It's important to understand basic punctuation, and the first thing to remember is that every sentence begins with a capital letter. Capital letters are an immediate visual clue that something important is about to happen.

Hello World! (Babies say this when they're born).

They also appear at the start of proper nouns (names) and official titles, like Paul, the Pope and the Department of Trade and Industry. It is always used when the letter I, the personal pronoun is used. People who write "i like blinking" should be avoided.

Just as a sentence always starts with a capital letter, it always finishes with a full stop, or as you say over the pond, a period. Remembering just those two facts puts you in a different league to the average 13 year old with a cell phone.

What is equally important is what happens in between the capital letter and the full stop. We saw in the last lesson that commas (,) are important in telling you when to pause momentarily when reading before continuing the sentence: "Crikey, it's cold in here!" for example. The comma indicates a very small pause in the flow of the sentence.

Commas are also used to separate out a clause in a sentence: "My cat, you will remember, is purple". Here, the phrase "you will remember" is a non-restrictive clause and is unimportant to the meaning of the sentence, and as such can be "bracketed off" with the commas.

There is a general rule that commas are also used to separate items in a list and aren't necessary before the final "and". So we get: "I went to the greengrocer's and bought apples, oranges, lemons, limes and an avocado".

However, sometimes we need a comma to avoid confusion or having three items separated by two "ands", as in "I went to the greengrocer's and bought apples and oranges, lemons and limes, and an avocado". The comma in the last example is called an Oxford comma, or serial comma, and although it makes perfect sense of an otherwise messy sentence, it's not used by every publisher and is outright frowned upon by some. I confess to being a user and I don't care what they think.

Capital letters, full stops (periods) and commas are the big three in sentence construction. Get to grips with these and the rest is easy, as we shall see in the next lesson when we deal with colons and semi-colons

See you soon...

Tasks 0/2 completed
1. Understand the Oxford comma and find it in other people
2. Find out whether you have ever used a lower case"i" as a personal pronoun and avoid yourself if you have.


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christine2 Premium
I will leave now, because I am constantly picking up grammar and spelling mistakes in others, as well as on the news, in newspapers, in books, on the radio...
Not that mine is perfect, but I must have had VERY GOOD TEACHERS as I was painfully and deliberately acquiring English as my second language...I would never have had the guts to put anything up as training but I find it hilarious and can only commend you, Paul.I feel like I have found a soul mate griping about the same thing. I hope you have given a tutorial on my pet hate: the misuse of the words to lay and to lie. My patients always tell me they were laying down...their life, perhaps? And working in Ashton-under - Lyne near Manchester one of my patients proceeded to tell me: "I were just eating me tea, when..."
Coming from South Africa I never thought that i would need an interpreter for English, but there I did!
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Paul Dean Premium
In Manchester (as elsewhere in England) people will happily admit to being "sat in front of the telly". I never occurs to them that by the same grammatical rules they should "get up and go for a walked". People seem particularly poor at tenses.

When ever I hear the word "sat" on telly I shout the word "sitting!" My wife just sighs.

I'll try to do "me" and "I" tomorrow, along with the correction to "me and him went out".
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mrbill74 Premium
I'm forever correcting my girlfriend's comments, and it's reached the point where I simply brace myself after doing so--I KNOW she's going to smack me! These comments here remind me of a grammar course I enjoyed while still at AT&T. By the end of class, we came to three resolute conclusions:

1) It's not 'Lay Lady Lay', it's 'Lie Lady Lie';
2) It's not 'Lay Down, Sally', it's 'Lie Down, Sally'; and
3) It's not 'I Feel Good!', but 'I Feel Well'.

I may not have used the proper punctuation above, but this discussion is about grammar, right? :-)
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speedking Premium
Hi Christine, good to hear from a fellow South African and great to meat up with you at WA ! I'm very new to all of this, but having a lot of fun doing it .Paul reminds me of one of my English teachers way back when in 'lekka" ol' SA.........keep up the good work Paul , there's always something new to learn.
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RandyKR Premium
You should try to don' t lett it buggya so much.
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teacup Premium
Another one that bothers me is the misuse of the words I and me. Please clarify for those who obviously don't know any better.
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mamalama Premium
As a home-school mom, I deal with grammar issues pretty regularly but I didn't have the guts to create grammar lessons for the WA community. This is a great service to many. Thanks a lot!
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jespinola Premium
Interesting.. I will check my grammar :)
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techhound Premium
Hey Paul, great lesson. How about "Yore" being added to the last section? LOL.

Best Regards,
Jim
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Paul Dean Premium
I'll do "yore" when I do "y'all". (No I won't).
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techhound Premium
LOL. Nice!
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