Plan for the Day
- Don’t forget about the many syllabus changes
- Massive Punctuation Quiz
- Ch. 13: Punctuation: Its Purposes and Its Rhetorical Effects (Kolln & Gray)
Ch. 16: Punctuation (Barrett)
- Preview Rhetorical Analysis
- Review #2 Due Tonight
- I have a music review excerpt to help inspire you.
What’s a comma’s favorite type of music?
Massive Punctuation Quiz
Based on the reading for tonight, this quiz will help me assess how well you can punctuates out-of-context sentences. You’ll take it; turn it back into me; we’ll go over it.
I know what you’re thinking…we’ve got over two hours left of class, and we’re going to discuss (which means Dr. Toscano does most of the talking–his favorite kind of discussion) punctuation. Can we get an overview?
Maybe. Unfortunately, punctuation rules, especially for commas, require context. One of the most useless questions regarding punctuation is “When do you use a comma?” I can answer that correctly the following way: “You always use commas.” Also, I could answer “When do you not use a comma” in a similar way: “Don’t use commas where they’re not needed.” Not much help, huh?
As usual, I want us to think about the rhetorical effects of punctuation. Here’s what Kolln & Gray tell us about their approach:
An important consideration throughout the book has been the effect of [your] options on the reader–hence the word rhetorical in the title. (p. 220)
How can we use punctuation to emphasize or set a tone for your prose? Let’s focus more on sentences than dates, titles, and numbers; use Barrett’s Perfect English Grammar for those questions. We’ll start with some pretty solid rules, move to less standardized ones, and then consider (optional) rhetorical effects. This discussion will lead us to your rhetorical analysis, which, you all know, is due Wednesday, 11/14–3 weeks from now!
Syntax, Prosody, and Semantics
We could spend entire semesters on each of these words, but Kolln & Gray give us the Cliff’s Notes version, so I’ll do the same. For your Rhetorical Analysis, consider how the author’s choices affect one or all of these:
- Syntax: arrangement of words; especially, proper sentence structure
- Prosody: rhythm, rhythm patterns
- Semantics: meaning…let’s leave it at that for now
In groups, come up with examples–that is, sentences–for each of the punctuation rules listed in the “For Group Discussion” on pp. 223-224.
One more thing…you need to know that the old adage “use a comma when you pause” was a fine rule of thumb for sixth grade. Although your jokes might not have gotten better, your sophistication in writing should have. Don’t automatically put in a comma just because you feel the sentence has a natural pause.
Open and Close Punctuation
Think of this in terms of style. The writer deliberately decides to use commas or not for setting off modifiers.
- Open punctuation: style allows some flexibility in where commas go.
- Close punctuation: style requires commas to set off any modifier not considered essential.
There are many examples besides the “serial comma” issue, but below are a few I’ve encountered over the years. Notice where commas are used and decide what options the author had.
In July we went to Carowinds.
After leaving the gym Harold went to the bar.
Now that I’m starting to learn, I feel I’m growing old.
On the backside of your seat you’ll find the instructions.
Before being elected to the US Senate from Arizona, John McCain was a member of the US House of Representatives from Arizona’s First District.
Yesterday, there were so many things I was never told.
Now, I’m starting to learn.
Notice where commas are used, and decide what options the author had.
Before I started my undergraduate degree program, at Virginia Tech, in 1994, I worked at Linens ‘n Things in Springfield, VA.
In 1987, at a State Department luncheon, held in Mikhail Gorbachev’s honor, Donald Trump and Barbara Walters sat at the same table.
Let’s look at Exercise #44 on p. 226. Time permitting, I have a page devoted to more punctuation rules for sentences.
The Rhetorical Effects of Punctuation
Even though I want you to forget the outdated advice of using a comma when you pause, the effect of a comma is a pause. But it’s also emphasis. A comma usually emphasizes what precedes it. Generally, we find the most emphasis at the beginnings and ends of sentences (and the beginnings and ends of paragraphs). Punctuation can redirect the emphasis, creating a different tone. Notice the differences in the four sentence variations on p. 227.
- Semicolons place greater emphasis on the second clause
- Semicolon and however (conjunctive adverb) “adds a note of deliberation, a degree of thoughtfulness”
Look at the “For Group Discussion” on p. 229. Consider the effects of punctuation in the following sentences:
- We were different, loud and assertive.
- We were different, loud, and assertive.
Rhetorical Analysis Preview (and, I hope, mini discussion)
I have a page devoted to a rhetorical analysis of a passage of prose. For my Master’s Thesis, I wrote nearly 50 pages on two paragraphs. You aren’t required to do that, but I mention it to explain that there’s a lot to write about even with a small amount of text.
Keep up with the revised syllabus schedule for reading. We’ll cover Ch. 9 & 10 in Kolln & Gray. We’ll also have an in-class copyediting assignment. It’s my Halloween treat (or trick) to get you to come to class…and it’s worth 8.3333% of your grade.