Commas are confusing!
It’s true! To know where to place a comma can be quite frustrating. As I tell my students in my writing classes, we must write differently than we speak. We pause when we speak. We talk in fragments. We even interrupt.
With writing, however, there are some simple rules that can guide one on the proper placement of commas that will enable sentences to flow smoothly on the paper and be grammatically correct. For example, ALWAYS use a comma before a coordinating conjunction where two main clauses are joined. (What?) One complete sentence is written, and then another complete sentence follows it. (See the comma before the coordinating conjunction, and?) Commas are also use with lists, numbers, addresses, dates, interruptions, introductions, attributions, appositives, negation, dependent clauses, independent clauses, and more! This all can seem intimidating, but don’t let it be. A few short lessons can alleviate that anxiety.
Why are commas important in writing? They instruct the reader where to pause so that the information will make sense. Sometimes a missing comma changes the sentence completely. Look at the following examples:
The boy yelled, “Let’s eat, Grandma!”
The boy yelled, “Let’s eat Grandma!”
One of those sentences could mean the demise of Grandma! Oh, no!
Learning about commas early in a student’s education will be beneficial in the long run. In this era of digital technology and autocorrect, proper grammar and punctuation usage is deteriorating. There’s still nothing better than human comprehension and reasoning when writing sentences. Effective communication and the ability to think will always be important regardless of texting lingo; and students need to integrate grammar, punctuation, and writing skills into their toolboxes for their future success.
Tips to integrate these skills into your homeschool:
- Copy Work: Having a student copy a properly written sentence (while paying attention to the details of punctuation) provides a model of where punctuation is to be placed.
- Editing Work: Some homeschool titles are just for that purpose. A few sentences are written on a page with the type of mistakes to look for. Student is to “edit” the paper and find the mistakes. This is typically done after being taught a grammar, punctuation, or writing skill rule.
Rules are important in all areas of life, and it’s even true with writing! It doesn’t take long to master the rules. All students can learn the basic rules of when to use and NOT to use a comma. Provide your writers the opportunity early in their education to build confidence and sharpen their writing skills. Those who read their writing will appreciate it!
Mrs. L. is a mother of four home-schooled children (two have graduated) and is a certified Institute for Excellence in Writing instructor. Mrs. L. has taught IEW in both traditional and online classes for over fifteen years and enjoys watching the students improve in their writing skills. As a retired Navy family, Mrs. L. and her family homeschool on the East Coast after twenty years of learning around the world. In her free time, Mrs. L. enjoys crocheting, exercising, cooking, reading, and RVing.