To Comma or Not to Comma?

Let’s talk commas. Yep, those little squiggles cause headaches for all writers. “When should I use one? When don’t I need one?” Writers almost lose their sanity when trying to figure out the answers. Here are a few rules that can be helpful.


1. A comma goes after all but the last item in a series of three or more. Some folks say leaving out the comma between the last two items and before the conjunction (and, or) is permissible. I’ve always instructed students to include it for consistency’s sake.

EX: Most teens enjoy movies, computers, cell phones, and video games.


2. NEVER put a comma before the word “because” when it comes in the middle of a sentence and begins a dependent clause.

EX: He was late because a terrible wreck blocked the road.


3. If a sentence begins with the word “because,” put a comma at the end of the words that go with it.

      EX: Because a terrible wreck blocked the road, he was late.


4. If a sentence calls someone’s name to tell him or her something, set that name off. The same rule applies for beginning a sentence with “yes,” “no,” “well,” and other such words.

       EX: Jim, bring your sleeping bag for the camping trip.

       EX: The problem with your solution, Mary, is that it ignores several economic factors.

       EX: Yes, the manager is in and will see you now.


I’ll add more comma rules later. These need to soak in first.

The last rule that I can give you is, “WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT!” Omitting a

comma is never as bad as putting in one in the wrong place.

No comments: