Monday, May 27, 2013

Punctuation Rule #8

Rule #8 states that a comma should be placed before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, so, for, or, not, yet) when it separates two independent clauses, but it should not be placed when these words (and, but, or) separate a compound predicate.

This is a complicated rule which I will explain further in this post. My {freebie} chart on TpT omits nor because it is the least commonly used of the conjunctions. That {freebie} is designed for fourth graders, and the rule as I've stated it is true but incomplete given that many fourth graders are still struggling with what constitutes a complete sentence. 

A second part of this rule is that when the independent clauses are joined by and, but, or, or nor and they are short and have parallel structure, the comma is optional. A comma always precedes for, yet and so, no matter the length of the clauses or the parallelism. Some examples (using By the Great Horn Spoon) follow.

The Sea Raven stopped in Callao and took on enough coal to fill its bunkers. (compound predicate)

Jack took his squirrel gun to hunt a jackrabbit for dinner, but he found the rogue who had stolen their belongings instead.

Captain Swain took a shortcut through the Strait of Magellan, and he won the race. OR
Captain Swain took the shortcut through the Strait of Magellan and he won the race.

I also left out how the semi-colon can be used with coordinating conjunctions.
So for those students who are ready for more of a challenge or for your own understanding, here is even more on rule #8.

A semi-colon can precede a coordinating conjunction when it separates independent clauses which contain many commas. For example (using California Gold Rush history)

James K. Polk, who was the 11th President of the United States, confirmed the existence of gold in a speech to Congress on December 5, 1848; and when the Emancipator and Republican published that speech three days later, there was literally a stampede out west.

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