas correctly. The rules for punctuation in my native language changed more than once while I was in school and that, combined with the fact that English punctuation follow different rules again, has made me extremely confused. Is there a good place to learn about it online?
Try showing him/her something like this: English Grammar and Writing : English language courses, English Grammar Online
Thank you! I will see if I can find out about that. So far I have just accepted the corrections suggested when I have had my own work proofread without understanding why they were necessary. Luckily no one expects me to correct commas in my students' work.
I've looked around online and it looks like there is more than one way of using punctuation that is considered to be correct. Is that right?
I could also ask someone in the English department but there seems to be a silent war going on between English and... well, everyone else. I believe it dates back to budget cuts made when I was still in diapers, but that doesn't change anything - and if they think that we are rolling in money in History and Social Studies they are wrong. So wrong.
In Britain we tend to be fairly flexible. There are certain hard and fast rules, such as those concerning defining and non-defining clauses but, in general, we are left to make up our own minds. Some publishing houses have their own rules, which they stick to quite rigidly, but examination boards will not mark down a candidate for dubious punctuation - unless it could cause confusion.
I get the impression that the situation is far more rigid in the United States. Some of my American Cert TESOL trainees have expressed surprise that I, who appear to know a fair bit about English grammar, should be so 'ignorant' about basic rules of punctuation. Some of these 'rules' seem a little silly to me but, if you are preparing students for examinations in the American system, you have to follow the rules.
I think that the system is complicated by the fact that there are several different sets of rules in the USA, but you'll need someone like Barb_D to tell you more about that.
I love the Online Writing Lab at Purdue.
Check out this lesson, for example:
Purdue OWL: Commas
A lot of comma use -- well, punctuation use in general -- depends more on style than rules. Unfortunately, people who were taught something once, in an effort to give a simple rule to students, never lifted up their heads to see it was a general guideline and not an absolute rule. They go on "correcting" others without being able to acknowledge that there are often equally correct ways of doing things.
I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.
Thanks for that link, Barb. I now now what to tell my students when they ask how to use commas. I found rule 2 Particularly helpful:
"2. Use commas after introductory
b) phrases, or
c) words that come before the main clause.
- a. Common starter words for introductory clauses that should be followed by a comma include after, although, as, because, if, since, when, while.[...]
However, don't put a comma after the main clause when a dependent (subordinate) clause follows it
(except for cases of extreme contrast).
Incorrect: She was late for class, because her alarm clock was broken.
Incorrect: The cat scratched at the door, while I was eating.
Correct: She was still quite upset, although she had won the Oscar. (This comma use is correct because it is an example of extreme contrast)
- b. Common introductory phrases that should be followed by a comma include
participial and infinitive phrases,
nonessential appositive phrases, and
long prepositional phrases (over four words). [...]
- c. Common introductory words that should be followed by a comma include yes, however, well."
from: Purdue OWL: Commas
Last edited by 5jj; 07-Jan-2011 at 12:46. Reason: unnecessary line-spaces removed