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According to my Mood is a poem by British poet Benjamin Zephaniah. He is dyslexic but wasn't diagnosed until later in life. Because he struggled with reading and writing at school, he wrote this poem to show how rules can be broken to make art.

It's a great poem, but, unfortunately, as academics, we do need to learn the rules first before we can break them.

In the video above, we saw an example of a run-on sentence, which is a sentence like this one, which just adds commas so that the sentence, even though it's already long, can keep on getting longer.

When you see this starting to happen, it's time to stop, re-arrange a few things, and add a full stop to make a new sentence.

 

Example:

Yesterday, I went to the shops to buy sausages, but when I got there, there was a long queue and after I had been standing there for five minutes, I saw that the lady at the front of the queue was rummaging in her bag to find her purse, but because she couldn't find it, we all had to wait.

I went to the shops to buy sausages yesterday. There was a long queue when I got there. I had been standing in the queue for five minutes when I saw what was causing it. The lady at the front was rummaging in her bag, looking for her purse. We all had to wait because she couldn't find it.

 

We have kept all of the information, but we have separated it out into nice, neat units of meaning and short, sharp sentences. It says the same thing, but it's a little easier for the brain to interpret.

Here, we're going to take a look at different types of punctuation and how they help us to clarify information within a sentence.

 

 

If you would like to test your grasp of punctuation, you can download this test: Punctuation test

Once you are finished, the answers are here: Punctuation test answers

 

 

FURTHER RESOURCES

There is a very interesting 15 minute Netflix documentary on the history of the exclamation mark and some surprising gender assumptions. It helps to highlight the assumptions people can make about our work based on punctuation:

 

There is a famous style guide called Elements of Style by Strunk & White which is a good reference for correct English grammar, although some of the advice, such as 'if in doubt of gender, always use he,' is a little outdated. It was first printed in 1918, so things have moved on a bit since then, but it is still a great resource. A more modern, and much larger, style guide is The Economist Style Guide, which is used by many leading newspapers. You can also find the BBC style guide free online.

Another excellent resource on grammar and style is 100 Ways To Write Badly Well by Joel Stickley. This is a collection of short and often very funny examples of why we avoid doing certain things in English. It shows what happens when we use too many exclamation marks, ellipses or put our apostrophes in the wrong place.

A final recommendation on English grammar is a very entertaining book called Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. It gives many more examples of how misplaced punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence, such as Let's eat grandma!