All current juniors in our school district will have the chance to take an in-school SAT this Wednesday. This is a great way to put your toe in the College Board waters and get a benchmark score.
You may have been preparing with a formal class or studying on your own. Excellent idea! It’s late in the game to cram all the grammar rules in, that’s for sure. I recommend, though, that you take the time to review your punctuation rules, especially for the comma, semicolon, colon, and dash. By becoming a pro on just these four, you can significantly increase your score on the Writing and Language Test.
For today, let’s go over a few simple but pivotal comma rules.
- If a sentence starts with a Long Introductory Thingie (we’ll call it a “LIT”), follow it with a comma.
- Example: When you dress for a standardized test, put on layers of comfortable clothing.
- Explanation: You need to separate the introductory element from the main part of the sentence with a comma for clarity. That element can be a clause or phrase, which is why I like to just call it a “thingie.” If you prefer, you can call it an “element,” which makes your acronym LIE.
- Use COMMA+COORDINATING CONJUNCTION to join two or more independent clauses.
- Example: Juan usually wears a hoodie to the test, but Marcella thinks sweatshirts are too hot.
- Know your coordinating conjunctions backwards, forwards, and inside out: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So (FANBOYS).
- Enclose extra (nonrestrictive) information or language within commas.
- Example: Alex keeps his lucky hat, a bright yellow Pikachu that his mom knit for him six years ago, in his backpack during all important tests.
- Explanation: The information within the comma pair is nice, but we don’t absolutely need it. Accordingly, we set it off with commas. On both the left and right sides–not, say, a comma on the left and a dash on the right (i.e., “Alex keeps his lucky hat, a bright yellow Pikachu that his mom knit for him six years ago—in his backpack during all important tests”). The SAT often sets up this trap. Don’t fall in!
- Use a comma between coordinate adjectives.
- Example: Paula’s slobbering, hyper dachshund cannot sit with her during the exam even though she calls it a support animal.
- Explanation: Coordinate adjectives can also be reversed in order AND separated by AND. Try these tests to identify coordinate adjectives: flip them in order or remove the comma, substituting AND. If everything still makes sense, you do, in fact, have coordinating adjectives that require a comma between them.
- We can say, “hyper, slobbering dachshund” as well as “slobbering and hyper dachshund,” so a comma between the two adjectives is correct.
- Yes, use the Oxford comma! In a list of three or more items, place a comma after each item, including the penultimate (next to last). The final comma is the Oxford comma, which Americans ironically (given the name) love more than their British counterparts.
- Example: Forbidden activities during the SAT include texting, singing, talking, cheating, and talking on the phone.
- Count 4 commas in the sentence above; the last one is your Oxford comma. Now you can amaze your friends and neighbors by referring to the Oxford comma and the penultimate item in a list. You’re welcome! 😉
I’d be happy to help you with the comma and other essential punctuation, either online or in-person. What you learn will help you in all your writing tasks, each day. Hope to see you soon.