Use Trump’s tweets to teach your kids about comma splices

Donald Trump’s tweets are a treasure trove of examples of how an educated grownup should not write. Trump’s trespasses range from grammatical to syntactical to stylistic and include the rampant abuse of punctuation marks; a sloppier mind could scarcely be imagined.

By the way, do you see what I did there in that last sentence with the semicolon? That semicolon, like any punctuation mark, serves a purpose. In this case, the purpose is to join two independent clauses without starting a new sentence — because the two clauses are closely enough related in meaning (the first sets up the second) that I didn’t want to separate them out as two sentences.

Had I put a comma where that semicolon is, I would have committed the egregious comma splice, and you’d have been justified in concluding that this blog was an amateur misadventure unworthy of your click.

Here’s a recent tweet from Trump:

tweet1

The Russia hoax continues is an independent clause. That’s because it has a subject (The Russia hoax) and a predicate (continues) and it constitutes a complete thought. Similarly, now it’s ads on Facebook is an independent clause — it too has a subject and a predicate and constitutes a complete thought.

Please tell your children — they must never, ever, join two independent clauses with a comma the way Trump did. That is a classic hallmark of bad writing that any discerning reader will spot and judge.

There were three things Trump could have done to fix his comma splice and thus only seem like a buffoon for the content of his writing and not also its desecration of one of the most sacrosanct rules of punctuation:

  • He could have made his one sentence into two: The Russia hoax continues. Now it’s ads on Facebook.
  • He could have used a short connector like and or so or but. That would probably have required some restructuring to achieve any coherence: Now it’s ads on Facebook, so the Russia hoax continues.
  • He could have used a semicolon: The Russia hoax continues; now it’s ads on Facebook.

As for any good parent, your choices are two: either keep your children away from Trump’s tweets or use the tweets to teach them how not to write. Do not expose children to Donald Trump’s tweets as though the tweets are in any way proper, lest those children begin to mimic Trump’s malfeasance and come across as little buffoons themselves.

-bb

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