Commas, Commas, And More Commas!

Lets-eat-grandpaCommas are an albatross around my neck. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but they are frequently my downfall in writing prose. Unfortunately, they are the most common punctuation mark within sentences, so you had better learn their proper use.

What’s the purpose of commas?

  1. Separate main clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction.                                     Example: The house was built, but it had no tenants.                                                                             The meal was cooked, and the kitchen was cleaned.

2.  Set off most introductory elements.                                                                                              Example: Unfortunately, the rest of the house was a mess.                                                                           Of course, I would love to go.

3.  Set off nonessential elements (phrases that could be removed from the sentence              and not affect its meaning)                                                                                                                  Example: The injury, sustained from the fall, needed to be taken care of. The words          set apart by the commas are informative but not necessary to convey the idea.

4.  Separate item in a series/list.                                                                                                           Example: She had eggs, grits, sausage, and bacon for breakfast.

5.  Separate coordinate adjectives.                                                                                                       Example:  She was an independent, hardworking woman.                                                                              The warm, cozy comforter was all I needed.

6.  Separate quotations and signal phrases( she said, he wrote, said Elsie).                          Example: “Knowledge is power,” wrote Francis Bacon.                                                                                    Lisa said, “Do not walk on the grass.”                                                                            There are some exceptions to this rule.                                                                                        Example: “That part of my life was over,” she wrote. “His words had sealed it shut.”                              “Claude!” Jamie called.                                                                                                                          James Baldwin insists that “one must never, in one’s life, accept…injustices                            as commonplace.” (It’s integrated into the sentence so a comma isn’t                                        necessary.)

7. Separate parts of dates, addresses, place names, and long numbers.                                 Example:  July 4, 1776, is independence day.  December 1941(doesn’t need a comma)                              Raleigh, North Carolina, is the location of NC State University.                             Do not use a comma between a state name and a zip code.

8. Use the comma to separate long numbers in groups of three. With numbers of 4          digits, the comma is optional.                                                                                                          Example: 1,000,000                                                                                                                                                    1000

Okay, now you know what I know. This exercise was as much for me as it was for you.       Hopefully, I can retain the information and use it during my next revision 🙂

Hope it helped.

-Jan R

Commas, Commas, And More Commas!

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