Thursday, May 9, 2013

Commas in a Series

When you have a series of three or more words or phrases in a sentence, you need a comma before the last piece of the series (unless, of course, you're British; then you don't include a comma there).

Remember to admire parallel structure (aka parallelism) in sentences with series.

"She would then take a newly finished quilt from her bag, wrap it around their quivering shoulders, tuck them in tight, and tiptoe away" (Jeff Brumbeau, The Quiltmaker's Gift).

"Avery put on clean underwear, clean blue jeans, and a clean shirt" (E. B. White, Charlotte's Web, 119).

The Tale of Despereaux being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread (Kate DiCamillo)

"...Is it ridiculous for a very small, sickly, big-eared mouse to fall in love with a beautiful human princess named Pea?" (Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux, 32).
"Matt also replaced worn-out light bulbs, renewed washers in leaky faucets, carried trays for people who telephoned room service to order food sent to their rooms, and sometimes prevented children from hitting one another with croquet mallets on the lawn behind the hotel" (Beverly Cleary, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, 12). 
"Ralph was eager, excited, curious, and impatient all at once" (Beverly Cleary, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, 20).  

The Enormous Carrot by Vladimir Vagin would work well to teach the serial comma. One character after another tries to pull the carrot out of the ground until you get a list like this: "So Daisy, Floyd, Mabel, Henry, Gloria, Buster, Claire, and Lester tried together...."

For more mentor texts, go here.

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