Before the But.

Posted on October 5, 2010Filed Under grammar | Leave a Comment

OMG. These kids do not know from commas this year.  Some years, they use commas like salt: they just sprinkle them everywhere. Sometimes it seems, there’s even a little pile of commas for dipping here and there. This year, it’s run-on sentences and single paragraphs as far as the eye can see, with no room to take a breath.

(The “salt” for the current crew is capital letters. I swear I have never seen so many randomly-placed capital letters: “…and So i looked under the Bed and I Saw a creepy Looking maggot wriggling and then I ran And tripped on my…” Not since the colonial days have we seen such rampant, random capitalizing.)

So we’re working on several of the rules for commas, and going one of the few handouts I use that came with the anthology years ago.

(They’re called pink sheets since one of my servants a few years ago decided, as she was doing the copying, that “all grammar sheets should be pink.” OK. Even when we’re out of pink paper, and I have to copy them on goldenrod or canary or whatever, they’re still called pink sheets.)

The first rule on the sheet talks about a comma between parts of a compound sentence before a coordinating conjunction. Like this:

“I went to the store, but they didn’t have any rutabagas.”

I asked the kids, “Does a single one of you have any idea what that means? Coordinating conjunction? Compound sentence?”

Only the geniuses that barely know what a sentence is raise their hands.

“Just as I thought. Well I made up nicknames for all those rules, because that’s how I roll. I make up nicknames for everything. Including all of you guys.”

“Wha? What’s mine?” A chorus.

“It’s not like I’d tell you. Anyway, the first rule says ‘…when joining independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction?’ How about this?”

“Before the but.”

Teehee. Giggle. Nudge. Nudge.

“See that word but? With one T. What’s that before it?”

“A comma?”  (You gotta start with the easy ones.)

“Ok. So what other word sort of works the same as but with one T? ‘I went to the store…?'”

“And!”

“Nice. Also or, so, and etc. So here we go. Before the but, before the but, before the but.” And I do a little wiggle and wave my hand behind my behind.

“Before the but, before the and, before the so, before the but. In a sentence like that, the comma goes before the but.”  Another little wiggle that will, with any luck, be permanently seared into their brains.

Now we’re rapping, doing the exaggerated arm-crossing-at-an-angle thing,

“Before the but, before the so, before the and, before DA BUT.”

BtB, baby. More manana.

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