About Me

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My name is Lesley Roessing, a/k/a Comma Momma. I taught middle-level ELA for 20 years. I now teach in the College of Education of a university where I also serve as Director of a Writing Project and work with educators. I still view myself as an eighth-grade teacher and guest teach whenever and wherever invited. I also work with teachers in all grade levels to gain experience and prove that, while activities are grade and content-specific, strategies are adaptable to all grade levels and content areas. To further share my classroom and ideas with teachers of all grade levels, I wrote The Write to Read: Response Journals That Increase Comprehension (Corwin Press, 2009) and No More “Us” and “Them”: Classroom Lessons & Activities to Promote Peer Respect (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012). My newest offering, Comma Quest: The Rules They Followed; The Sentences They Saved, is a picture book about 6 commas who leave their home sentence and go into the world to find their own sentences, following songs written by their Comma Momma. Comma Quest will be published by Discover Writing this November.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Serial Comma Question

Over the holiday season when talk turns to commas, invariably someone asks about commas in a series. “How about that comma before the conjunction—you know when there are three or more words in a series?” someone will ask. “Do we still include it? What’s the rule about that?”

Those folks are referring to the “serial comma,” also known as the Oxford Comma or the Harvard Comma, not because it is a more academic comma, but because it is used by Oxford University Press and Harvard University Press, as well as many other publications. The serial comma is used more commonly in the United States and less commonly, in Britain, ironically, being known as the Oxford comma.

The serial comma is placed before a conjunction, such as and, or, and nor and sets off the conjunction and the last item in the series from the rest of the items.

 “Items” can be words, phrases, or clauses:
Sara would like potatoes, carrots, and beans with her turkey. [nouns]
The beautifully-decorated, sparking, dining-room table was a sight to see. [adjectives]
The family will set the table, eat dinner, and have dessert before their favorite television show comes on. [verbs]

Over the meadow, past the church, and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go. [prepositional phrases]


Why do we use the serial comma? Many times, it is to make meaning clear.

At the movies I saw two friends, my dance partner and a neighbor. Without the comma it is unclear if the friends were the dance partner and a neighbor or if the speaker saw four people: two friends, her dance partner, and a neighbor.

At the movies I saw two friends, my dance partner, and a neighbor.  With the comma added, it is clearer that the speaker saw four different people.

The serial comma is required by many style manuals, and even though not always mandatory, it is easier and more effective to be consistent, especially when teaching our students.

There is one exception to the serial comma—when an item or items in the series contain commas, use a semicolon between the items.
At dinner I was introduced to Martha, my mother’s best friend; Frank, a distant cousin; and a neighbor of the hostess.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Commas in the News!

Even during the holidays, everyone is talking about comma woes. Read the "After Deadline" blog featuring comma use: http://afterdeadline.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/too-many-commas/?emc=eta1

Happy Thanksgiving, All.
Comma Momma

Monday, November 25, 2013

Using COMMAS for Direct Address: Advice & a Little Song

Hi, Everyone,
Welcome to my blog, writingwithcommamomma. This will be a place where we can meet to discuss punctuation, grammar, and everything about writing and also share ideas and lesson plans, and books. I am a first-time blogger (which might become obvious, but bear with me—we are all lifelong learners), but I will post something at least once a week.
COMMAS are the punctuation mark subject to the most rules and, cute as they are [see below], are very confusing to most folk.

I will begin with the problem with salutations because in all the years I have been receiving emails, I have noticed that most writers neglect to punctuate the salutation properly, i.e., setting off the direct address (“Everyone,” or in my case, “Lesley”) with a comma.

The direct address rule is to use a comma to set off nouns of direct address from the rest of the sentence. Sometime the person being directly addressed is named at the beginning of the sentence, sometimes at the end of the sentence, and sometimes within the sentence.

Most are familiar with the sentence Let’s eat Grandma.
Of course the correct sentence would be Let’s eat, Grandma, as well as Grandma, let’s eat, and Let’s eat, Grandma, because I’m hungry.

I created a little memory song to be sung to the tune of “Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (Roessing, L. (2013). Comma Quest: The Rules They Followed; The Sentences They Saved. Shoreham, VT: Discover Writing):

Comma before direct address: “Hi, Momma!”
Comma after direct address: “Momma, Hi!”
Commas all around direct address.
“’Hi, Momma Comma, Hi.”

 The same rule applies to closings.
I hope to hear from you.
Bye, Comma Momma