Commas, Lists, and “FANBOYS”

Commas are a vital part of sentence construction.  They help your reader figure out what parts of a sentence go together, and what parts are separate.  For today’s blog entry I decided to forgo the more famous image highlighting grandma cannibalism.  Instead, in the above image, two commas are missing, leading to the consumption of both family and pets.  When listing several things, commas help separate those items: “I like cooking, my family, and pets.”  The use of commas in a list is relatively straight forward, but commas have many other uses.

For help with these various comma usages, check out the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s handy Commas Handout.  They highlight several important comma myths, including that long sentences need commas, and that a comma should go everywhere you pause when speaking.  They also encourage the use of a mnemonic device called “FANBOYS.”  “FANBOYS” stands for conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.  These words help connect parts of a sentence, and when they are connecting two independent clauses, you need a comma.

Still worried about your commas, or perhaps you remain beguiled by grammar?  You can make an appointment with a Writing in History tutor.  They are available Monday through Friday, usually 9am to 5pm.  Learn more and make an appointment on our website.

Best, Dr. Ferdinando


Spring 2016 Welcome

Drs. Weimer and Ferdinando

Welcome one and all to the spring 2016 semester.  The new year brings a refreshing zest to Florida International University’s Writing in History Program.  Speaking for myself, Dr. Ferdinando, and my colleague Dr. Weimer, we hope that the upcoming semester is a chance for challenges and triumphs.  To help transform the former into the latter, the Writing in History program will continue to offer tutoring, workshops, roundtables, and online resources that all aim to improve and enhance the writing and research skills of FIU’s diverse student body.  From helping a freshman to structure their first college paper for a required history credit, to assisting history juniors and seniors as they refine their writing and research skills, Writing in History offers support and encouragement.

One of the key successes of the Writing in History program are our wonderful tutors.  Our returning tutors, Amanda, Elysee, and Enzu, remain essential to the program.  This semester, we also get to welcome four new tutors, Jason, Leo, Paul, and René.  Tutoring appointments are available Monday through Friday, usually from 9am to 5pm.  Whether you are just starting a paper and need help outlining and developing your thesis, or if you already have a substantial draft, you are welcome to make an appointment to meet with a tutor.  In fact, we encourage students to make follow-up appointments as they write successive drafts of their paper, hence this semester’s motto of “Beyond One and Done.”  To learn more and set an appointment, please visit our website.  We are planning to offer walk-in appointments too, so watch this blog for the details.

Journal Club will also return this spring.  This combined discussion and workshop event addresses student writing and research in a more informal environment.  Each month, we will circulate a journal article that serves as a springboard for larger discussions, including primary and secondary sources, the research and revision process, and transcription and translation.  For more on Journal Club, once again watch this blog.


Best, Dr. Ferdinando

Friday Funnies

Peanuts EssayPatty is right, it is October, but plenty of the semester remains.  If essay writing haunts you, and you want to know whether you are on the right track as you draft your history paper, then come chat with a Writing in History tutor in person.  They are available Monday through Friday, usually 9am to 5pm.  Learn more and make an appointment on our website.