March

 

Let us pause for a moment, and reflect on the comma. An unobtrusive curl, which when used with purpose, can dramatically affect the meaning of our sentences.

I’m not going to talk about grammar terms like comma splices, participial phrases, and independent clauses. You can read about those here

What I want you to learn instead, is how wonderfully useful the comma is, when you know how to use it.

The comma is a symbol that tells your reader to pause. And that pause changes the meaning of your sentence.

It’s time to eat kids!

It’s time to eat, kids!

 

A woman without her man is nothing.

A woman, without her, man is nothing.

 

Rachael finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.

Rachael finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog. 

 

Most of the time travelers worry about their luggage.

Most of the time, travelers worry about their luggage.

 

Commas add a pause to separate parts of your message. So instead of this sentence:

Yesterday I saw my sister gave my dog a bath and had lunch with my mother. 

You can add pauses to separate the parts of your idea.

Yesterday I saw my sister, gave my dog a bath, and had lunch with my mother.

 

Steve didn’t tell me he wasn’t in the office yesterday. 

Steve didn’t tell me, he wasn’t in the office yesterday.

 

Separate your ideas into sentences.

Many people use commas to connect several ideas in one long sentence.

Please follow the instructions provided, and complete both sides of the application, then return it to this office, using the postage-paid envelope, which we have enclosed with this packet.

You’ll help your reader if you split that into two sentences:

Please follow the instructions provided, and complete both sides of the application. Then return it to this office by 5:00pm Friday, using the postage-paid envelope enclosed with this packet.

 

The serial comma. 

There is debate in some households about how to use commas when listing items.

For example:

Chris was proud of her new muffin recipes: blueberry, peanut butter and chocolate chip and coconut.  

Without a comma, you can’t be sure whether the last recipe is a combination of peanut butter and chocolate chip or a combination of chocolate chip and coconut.  

Adding a comma makes that clear:

Chris was proud of her new muffin recipes: blueberry, peanut butter and chocolate chip, and coconut.  

 

So, should you continue to ignore this pesky punctuation? Well my advice is no commas are important.

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Things we like.

Oops. The $75,000 comma

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Things to ponder.

English is weird. See delightful examples here.

 

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