Commas are important!
If you question that statement, read Lynn Truss's picture book Eats, Shoots and Leaves
. Each two-page spread has the same sentence. Well, each sentence has the same words, but the meanings are very different, depending on whether there are commas or not.
Here is one example:
"Look at that huge hot dog!"
"Look at that huge, hot dog!"
See the change in meaning just because of one seemingly inconsequential mark?
This book is simple, but it makes you think. In case you need a nudge to see the difference between the two sentences, the humorous illustrations and the explanations at the back of the book will help you.
Hand this book to your kids. Let it subtly convince them that commas really are important in conveying meaning.
Following the same pattern:
Type an excerpt—a paragraph or two, double-spaced—from any literature, excluding a
specific punctuation mark you want to review or, if your student is ready for more extensive editing, removing all punctuation marks. Instruct your student to be the editor, inserting the proper punctuation marks where appropriate. Compare with the
An Example from Johnny Tremain, page 43, without punctuation:
Weeks wore on September was ending a large part of every day Johnny spent doing
what he called ‘looking for work’ he did not really want to follow any trade but his own
he looked down on soap-boilers leather-dressers ropemakers and such he did not begin
his hunt along Hancock’s Wharf and Fish Street where he and his story were well known
and the masters would have been apt to employ him from pity he went to the far ends
An Example from Johnny Tremain, page 43, with punctuation:
Weeks wore on. September was ending. A large part of every day Johnny spent doing
what he called ‘looking for work.’ He did not really want to follow any trade but his
own. He looked down on soap-boilers, leather-dressers, ropemakers, and such. He did
not begin his hunt along Hancock’s Wharf and Fish Street, where he and his story were
well known and the masters would have been apt to employ him from pity. He went to
the far ends of Boston.