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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Comas, oops I mean commas

Ok, so I know punctuation is not the most riveting topic, and indeed may even be coma-inducing, but nonetheless, there are rules, and most of them make your sentences easier to understand. The problem is that if you sit down to an explanation of all the rules governing all the punctuation marks (there's a good one in the end matter of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, by the way), you quickly get overwhelmed. I am hereby starting a new "punctuation tip" branch of Wordlady, and today's tip is ... commas between coordinate clauses. Yes, yes, be still your beating heart. Actually you don't need to know the grammatical terms. First, memorize this (almost) rhyming jingle:

and or
but nor
yet for
so
whereas

These are called coordinating conjunctions, but you don't have to remember their name. You just have to remember that when you have two clauses (that's something that could stand by itself on its own as a sentence) joined by one of them, you have to put a comma before the conjunction. Like this:

I love the Wordlady blog, and I recommend it to all my friends.
Katherine's blog is full of useful tips, so I always read it.
Katherine always makes the language fun, whereas other usage commentators can be dry and judgemental.
You can find out when there is a new post by friending her on facebook, or you can send her an email to be added to the mailing list.
Proper punctuation can be very helpful, yet many people do not follow the rules.
The comma is not the only punctuation mark, nor is it the most interesting one (just wait till we get to the SEMI-COLON!!!)

You get the idea.

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.