When did we stop teaching comma rules? Anyone? Bueller?

I’ve been teaching at the college level consistently since 2002.  Over the years, I’ve noticed a serious decline in my students’ writing.

Yes, I accept that spell check and grammar check functions have rendered us all idiots when it comes to the basics, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.  This phenomenon manifests itself the most with the comma.  People do not know how to use them.  They either over use them, or they don’t use them at all.

I read a lot of papers each semester.  Right now, I’m in the middle of a stack of 41 final papers, 1500 to 2000 words apiece, many written by graduate students.  Let me tell you something.  When the writer has misused commas, my focus on the content is completely blown.  It could be a Pulitzer-prize winning piece, but if the commas are loused up, I can’t follow the content.  Maybe that’s my issue.  I don’t know.

Is it too much to expect papers to follow the basic punctuation rules of the English language?  I’m not even talking colons here, people.  I’m talking COMMAS.  They look like this: ,

If any of my students are reading this, listen up.  If you take nothing else from my class, take this:

Two independent clauses joined by a conjunction require a comma before the conjunction.  End of story.  An independent clause has a subject and a verb.  I hope this helps.

In some cases, like when we use a word such as “therefore,” it’s usually a semi-colon.  If that’s too complicated, I’ll settle for the comma.


Sally Anal Grammar and Punctuation Pants is signing off.