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Monday, December 10, 2012

Comma 101: Everything Writers Should Know About Commas

Misusing a comma is the number one cause of punctuation error. Even the seasoned writers misplace it once in a while. So, are the correct placement and usage of commas really that important? Hell yes. Let me show you a short-and-sweet example (some of you may have seen a similar example before).

1.    Don’t kill, Mom.
2.    Don’t kill Mom.

See the difference? In number 1, you’re telling Mom not to kill. In number 2, you’re telling another person not to kill Mom. Get it? That single comma changed the entire meaning of the sentence. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you learn all about commas. Study it. Especially if you want to call yourself a writer.

1.    Before coordinating conjunctions (and/or/but/yet…) to join independent clauses.
Ex: I went home, but you went to school.

2.    After the clause with subordinating conjunctions (after/when/because…).
Ex: Because I went home, you went to school.

3.    After conjunctive adverbs (however, hence, instead…). Don’t forget to place semicolons before them. Exceptions are when they’re used as interrupters; then, you will wrap them with commas instead of a semicolon and a comma. The example is shown in number 4.
Ex: I went home; however, you went to school.

4.    Around interrupters-adjective/appositives/parenthetical clauses, etc.
Ex: The book, which was covered in dust, appeared old.

5.    Series of three or more items. The red comma is called a serial comma or Oxford comma. (Omission in newspaper articles is one of the few exceptions.) 
Ex: I want to eat cookies, candies, and pancakes.

6.    Between coordinate adjectives (more than one adjective).
Ex: I love cold, hard cash.

7.    After introductory clauses (prepositional/participial/adverbial, etc.)
Ex: Kicking, I ran after the ball. As the door closed, I screamed.

8.    Expression of contrast.
Ex: I want you, not him.

9.    Before confirmatory questions.
Ex: You want me, don’t you?

10.  In between dates, addresses, etc.
Ex: My date of birth is August 21, 1981, and my address is 25 Lalaland Street, Fantasy Island.

11.  Names and titles.
Ex: Tom Park, Ph.D., (Tom Park, PhD) is my mentor. 
In academic papers, refer to the style being used such as APA, MLA, Chicago Style, etc. 

12.  To clarify misreadable word groups and miscellaneous.
Ex: A few weeks before, I saw her. I’ll do it, just to be sure.

Whew. I think I’ve got all of them. I hope. Well, since you’re here, check out my other writing/editing tip posts. If you need an editor, please visit my editing website and try my free, sample edits. Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy writing~