Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Q-Tips and A Punctuation Question

Why do they make and sell q-tips if all of the books and doctors tell you not to use them in your ears?


So, here is my random question. I use to teach 3rd grade before we had kids. As a part of our grammar curriculum, I taught my third graders about using commas. Well, the other day, Jason corrected me on something that I thought I had right. This is kind of hard to explain, but stay with me.

Take this sentence: "I like to eat roast beef, potatoes and carrots." Notice that there is no comma between "potatoes" and "carrots". This is the way I taught my 3rd graders and this is what I was taught in school, too.

Jason said he used to punctuate his sentences the same way until he started getting papers back from his professors with "comma" corrections. The corrected version of the sentence would read, "I like to eat roast beef, potatoes, and carrots." Jason says he was taught that you weren't supposed to put a comma between "potatoes" and "carrots", but he does it now because he doesn't want to lose points on his grad papers.

I was taught that the only time you would use a comma before the word "and" was if your sentence had a series of 4 or more words. An example would be, "I like to eat roast beef, potatoes, carrots, mac n' cheese, and rolls."

Does this make any sense? Can somebody help me clarify which way is the right way? I'm not sure why this matters, but I just can't stand the thought of doing something wrong.

12 comments:

eyegal said...

Doug Mendenhall who works at the Huntsville Times told us one time that grammar changes with the times. This is one of the "new" things. That extra comma is obsolete and no longer to be used (at least not by editors in the paper). I've noticed that some of the new ACT prep books still use the comma so they're not "up" on new trends either. Guess it's up for debatee

kyllie said...

I think I might have your answer. In elementary/high school, I was taught to put a comma after every word in a list: apple, banana, and orange. In college, I majored in communications and took some journalism courses. Journalistic writing is a little different than everyday writing, in journalism they follow a style guide, and in the style guide the rule is to leave out the comma before "and": apple, banana and orange. I don't know if this makes any sense, but I specifically remember that rule in college and have always thought that was the difference.

Also I'm not sure if you know me or not, we go to Mayfair, and I just happened upon your blog from other blogs, so I just wanted to kind of introduce myself so you wouldn't think I was a stalker!

Jamey said...

I guess they can't leave things how they are...they have to change the way Math is done, so I'm assuming they are pulling English in on the matter too.

At my previous place of employment I wrote radio and tv commercials, print ads, etc. I was told by my supervisor that I overused commas. I was given a grammar book to study. (It was pretty demeaning the way they did it too.)So apparently I'm not the best one to give advice on this even though English was my best subject.

Jason said...

My professor, tells me that I use commas, too often, too. I think, he's nuts.

,

Sunny said...

Kyllie - Thanks for stopping by and leaving me a comment. Isn't it amazing how you can get connected with so many people through these blogs?

Trey and Bri Maharrey said...

The comma thing is very interesting to me! I am bad with punctuations anyways but this throws me way off. I have always done this the way you were saying you had. This has rocked my world!!! Thanks for sharing the tidbit and asking for the feedback. Very informative ;)

TARA said...

Sunny,

I am going to refer your question to Pamela White, the Institute for Excellence in Writing Teacher in our area. She edits books for publishers and teaches several classes for homeschoolers. She is fantastic. I would have said good but that's a banned word she won't let us use anymore.

Anonymous said...

Ok Sunny...I know you haven't heard from me in years but I keep up to date with people from our class by reading their blogs. I now teach English at Friendship and I have the answer to your question. The actual rule states that in a series or listing of items, a comma is listed between each item unless two of the items go together. For example...if your sentence said: "I like to eat roast beef, potatoes and carrots." That sentence implies that potatoes and carrots are one item, like it is a mixed food. If it said "I like to eat roast beef, potatoes, and carrots." That implies that each item is a separate thing. The Harbrace Handbook, which is what most colleges use and what we use here says this: "A comma separates words, phrases, or clauses in a series, and a comma appears after each item in the listing except the last one. Hope this helps! I hope you and your family are doing well!! God Bless...

Anonymous said...

Since I had to post anonymously because I don't have a blog, I forgot to tell you who I am! This is Erica Powell...sorry :)

Sunny said...

Erica - So good to hear from you! I hope that things are going well for you. So, your teaching at Friendship?

Stacy said...

I don't really care much about the comma thing.

All I have to say it that you know why I think they continue to make q-tips! :)

Sunny said...

Stacy - it took me awhile to remember...

Thanks for the laugh!