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Friday, July 23, 2010

Grammar and Punctuation Rules I Never Learned?

As I've mentioned before, my mom, Flo, was a grammarian. Mom couldn’t understand why I knew grammar rules and my brothers didn’t because we went to the same school. While I’m not the grammarian she was, teaching grammar in my business communication classes helps. To my surprise, though, I learned a few grammar and punctuation rules when I started teaching the class. Was I asleep during those lessons in grade school? Or did I forget them? Either could be true… 

Comma vs. no comma. I swear I never learned this rule: Place a comma between each element and after the last element for dates (elements include day of the week, month, day, and year), addresses (elements include name, street address, city, state, and zip code), and geographical locations (elements include city and state) when these items contain more than one element in a sentence. Examples help explain this rule:

Our meeting will be held July 31, 2010, at our corporate headquarters. (Many of us know to place the comma between the day and year. What about that second comma? Do you know this rule?)

The sales letter addressed to Ms. Mary Smith, 123 Main Street, Chicago, IL 60601, will be mailed today. (Notice the comma after the zip code.)

Were vs. was. The subjunctive mood—what?—is a verb expressing a doubt or a wish and typically occurs in clauses using if or wish. For example, If I were you, I’d transfer to another department. I used to say, "If I was you..." I don’t remember if Mom corrected me.

Bad vs. badly. I used to think most people were saying this one incorrectly. Imagine my surprise when I found out I was the one saying it wrong! Use the adjective (bad), not the adverb (badly), after a linking verb (is, are, look, seem, feel, sound, appear, etc.) when it describes the verb’s subject. I feel bad saying this incorrectly for so long!

As I tell my students, “Just because it sounds right to you, doesn’t mean it is right.” Grammar rules! Right, Mom?