Monster Monday: Monstrous Commas in October

Commas are the focus for the Monster Monday blogs, designed to provide insight into the whys and whereofs of Punctuation, those pesky little marks that trip us up.

We have several blogs on the comma and its various uses planned, starting in the month of October. That will finish Function 3 of Punctuation: Links that Separate.

Following will be Function 4: Short-Cutters (our chief example is the apostrophe) followed by F5: Special Marks (every remaining English punx mark that we haven’t covered–not very many remain).

When you can find exercises but not clear explanations, HSHelps is here for you. Check back on the Mondays of October for the comma blogs–including those neat punx marks that behave like commas () {} [] and the dash–but not the slash!

WIS Summer

July and August are summer vacation for Home School Helps.

September resumes our blogs.

After taking a couple of summer months off, we start back with 13 bits of Pro Writer Advice.

Red Ink

These first blogs that move from summer to fall are designed for the writing people, especially the ones gearing up for National Novel Writing Month in November.


NaNoWriMo is an intensive, 1666 words per day push to complete the first draft of a manuscript. If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, you’ll need to do a little prepwork to investigate, and if you’ve always dreaming of finishing that novel jumping on your shoulder, November is a great month for the push.

Most writing people muse their way through September, and our planned blogs will help. October is the time to gather and prep all the background for November’s big push.

October is the Grand School Month

If you’re just starting home school, if you want to start with grammar but don’t know what to do, Home School Helps won’t leave you hanging through the summer months.

Here’s what you can do. Go back and check out what the year has covered.

The Punctuation series started in January with Sentence Starters.  Since then, we’ve covered Keyboard Clues, Sentence Enders, Sentence Considerations including variety and length, the Ellipsis and Asterisk, followed with the Colon (including Analogies), and the Semicolon.  We continued with a short series on the Type I Errors, those all-important main ideas of every sentence that require truly understanding your own writing.  And we finished  June with the classic blog “Grammar Phobia or Grammar Snobbery?” (Classic only in that this blog is one that will repeat yearly from Writers Ink.  We think it’s that important)

Monster Monday
public domain image

New blogs in the Monster Monday series will resume in October with the suitably-for-Halloween monstrous comma.  We will follow that with the Short-cutters (including the apostrophe) and finishing with Special Marks.

When it’s easy to find exercises but not so easy to find explanations for all situations, the HSHelps area of Writers Ink is here to help.

Don’t forget to check out the Pro Writer Advice.

As always, you can email us at  In the subject line, please state your concern.

See you in September!

(Wait!  That’s from a song! Do you know it? If you go farther back into the WIS blog archive, you’ll find a whole series on poetry, including occasional poems and popular songs by Dolly Parton, Sting, Cold Play, the Eagles, Judy Collins, and more. These can serve as free guided literature lessons for home schoolers, especially when the student applies the lesson focus to other songs. Students can select another song and work on their own.  For assistance, just email us, and we’ll respond!)


Grammar Phobia vs. Grammar Snobbery


Definition 1:  relating to a virus, a disease that poisons the system.

Definition 2: relating to any media that circulates widely on the web.

Late April 2016:  a video blog (vlog) from The Guardian earned this “viral” cachet when the presenting editor inferred that grammar rules are made by the white, highly-educated segment of the population, and thus grammar rules are designed to be prejudiced against those who break them.

What?  Wait.  Standard English rules are prejudiced?  No.

Actually, what the vlog editor inferred is that grammar helps communication, but some people become snobs when applying the rules.  I agree with this.

Look, here it is, in 15 Points.


Communication is both non-verbal and verbal, and verbal means spoken and written.


The audience needs guides to follow communication.  Those guides are tone and gestures that accompany spoken communication.  Punctuation provides the guides in written communication.


These guides help the audience “read” spoken and written communication.


The guides are what became standardized into common rules to assist communication.


Unfortunately, certain rules of grammar became imposed on the English language, which is itself a huge amalgamation on a Germanic root with a heavy Latin/French influence.

These rules often confuse communication.

For example, one of the confusing rules is now a famous statement by Winston Churchill.  About the preposition at the end of sentences, he quipped, “That is a rule up with which I will not put.”


The common grammar rules became a mark of the highly-educated.  This highly educated class also happened to be the wealthy who could afford tutors and governesses who ensured the next generation knew the rules.  And the wealthy, as always, form the established (predominant) culture.

One could say that the grammar rules are more economic stratification than anything else.


Business wants to stay in business.  It is able to do so when it caters to the established culture.  Therefore, business hires the people who will present the best image to their clientele.

Image is non-verbal communication.  Spoken (and gradually written) communication are also key elements of creating an image that will have people with money maintaining an association with that business.

To sell its product, business hires those who present the best image, non-verbal and verbal.  These sales people do their job best when they are not noticed at all by the purchasers.

The people who buy the products of a business have more influence than the business itself in determining a particular product’s success.


To create a larger work-base for business, the middle class ensured that its children also learned the common grammar rules.  [Originally, rhetoric (communicating to persuade) was the mainstay.]


Gradually, public education spread beyond the upper and middle classes and to the lower classes, and the teaching of the common rules became a mainstay of the curriculum.

Public education purported that its raison d’etre was to improve the lives of those not in the upper echelons of society.  Therefore, the claim was that these grammar rules would assist the lower strata of society escape dead-end jobs.  That did happen.



Imposition of the grammar rules by certain grammar snobs gave grammar phobia to the many who were learning the rules.


We have forgotten that the rules are guides for communication—and that communication creates community through commonality.


Commonality is necessary for community and is not antagonistic to diversity.

E.D. Hirsch (whose work Cultural Literacy has weathered a lot of controversy) stated that a common background created through education will create a more unified culture.  While many argue with his choices for the topics in the common background, his theory of a common starting point is valid.


Diversity in communication keeps the audience interested.


Too much diversity, however, may obscure communication.


Any communicator’s believability (credibility, ethos) is based on how well s/he communicates.

The Editor from The Guardian :: Does she have the final word on grammar rules? Or will the rules remain to aid communication? See below to locate the vlog.

If you watch and listen to the vlog, you can not fail to notice that the presenter, Mona Chalabi, explains her points in absolutely correct Standard English with an upper-class accent and fully rounded tones.

Even as she debunked grammar snobbery, she proves through her very presentation that she is a proponent of grammar snobbery.

Listen to the vlog.  Would you believe this denunciation of grammar snobbery if Chalabi broke numerous grammar rules?  Or is she more persuasive because she follows the grammar rules?

Chalabi’s side point is that grammar should not disrupt communication, which is the whole purpose of this writing and any other writing I will do about grammar in my attempt to help people understand.  We use grammar to increase communication, not to browbeat others.

As writers, we use grammar to manipulate our readers’ impressions of our works.

We can enchant with lyricism.

Or convert with suasion.

We can entertain.

Or we can turn off our reader.

Communication is all that matters.

. ~ . ~ . ~ .

You can see the original vlog—as of this writing it’s still available—by searching “Grammar snobs are patronising, pretentious, and just plain wrong.”

(That’s the British spelling of patronizing in your search, BTW).

Punctuation: Type I Errors Test

Here’s a test, for free for you, that I once gave to my students on three of the Type I errors.  I know, I know.  I only talked about two of the errors, but the third error is the sentence fragment, and you should be able to figure it out.

Test Covering Three Type I Sentence Errors

Identify the following sentences using the coding provided.

A = fragment     B = comma splice      C = fused sentence       D = correct sentence

  • Five of the options will be correct sentences.
  1. The children played in the backyard, the swings and the sandbox amused them.
  2. The boat docked, all the passengers got off.
  3. The combination of diet, exercise, and rest which must be strictly followed to bring about healing.
  4. The architects have worked hard the lowest contractor bid will get the job.
  5. Languages are not easy for me I do better at math.
  6. The boy that you invited to the party.
  7. Jack listens to his i-pod all the time except when Laura hides it.
  8. Lisa left early but no one knew why.
  9. The cove is quite pretty, it is rocky at low tide.
  10. She loved science however she failed the test.
  11. The action during the first scene.
  12. Although we were hungry, we waited patiently.
  13. Bagels used to found only in the Orient.
  14. A wide meadow, a babbling brook, and bright sunshine.
  15. Carlos wanted to be an actor, jobs were hard to get.
  16. We rounded the bend, the castle came into view.
  17. Many cacti are odd-looking plants they have beautiful blooms.
  18. Emily Dickinson wrote most of her poems without leaving her home.
  19. Without saying a word, the messenger handed me the envelope.
  20. The trick amazed the crowd they had never seen anything like it.

If you want to check your answers, then email  Place CSFSFRAG test in the subject line.  Have fun!

Punctuation: Type I Errors Practice

If you want exercises to drill avoidance of the comma splice and the fused sentence, you can head over to, a delightful website with lots of exercises.  Multiple college writing labs around the nation uses chompchomp, officially titled Grammar Bytes, with a big gorilla as the site image.

Here’s another practice for you for free, that I used with my students.  I don’t remember the source;  it’s certainly not mine originally.

10 total errors >> Highlight the error.  Label in the L margin.  Pick from missing words, CS, FS, fragment, subject/verb agreement.

Office gossip no longer at the water cooler.  Companies that are online have a better way to relay gossip and email is the medium.   Some court cases have made corporate executives rethinks policies on transmitting emails and destroying old messages.  Seemingly harmless communications have been retrieved, this information has been used in sexual harassment cases and other lawsuits.  A single employee can thousands of pages of email messages, however, the mail is not censored or monitored.  Consequently, companies are eager for systems that reviews and spot-checks email. Company executives are employing programs that censor email and block messages containing inappropriate material this monitoring of emails prevent embarrassing situations.  CEOs understand that Big Brother has a better view.  Since employees began hitting the Send button.