The cursor blinks like it’s accusing you of not being a writer, not being able to communicate with the written word. Oh, if only you were in front of a group of people, you’d have no trouble chatting and getting to the topic you want to discuss. Maybe you’d feel more comfortable on stage, before a mic’d podium, with throngs of faces watching you with anticipation. Maybe you’d thrive there.
But there’s something about a blank page, about that cursor waiting with the same expectation as that sea of quiet and open faces that causes your whole system to go into deer-in-headlights mode.
As a teacher, part of my job—and when it works, it’s one of those beautiful eureka moments that I live to witness—is to help my students get their ideas out of their head. Many of my students confuse the struggle of penning their thoughts with not having ideas, or not having good ideas. One of the most common questions my composition students come to me with is: How do I draft?Continue reading
Part of my Master of Fine Arts in fiction offered the opportunity to work as a teaching apprentice and later, an adjunct, in college composition courses. For three semesters, I commuted three hours each way to sit in on, and teach, courses for college students learning how to become stronger readers and writers.
The most common grammatical error I came across was the comma splice. This sneaky devil has appeared outside of academia, too. I’ve seen it on websites, in business publications, and even in a novel.
The instance that stood out the most to me was actually a sentence that was both a run-on and spliced. It had two comma splices. I don’t recall the exact wording, but it went something like this:
It was a difficult time in my life, I learned a lot about change and how to cope with it, I know I can tackle everything college has to throw at me.
A comma splice is when two (or more) independent sentences are separated only by a comma, as in the example above. Basically, it’s an example of glueing the sentence parts together in a way that can confuse the reader.
Comma splices present a unique problem for readers: They make it unclear which clauses or phrases contain the most important information.
You’re probably thinking that unless someone is a grammar guru, they’re not going to care. The truth is that while, yes, some readers might not notice and/or care, there are readers who will notice, and not in a positive way.Continue reading