Thursday, February 18, 2010

Because You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

My mom: Guess who I saw at the market today?

Me: Who?

My mom: Mrs. Jenson. You went to elementary school with her son Kevin. Did you know that Kevin's a neurosurgeon now? He lives in a mansion in Newport Coast. He's really handsome too; his mom showed me a picture.

Me: Who? Poopy Pants?

Yes, when Kevin Jenson was five years old, standing on the diving board staring terrified into six feet deep water, he had a little accident. So, even if thirty years later he has saved thousands of lives, has Hugh Jackman's abs and Johnny Depp's haunting stare, he will still just be Poopy Pants to me.

= Still Poopy Pants

First impressions are hard to shake. Say you are introduced to a girl at a party and she snubs you, but after running into her a few more times, you come to find out that she's actually pretty cool. You also find out that on the day that you first met her she had lost her job, her dog, and her boyfriend- but, you still kind of think she's a bitch.

Because first impressions can be so damning, it’s important that we put the commas in the correct places. To see what I mean, check out these sentences:

When I eat the dog always waits for my scraps.

If you're ever in the mood to give head over to the local charity.

C'mon, admit it: after reading the sentences, your first impression was that I am some kind of sicko. Maybe after a couple of reads, you realized that I'm neither a dog eater nor a pervert, but for the rest of our lives, if someone mentions the Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares blog, you’ll say, “Oh yeah, that’s written by that perverted chick who eats dogs.”

Geez. Tough crowd. If I had only put those commas:

When I eat, the dog always waits for my scraps.

If you're ever in the mood to give, head over to the local charity.

So that you don't have some unfortunate misunderstanding for which you are judged forever more, allow me to explain this comma rule. The rule applies when we have a sentence that is comprised of two parts: an introductory phrase and an independent clause.

The introductory phrase is a phrase that begins the sentence telling us one of these five things:

Under What Circumstances

An independent clause is basically another word for a complete sentence. It can stand on its own. Hear it roar.

So, when an introductory phrase precedes an independent clause, it's kind of like when foreplay precedes sex: we need to separate foreplay and sex with a condom just like we need to to separate the introductory phrase and independent clause with a comma. Here are some examples of such sentences:

When Sam first met Alice, she had something in her teeth.

Between her incisor and molar hung something green and slimy.
*No comma because hung something green and slimy is not an independent clause.

Because Sam loves spinach, he reached over and kissed her.

With expert use of his tongue, Sam dislodged the spinach and swallowed it.

If she hadn't eaten that spinach salad, Sam and Alice may not be married.
under what circumstances

The real clue to knowing if we have an introductory phrase on our hands is the first word in the sentence. For example, if our sentence starts with the word when, we know that the phrase will be telling when. If our sentence starts with the word because, we know it will be telling why. If our sentence starts with the word if, we know it will be telling you under which circumstances.

Here’s a list of other words that commonly begin an introductory phrase (there are more, but hopefully you get the idea.):

When: As soon as, After, At, Before, During, Until, When
Where: Above, Across, Below, Behind, Beneath, Beside, In, On
Why: Because, In order to, So that, To
How: By, With, Without
Under what circumstances: Although, Despite, Even though, If

So, when you see one of these words at the beginning of your sentence, 90% of the time (when it's followed by an independent clause), you will need to use this little guy:

Ooops, I mean this one:


William said...

Lol. Sorry, I meant to write lollipop. Altoids, Secret, and Botox, I'm impressed with your skillful use of the comedic Rule Of Three.

That was a pretty aggressive and impressive move by Sam. I love a good boy meets girl story with a happy ending.

Regarding the introductory phrase and independent clause, does the punctuation at the end of the sentence matter? Imagine the lines of your story being asked by a lawyer. The structure is the same and the rules applies. It seems like a question mark only changes the context, it's still a funny story and I answered my own question.

Don't worry I won't harass you. This is only the second time I've responded to a blogger, and I'm not sure where the line is between happy grammar enthusiast and stalker (insert smiley faced emoticon here).


jbaranick said...

I prefer stalkers to grammar enthusiasts.

joselopezyoo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joselopezyoo said...

so i missed a quiz question, can you please tell me why?

jackie, who always wears a red skirt on thursdays, wants to be president of her company

joselopezyoo said...

oh and the J on jackie was capitalized so that was not the mistake

idaforever said...

I wish I would have read this blog before I turned my last paper I made myself sound like I had the runs on the ski slope. Lmao thank you I think I got it now.

Clyde Michale Moore

Missed Periods said...

idaforever, did you capitalize Thursday?

Missed Periods said...

Sorry, that last comment was for joselopezyou.

Anonymous said...

The examples are great, thanks for the help.

Anonymous said...

This blog has been very helpful! Your sense of humor makes me want to keep reading! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

We had a comma test in class today and I got a few questions wrong.

1. Jennie practices yoga, and I lift weights.
(I was not sure whether or not to put a comma after yoga because you said the independent clause must be a complete sentence)

2. Lisa flopped onto the grass after running two miles. ( why dont you need a comma after grass?)

3. The fat, lazy cat spread out across my book. (why dont you need a comma after cat?)

4. All you need is a bottle of Jack Daniels and no standards to have a good time in college. (why does there not need a comma after Daniels?)

Any help you can give would be great! Thanks!

Missed Periods said...


1. Yes, you put the comma.

2.-4. There are, I'd say, four main reasons we use commas. 1)to separate items in a series 2)after intro. phrases 3)to set off extra information 4)before coordinating conjunctions that join independent clauses (like #1). None of these sentences have any of those things, so you don't need a comma.

sunwarrior927 said...

"So, when an introductory phrase precedes an independent clause, it's kind of like when foreplay precedes sex: we need to separate foreplay and sex with a condom just like we need to to separate the introductory phrase and independent clause with a comma." This quote is both compelling, and energetic. Saying again that this quote is energetic, it is supported by various examples such as: the beginning examples; don't want to point anything specific out ;). In the example you used, if too much energy is used in an idea, or phrase, the meaning of the initial sentence can be definitely misinterpreted. Again the examples were compelling, and energetic, and even though the point is almost over shrouded by miscellaneous points in this blog. This is a blog however, you might as well have some fun with making a point right?

MelissaGaytan said...

your sense of humor has definally made me want to read more of your blogs. there very helpful