Paul's Grammar Corner
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...