Okay, boys and girls, today we’re going to have a punctuation lesson. We’re going to learn the difference between a period and a comma.
But first, we need to learn what a sentence is. Can anybody tell me?...Very good, Billy. A sentence is a group of words that includes a subject and a predicate; in other words, the noun or pronoun that the sentence is about, and the action that noun or pronoun takes. Forms of the verb to be – am, is, are – are also considered predicates.
You will read this sentence as an example.
In that sentence, you is the subject, will read is the predicate. That is a complete sentence, which is punctuated by a period at the end of it. Does that make sense? Are there any questions?
All right, boys and girls, now that we understand what a sentence is, let’s move on to the focus of this lesson: the period and the comma. A period (.) goes at the end of a complete sentence. A comma (,) is used to separate items in a list, or to separate phrases within a sentence.
What follow are three appropriate uses for a comma.
Jenny ate eggs, salad, and an apple for lunch.
In that sentence, commas are used to list more than two items.
When I got home, I sat down on the couch.
Here, the phrase “when I got home” is a phrase that modifies the sentence that follows, “I sat down on the couch.”
Peter ran to the window, opened the curtain, and rapped on the glass.
In this sentence we have another kind of list, a series of actions that Peter achieves. Like the list of the items Jenny eats, this list is separated by commas.
Now, boys and girls, let’s look at an example of how to use a period.
The healthiest way to eat is to choose foods in their most natural forms possible. For example, eat whole apples instead of applesauce.
Do you see how a period separates the two complete sentences in that example?
Unfortunately, I have noticed a nasty trend among self-published non-fiction authors lately. Instead of using a period to end a complete sentence, they string together two, three, sometimes even four sentences with commas. This is what is known as a run-on sentence. Can you say, “run-on sentence”? Good!
Now, boys and girls, I’m going to show you a paragraph. Please look at it carefully. Has the writer used commas correctly? Here it is:
He likes buying things that entertain or amuse him, I do as well however I’m just as content with leaving those things on the store shelf. I’m a window shopper, I just browse. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice stuff and cool things as much as the next guy but I don’t necessarily need them, most of the time I acquire these things when they’ve lost a little popularity….
Okay, who can tell me the mistakes in this piece of writing?...Yes, Taylor?
Excellent! Yes, there should be a period, not a comma, after the words “amuse him.” That ends a complete sentence, and the following three or so lines are another complete sentence. One usually separates two complete sentences with a period, not a comma.
Next?...Jane?... Brilliant! There should be a comma after “I do as well.” A semi-colon might be an even better choice.
There’s one more – Danny… All right! You got it, dude! After “I don’t necessarily need them,” there should be a period. And the word “most” should start with an uppercase letter. Those are two complete sentences. They should not be joined by a comma.
Very good, boys and girls! I think you’ve got it. So now, I want you to turn on your computers, open the document that you uploaded as a book to the Kindle store, and fix all those nasty run-on sentences that make educated readers wonder where you went to school, and tempt them to go back to your book’s product page and give you a one-star review.