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Hey, Juniors, In-school SAT on Wednesday?

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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 agoin his backpack during all important tests”). The SAT often sets up this trap. Don’t fall in!
  4. 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.
  5. 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! 😉
Yes, commas can be scary. But if you spend time and get to know them, they will become your best friends.

For more practice on the Writing and Language Test, click here.

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.

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