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Editorial Help Desk:
Your Resource for Grammar and MCPS Style

Word of the Month

Factious: (adjective)
Dissenting (especially dissenting from the majority opinion).
From the noun faction, which is a small (sometimes rebellious) group. A factious group is one that breaks away or wants to.

Example: During the Civil War, the Confederate states was a factious group. They wanted to break away from the Union.


Tip of the Month

Six Ways to Use the Comma

It is best to use the comma frugally. Here's a useful tip: Place a comma where the reader would logically take a breath before continuing, or where there is a change in direction of thought within the sentence. Too many commas can intrude on the flow of the statement and make it hard to grasp the gist of what is being said.

1. Use the comma in a list or series within a sentence. In reports, correspondence, and most other documents, MCPS uses the serial comma (i.e., a comma before a conjunction like and or in a list of three or more items). Example: Teachers, students, and staff gathered for a special assembly to welcome the new principal.

2. Use a comma to separate parts of a compound sentence. Example: We have 159,000 students, and many of them speak a second language at home.

3. Use a comma to separate a sentence with a dependent clause. Example: All participants are required to pay an application fee, except those 50 years and older.

4. Use a comma to separate two or more adjectives that describe a noun (i.e., when the adjectives could be joined by the word and without changing the meaning of the sentence). Example: The protesters crowded around the fire pit for warmth on that cold, windy winter night.

5. Use a comma before an introductory phrase, especially if misreading is likely. Example: After reading, the students worked on their essays.
It is not needed in this case: Walking along with us were three ducks.

6. Use a comma after a date that includes a year. Example: November 30, 1874, marks the birthday of Winston Churchill.

For more details and examples of how and when to use the comma, consult the MCPS Editorial Stylebook.

Contact Donna M. Marks on Outlook or call 301-517-8139.

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