Saturday, May 22, 2010

Comma Confusion

I recently read the following sentence in a book I'm reading:

This time, the junta managed somewhat to conciliate the positions for Sanchez and Duarte also signed the new communique.

This is an excellent example of why it's important to use commas after what are called "conjunction" words. In this above sentence, as we read, it seems that the junta conciliated the positions for Sanchez and Duarte, but then the sentence seems to end abruptly. This forces us to re-read the sentence and realise that the junta conciliated the positions (positions that were explained in the previous paragraph) because Sanchez and Duarte also signed the document.

The role of conjunctions is to join ideas of equal importance. For example, look at the following sentence:

The man was short and bald.

In this sentence, the author of a sentence like that would want the reader to note the equal importance of the man being both short and bald.

For this post, my intention is not to focus on conjunctions so much as when to use commas and conjunctions. A comma should always be used when a conjunction is used to join 2 main clauses (phrases that function on their own as sentences). Look at the following sentence:

It was a cold day, for the wind was blowing.

I often see the commas omitted in these types of sentences. Quite honestly, the readability of the above sentence would not be too affected, but as we can see in sentence about Sanchez and Duarte above, not having used a comma caused the sentence to be confusing on first reading of it. I always try to promote getting into the practice of always using commas to join 2 main clauses because then it becomes habit, and that will hopefully help to prevent you from creating any confusion.

If you'd like to know what the conjunctions are, see the list below:


Saturday, May 15, 2010

British, Canadian, and American English

There is a lot of confusion about spelling and grammar when it comes to things like, do I use one l or two? Is it -or or -our? When do I use quotation marks ("), and when do I use inverted commas (')? These differences are usually explained by the difference between British and American usage. The main reason I mention Canadian English in the subheading of this post is because Canadian English tends to accept a mixture of both. I find that somewhat confusing, and when you use Canadian English as your default dictionary in Microsoft Word for your spell check, you'll notice that both types of spellings will be recognised. If you have the dictionary set at British or U.S. English, you'll find that one or the other spelling is recognised by spell check as incorrect, depending on which spelling you use with which dictionary. In the next few posts, I will highlight some of the most pressing questions that I've heard a lot. It's too late for me to go into that now, as I'm so tired my eyes are closing, so I should probably write about it when I'm more awake. I'll make fewer typos that way, too!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

International English Faux Pas

Just a short note about the fact that English can sometimes be murdered in other countries. I was recently on vacation in India, and I was saddened to see that despite the fact they generally use the British education system and learn British English, they seem to have forgotten the difference between plurals and possessives. I can't tell you how many times I saw the word "thank's" on signs around town. It was really frustrating!

Another funny word I noticed was the word "laning". When widening a road, they call it "laning", which I think sounds hilarious, but it does make sense, speaking conceptually!

I enjoy interpretations of English in other countries. I find it entertaining. From a sociolinguistic perspective, I have to accept the fact that this is part of the way the English language has evolved in that particular context, whether or not I think it's proper English. For any of you who read this, if you have funny words or phrases you've seen, feel free to comment!