Monday, July 2, 2018

#amwriting #Grammar 1. Glimpses into Commas and More (but NOT more commas!)

Most writers have grammar issues. The issues chosen for this blog series are some that I experience in my writing.  The issue with each issue in the series ranges from significant to bothersome in my writing.

I teach a technical writing class to nurses in the BS-Nursing program at Point Loma Nazarene University. Early versions of the course focused on rules of English grammar. I've shifted the focus to the importance of editing. If you search my past blogs, you'll find LOTS of instruction, information, and insistence on the importance of editing.

The above paragraph does not mean good grammar is not important in your writing. The four blogs in this series present information that I’ve gleaned, remembered or learned about grammar while in the role of a writing teacher. I know that teaching this class helped my writing. I’m running this series--and following it was a series on adverb use/abuse--with high hopes that both series will help your writing, too.

If you don’t experience any of these issues in your writing, I hope you realize how fortunate you are!

Glimpse #1: Assure. Ensure. Insure.

Of these three –ures, I have the least problem with assure. That could be because 

AssureTo promise or say with confidence

I relate to that.

Oftentimes, my grammar checker let’s me know that I’ve used the wrong member of the remaining pair. For the record

EnsureTo do what’s necessary to make something happen.
InsureTo provide insurance… like for your car.  Remember the word insurance.

  • Ensure is doing something.
  • Insure is providing something.
  • Assure is more about saying than doing.

Try these yourself. Which is the correct of the three terms in parentheses?

  1.     I (assure/ensure/insure) you that my testimony about what happened last night is accurate.
  2.     Alex plans to (assure/ensure/insure) his new car when he leaves work after his shift.
  3.     Melinda saved money from every paycheck to (assure/ensure/insure) that she would have the deposit for a new apartment by August.

Glimpse #2: Commas After Introductory Elements

A comma usually follows an introductory word, expression, phrase, or clause.
Some writers omit the comma if the introductory element is short and does not seem to require a pause after it.

At the racetrack Henry lost nearly his entire paycheck.
[In my opinion, better than omitting a comma in this sentence is to revise its structure completely to: 
Henry lost his entire paycheck at the racetrack
I realize that might not fit the storyline as well, but it’s a much better read.]

However you will seldom be wrong if you use a comma after an introductory element. If the introductory element is followed by inverted word order, with the verb preceding the subject, do not use a comma unless misreading might occur.
Yellow highlights are quoted from The St. Martin’s Handbook (7th Ed.) by Andrea A. Lunsford. Pp 708-709. Blue highlights are my commentary.

Below is a photo of a bulleted list of common comma uses. From The St. Martin’s Handbook (7th Ed.) by Andrea A. Lunsford. P 710.
Even though the first paragraph labels these as "common errors in college writing," I suspect many/most authors of any age struggle with some/many of these.

#Grammar. Glimpses into Parts of Speech Part 1 – Nouns, Pronouns, and Verbs

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