Jan 14, 2013

Grammar Hammer: I Can’t Believe I’m Older Than Schoolhouse Rock

There was a great story on NPR this week, interviewing Bob Dorough, the man who wrote most of the original Schoolhouse Rock series that first aired in 1973.  I flash back to my childhood Saturday rituals, which usually meant piano lessons or a morning of cartoons and a bowl of cereal.  I’d be sitting in our TV room on the yellow shag carpet (yes, yellow SHAG), probably still in my pajamas.  I’ve just finished watching The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show, which means Schoolhouse Rock is next, brought to you by Kellogg’s.

Everyone has their favorite Schoolhouse Rock episode.  I casually mentioned it to some friends and got stirring renditions of everything from “Three is a Magic Number” to “I’m Just a Bill” (and even a rather raunchy version of “A Noun Is A Person, Place, or Thing”). I think my favorite episode from Schoolhouse Rock is “Conjunction Junction.”

If you grew up watching the series, you don’t need me to explain to you that a conjunction is a word that will join together clauses or concepts. (sing it: “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.”)  But when it comes to proper use of conjunctions, there are a couple of good tips to remember.

Tip #1 – Make  sure that the parts being joined by the conjunction have a parallel structure (if you are using a conjunction to join two verbs, they should have the same form).

WRONG: I worked quickly yet am careful.  (faulty verb form – am careful is not the same form as quickly)

RIGHT: I worked quickly and carefully.

Tip #2 – FANBOYS! Coordinating conjunctions join two independent clauses, or two nouns, or two verbs.

F – For

A – And

N – Nor

B – But

O – Or

Y – Yes

S – So

Example #1: I had the poached salmon, and Henry had the roast chicken.

Example #2: We were exhausted, but we had a great time.

Tip #3 – If you’re starting a sentence with a conjunction, the reader may be looking for an idea to connect the sentence. Common uses of conjunctions at the beginning of sentences can add emphasis, but it’s an informal way of doing it (best saved for personal or creative writing, not often used in formal writing).

WRONG: Many people say the ultimate thrill is jumping out of a plane. But trying to cross the street in New York City is thrilling enough for me.

RIGHT: Many people say the ultimate thrill is jumping out of a plane, but trying to cross the street in New York City is thrilling enough for me.

What’s your favorite Schoolhouse Rock episode?

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

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