Tag Archives: comma rules

Some Random Comma Rules

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In the following examples, I’m going to put an X where a comma belongs.

I’ve noticed that a use for commas I learned as a child has been disappearing (see above):

Thanks for everythingX Laura.

GoX Bears!

Both of those sentences should take a comma before the official names. This may be a battle I’ve lost, but I’m still using this rule in my own writing.

Some commas are needed for clarity:

When I was about to enter the houseX my cousin showed up.

Don’t forget a comma when your sentence ends with a confirming question:

You finished the report yesterdayX didn’t you?

 

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Four Comma Rules

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Some grammar and punctuation books may list 50 comma rules. Here are the four comma rules that will serve you in just about any situation.

1. A comma separates items in a series of three or more:

I went to the store and bought anchovies, feta cheese(,) and cereal.

2. A comma separates independent clauses (complete sentences) when they are joined by a conjunction such as and, but, or, nor, for or yet:

I wanted to go to the party, but I wasn’t invited.

3. A comma is used after an introductory dependent clause such as a prepositional phrase:

During our meeting yesterday, John left the room to meet with a client.

4. A comma sets off any non-essential information:

Our annual retreat, held every January, will be in Aspen this year.

EXERCISE:
Insert commas where necessary. Which comma rule applies?

1. Her internship is ending so she’s starting grad school in August.

2. Running through the hall he tripped over a plant stand.

3. The new boss in a departure from tradition gave all employees his home phone number.

4. She is active in the Charity Mentoring and Birthday Committees.

5. Bill Gates one of the world’s richest people is very charitable.

6. I would organize the meeting but I am too busy to take on another obligation.

7. Where are you going for your vacation Carlos?

8. Brian is taking the Bar Exam next week but he hasn’t had a job offer yet.

9. California’s Bar Exam perhaps the most difficult in the nation has a pass rate of only 30%.

10. His evaluations which are among the best in his department still did not result in a promotion or a raise.

Copyright  2007 Judith R. Birnberg/Write It Right All rights reserved.

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What a Difference a Comma Makes

One use of the comma is that it sets off information that may be interesting but is not necessary for the reader to understand the sentence.  That information set off in commas is called “non-essential.”Here are a few examples:

1. My cousin, Juliet, lives in Seattle.

By using commas around her name, you are telling the reader  you have only one cousin and her name happens to be Juliet. If you remove the commas and her name, your readers will understand that you have only one cousin. If you keep her name but remove the commas, you are telling the reader you have more than this one cousin.  How many more?  We don’t know, but Juliet is not the only one.

2. Let’s eat, Eddie, before we pitch our tents.

As written, this sentence is what is called “direct address.” We are speaking directly to Eddie and saying we want to have a meal before we settle in for the night on our camping trip.  If you take those commas out, suddenly this becomes the cannibal camping trip, and Eddie is getting very, very nervous.

3. (X-rated)  Sam helped his brother, Jack, off his horse.

Speak the sentence without the commas.  See how important commas can be?

 

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