Grammar And Punctuation

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Grammar and punctuation are relatively simple. They're bricks and mortar. They put the words you're stringing together in context. You've got a subject and a verb and sometimes an object. You might have a participle phrase and a coordinating conjunction. Two well-placed commas are usually enough to maintain order. If you do go wrong, unscrambling the problem is straightforward. Leaving well enough alone, however, isn't human nature's strong suit. Either you're thinking too much or thinking too fast. You lose focus and get sidetracked. You wax eloquent. A simple word isn't good enough. Writing gets muddled.

Grammar and Punctuation: Keeping Order

Take a look at a thought gone wild. This is a simplified version. "Facilitated by its massive numbers, geographic proximity and a new, ongoing process of dispersal to different regions of the national territory, immigration is producing fundamental, everyday life transformations in new localities and their multiple arenas of social interaction."

Where, I wondered the first time I read this (my role was to edit), is the subject? Dangling modifiers made finding it difficult. I stripped the sentence down to the simplest possible grammar and punctuation. Immigration produces transformations. Immigration is facilitated--by its what? Does immigration have numbers? Does it have proximity? Proximity, I realized in a flash, meant how near the country was from which the immigrants came.

Suddenly I knew enough to start all over. "Due in part to sheer numbers and new destinations, the most recent waves of immigration are leading to fundamental yet energizing change in society." I didn't like the result. The grammar and punctuation worked together, though, and the thought, if inelegantly expressed, made sense, which should be any writer's goal, above all.


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