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The Case of the Missing Punctuation Mark

What the heck is going on with grammar and punctuation lately? I admit I’m a grammar snob. I was raised by parents who, when asked “Can me and Eileen go get snow cones?” replied, “Can Eileen and I go get snow cones?”  I know every preposition in alphabetic order, can diagram a sentence like a pro, and my subject verb agreement is freakishly perfect. My mom had a red felt tip pen she used to go over our homework and let me tell you, the woman liked to use it. We all learned to cross our T’s, dot our I’s and put the period at the end of the sentence.

So I’m alarmed at what has been passing for acceptable writing these days.  I understand (begrudgingly) the necessity to abbreviate and modify for texting. I can accept imperfections in casual emails between friends. Heck, I’ll even hold my tongue when reviewing lesson plans and other items teachers turn in to me that are for my review and eyes only. After all, if they get the point across with a displaced modifier, it doesn’t affect their teaching capabilities. I guess.

As a freshman in college I had a professor who used to rant about the “bastardization of the English language” for which our generation was responsible. But this generation right below me, whew. You all have issues.

To zoom in on the problem I’m seeing most lately, let’s take a close look at the comma.  According to this website, there are four reasons to use a comma: To separate elements, to connect independent clauses, to set off literary elements and to set off parenthetical elements.  If you don’t know what those things are, well, look it up. I’m going to tell you what commas are NOT for.

They’re not periods. When you end a thought, it looks like this. (see the little dot?)  Case in point, an email I received yesterday had this….thing, which resembles a sentence, but is really a string of thoughts separated by commas:

“I was thinking of reading to the kids before lunch but then thought they would be calmer afterwards, we usually feel calmer then, spelling and vocabulary often goes there also, along with a read aloud.”

Help me, please. I don’t want to be a crotchety college professor ranting about punctuation, but look! I am! Explain this phenomenon to me, someone. Anyone. When did the period start taking a back seat?


By Sharon Linde, Education Blogger and punctuation police for SmartParenting.