For as long as I live I will champion the rules guarding the English language. Though living languages evolve over time, there are generally accepted guidelines as a means of, well, assuring that we can continue to communicate with one another. If you’re writing something that’s meant for the eyes of other people, then the assumption is that you want them to understand it. The addition of a single comma can completely change the meaning of the sentence, and even if your audience understands what you meant, the fact remains that they had to waste precious seconds trying to figure it out, seconds that took them out of the flow of the narrative.
It’s not an easy thing to master. For one thing, our educational system does a pretty pathetic job of teaching us to tell our gerunds from our predicates (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) I pride myself on my grammar and punctuation, and I really have no idea what those words mean. That’s because, for me, grammar and punctuation have become instinctual. Forget labeling the parts of a sentence. Forget words like ‘preposition’ and ‘conjunctions.’ Good grammar is about sound.
I certainly didn’t learn anything about grammar from my terrible high school English teachers, most of whom thought that reading half a novel every three weeks was sufficient prep for the Advanced Placement test. I learned about period placement and semicolon usage from my mother. To be more specific, from having my mother correct my Harry Potter fan fiction.
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