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 Post subject: Punctuation - commas
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:51 pm 
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Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2008 1:41 pm
Posts: 136
I have a query about commas and this particular sentence:

The boy who owns a yellow bicycle fell down.

I don't believe commas are needed, because the subject is the boy but we do not know which boy, therefore the phrase "who owns a yellow bicycle" gives us information about the boy, which we require.

However, we require commas for this sentence:

Jane, who owns three cars, had a party last week.

The subject of the sentence is Jane, so we know who it is - it's Jane. The clause "who owns three cars" is simply giving us extra information about Jane. We therefore require commas. The rule I was taught has always been:

If you know, you need commas
If you don't know, you don't need commas.

I have however seen this in a book about punctuation:

The dog, which had fleas, scratched and scratched.

I believe this is incorrect. I would be grateful if someone could help clarify this.

Many thanks in advance.


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 Post subject: Re: Punctuation - commas
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 1:17 pm 
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In these sentences the commas are separating additional information from the rest of the sentence and are needed. So the sentence The boy who owns a yellow bicycle fell down. should be written as

The boy, who owns a yellow bicycle, fell down.

Jane, who owns three cars, had a party last week.

The dog, which had fleas, scratched and scratched.

The phrases inside the commas are additional information and separated from the body of the sentence by commas.


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 Post subject: Re: Punctuation - commas
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 3:19 pm 
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Try:
http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/english/ ... ndwich.htm
http://www.informatics.sussex.ac.uk/dep ... ode09.html
I found them both useful with DD.


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 Post subject: Re: Punctuation - commas
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 8:31 pm 
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Posts: 136
Ok, but Susan Daughtrey Punctuation Book 1, pages 26 & 27 gives this example:

The boy who rides the yellow bicycle is my friend.

Do you need to know the boy who rides the yellow bike to understand who the sentence is talking about?
Yes.
Does this sentence require commas?
No, there should not be any commas in this sentence. Without who rides a yellow bike we would not know who the friend is. This information is essential to the meaning of the sentence.
Commas are not necessary.

Then, in her exercises, she gives these questions:
Exercise 15, page 28:
The china plate which already have a crack in it broke when I dropped it.

In her answer scheme, no commas are necessary. You need the information about the crack in the plate for the meaning of the sentence to be complete.

On the other hand:

The village store which sells everything from crisps to crockery is run by Mrs Bailey. In the answer scheme, commas are necessary. This is because the information "which sells everything from crisps to crockery" is not absolutely necessary for the meaning of the sentence to be complete.

Yowza!!!!!! :?:


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 Post subject: Re: Punctuation - commas
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:16 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jul 31, 2010 3:31 pm
Posts: 132
Hi Chai!

I must say I agree with the rules in your first post.

For me, though, writing is ultimately not about 'correct' punctuation: writing is about effective communication. Also, the older I grow the more I appreciate simple sentences.

So what I try to do is rewrite sentences. This often avoids both unnecessary complexity and unhelpful arguments with myself. For example: ' The flea-ridden dog scratched and scratched.'

For our DD, we encouraged her to follow her tutor's advice. She would certainly not listen to me! But she got through, so I guess she knew best.

WH


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 Post subject: Re: Punctuation - commas
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:49 pm 
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Many thanks workhard.

I agree with you that it is not about pondering over complex rules when writing.

I posed my query because in the Essex 11+ English paper, there is a section on punctuation alone, which nets over 8 marks. CSSE, the examination board, has been known to set questions on punctuation which can be mind boggling....even for adults, let alone 11-year-olds.

I also thought to clarify this rule because my daughter had recently brought home a piece of homework on punctuation and I found the exercise the school had set on commas and embedded clauses questionable.


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 Post subject: Re: Punctuation - commas
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 5:29 pm 
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Posts: 132
Hello again, Chai!

I also agree with you on schools not doing this to our satisfaction. I would be pragmatic and simply encourage a child to do what is needed for 11+ first.

As for the school, maybe a quiet chat with the teacher? We found that, in general, our DD's school teacher pretty much left her alone because he knew she was working hard at home and to a good standard. (His stats also went up because she scored highly in her Year 6 SATs without him having to do much!)

WH


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 Post subject: Re: Punctuation - commas
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:04 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 2:32 pm
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Location: East Kent
workhard wrote:
Hello again, Chai!

I also agree with you on schools not doing this to our satisfaction.


I am staggered by the complexity needed in y5 and 6, I wasn't expected to start sentences with an adverbial phrase, use semi colons and colons or talk about phonemes and split digraphs (from reception!) somehow I managed to mudddle my way through to post grad level.


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 Post subject: Re: Punctuation - commas
PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:55 am 
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Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 4:38 pm
Posts: 109
The Americans teach this better. They talk about restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. If the descriptive clause alters the subject of the noun it's attached to, it's restrictive, and doesn't have commas. If the descriptive clause tells you more about the subject of the noun, but doesn't alter the subject it refers to, it does take commas.

The conservative prime minister who was in power in 1982 divided opinion amongst the electorate.

Margaret Thatcher, who was in power in 1982, divided opinion amongst the electorate.

Take out "who was in power in 1982" from the first and it refers to some arbitrary conservative leader and doesn't tell you anything useful. Take it out from the second and it still refers to the same person and you can look her dates up yourself.

http://www.kentlaw.edu/academics/lrw/gr ... onrest.htm


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