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I'm excited to finally have a place to hone my talent for teaching! I know this blog is meant for techniques and success stories and whatnot, but not everything works for everyone and I am much better at explaining concepts in person rather than in text.

However, I do want to share one writing technique here that is easy to understand but must be practiced consciously in order to work:

When you write a paper, there are teachers that will mark off for whether or not you're using enough or too many commas in your sentences. There is no middle ground for this, I have learned. I had an Art History professor who thought I should use more, and a teacher in high school English 3 who thought I should use less. There was no winning!

What you CAN do however, is read your sentences out loud. Commas are representing short, possibly about a half-second to a second long pause between sentence fragments. They are meant to break up monotony and give you a short break to breathe. So when you write your paper, write properly but also think of your sentences as if you were speaking. Does the pause in that spot sound weird? Do you sound like William Shatner when you read it out loud? If you think so, take it out or move it! Or if your sentence sounds like it needs a break, find a non-awkward spot to stick a comma in and test it!

This will not guarantee that your teachers or professors will be happy with how you've written, but unless they are an English teacher they really haven't the right to judge it. Remember to write properly and keep your contractions to a minimum. "It's" and the like don't really sound that nice in an essay, and it is not very professional. You'll impress your teachers if you can write formally, and get extra points to boot!

Comments

Funny story about punctuation: we used to read stories out loud before bedtime when I was little, and one night, I asked my daddy if I could read to everyone. He said yes and gave me some tips--namely, that at each period, I should pause and take a breath.
 
I sounded like a hyperventilating teenager who just got asked to prom. My family was in stitches while I gasped at the end of every sentence, no matter how small. I was so woozy!
 
Great advice, though, Melissa! :) I have a student or two who should read this, especially the bit about reading out loud. I had one of my AP English students read their summer essay out loud and he found most of his errors without me having to point any out. (Of course, his essay was then punctuated by a lot of "craps"!)