The Write Stuff Video Series: Fixing Run-On and Comma-Splice Errors

Illustration by Kwang Choi

Illustration by Kwang Choi

I have been teaching high-school English for ten years. I guess I’m slightly old-school because I believe that teaching students grammar will help them improve their writing. For those of you who are confused by this statement, there are many English teachers who don’t believe this is true; therefore, many students are graduating from high school without any grammar knowledge.

I believe there are two things that only English teachers can teach: writing and grammar. All teachers should teach or provide reading and some type of thinking/analysis opportunities; but we can’t expect science, math, history, art, or gym teachers to teach grammar and how to write using grammar conventions. Other teachers should assign writing appropriate to their subject matter and expect those assignments to be written using proper grammar, but only English teachers can teach the conventions that help us communicate effectively and enhance the beauty of the written word.

Once we understand how to communicate effectively through the written word, that knowledge will transfer to our oral communication. These skills are absolutely essential in any educational setting, and they are even more important in the corporate world. People who can communicate well will advance easily; people who cannot communicate well will limit themselves.

I love teaching grammar; therefore, with the help of a talented student, I am filming my 4-level analysis grammar lessons, hoping to teach anyone who wants to learn the beauty of our language. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can clarify any part of this lesson for you.

Commas with Independent Clauses

For more information on the concepts I discuss in the video, read the text I provided underneath it. For more help with independent clauses, click on this link: Identifying Independent Clauses

This video analyzes a compound, declarative sentence, which connects the two independent clauses with a comma and a coordinating conjunction:

There are some high, thin clouds, but we can still see the moon and a few stars.

Why 4-Level Analysis?

I use 4-level analysis in my classroom for two reasons: 1) The sentence is a paradigm (an example serving as a model) of grammar. Studying the 4-levels of a sentence shows students how each level is a part of a whole, and how each of those parts works together, logically, to create a complete thought. And, 2) Studying the 4-levels of a sentence gives students the language necessary to correct their writing. When I tell students, “You have a fragment. Your sentence is missing a subject.” They know immediately how to fix it. If students don’t have the language necessary to understand grammar concepts, they may never be able to fix and deepen their knowledge of effective communication.

Level 1

The first level is Parts of Speech: The 8 types of words in our language. By itself, identifying the parts of speech are not important; the parts of speech help us identify the important elements at the other levels, so we can communicate clearly.

Noun: a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea; can be common or proper.

Pronoun: a word that replaces a noun or another pronoun; pronouns have person (1st, 2nd, 3rd), number (singular or plural), and case (subject or object).

Adjective: a word that modifies a noun or pronoun; articles (a, an, the) are specific types of adjectives; adjectives also have a degree (positive [cold], comparative [colder], superlative [coldest]).

Verb: a word that shows action, links a subject to its subject complement, or denotes a state of being.

Adverb: a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

Preposition: a word that connects its object to another part of the sentence.

Conjunction: a word that joins words or groups of words; they can be coordinating (FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), subordinating (since, if, because, etc., which creates a dependent clause), or correlative (not only…but also; neither…nor; either…or).

Interjection: a word that expresses emotion, but has no other grammatical purpose in the sentence; I like to call them Batman words (Ouch! Pow! Zap! Ugh!).

Level 2

The second level is Parts of a Sentence: The two-part essence of thought, the subject-predicate set(s) and their modifiers.

Subject: the noun or subject-case pronoun the sentence is about.

Predicate: the verb that tells what the subject is doing or being, or links the subject to its subject complement. Predicates that are action verbs may have a direct object and indirect object; may be transitive or intransitive; or may be active or passive voice. Predicates that are linking verbs will have a subject complement; the subject complement may be a predicate nominative (noun or pronoun) or a predicate adjective (an adjective).

Level 3

The third level is Phrases: Two or more words that work together, acting like a single part of speech. A phrase will not have a subject-predicate set.

Prepositional phrase: a group of words that begins with a preposition and usually ends with its object (a noun or object-case pronoun). Prepositional phrases will act like modifiers and will be either an adjective or adverb phrase.

Appositive phrase: a group of words that replaces or clarifies a noun or pronoun.

Verbal phrase: a group of words that will either be a gerund (a former verb that is now acting like a noun and ends in -ing), a participle (a former verb that is now acting like an adjective and will end in -ing or -ed [or some other past tense form]), or an infinitive (a former verb that is in its base form and begins with to [to hear, to think, to sing]).

Level 4

The fourth level is Clauses: This level will tell how many subject-predicate sets are in a sentence. This level helps determine how to punctuate a sentence properly.

Independent clause: a clause that is a complete thought and can stand alone.

Dependent clause: a clause that is not a complete thought and needs to be attached to an independent clause. Dependent clauses can function as big nouns or big modifiers (adjectives or adverbs).

The Write Stuff Blog

Please let me know if you have any questions. Was this lesson helpful? I’d love your feedback. Also, let me know if you have any grammar rules I can help you understand.

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3 Responses to The Write Stuff Video Series: Fixing Run-On and Comma-Splice Errors

  1. Kelly says:

    Read this and it reminded me of this man’s article on the proper use of a semicolon! He has a few fun guides and explanations on how to properly use a semicolon/apostrophe, when to use i.e., commonly misspelled words, etc. The posts are interesting, colorful, AND educational!! I thought it would be interesting to share with your classes! Have a nice day! XO
    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon

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