Sunday, April 6, 2014

Commas giving you grief?

I've noticed that a lot of people have problems with commas, but it's not that hard once you figure out the rules. And, the rules don't have to be as difficult as many convey them. Good grammar can seem superfluous in an age of tweets and texts, but it helps get a message across.

Commas make a difference:
"I like cooking my family and my pets."
"I like cooking, my family, and my pets."

If you see an -ing word, look out for a comma.

Unless it's a really short sentence, like, "I should be working" an -ing word always comes with a comma. It's not always right by the -ing word, but it's there.


"Alice ran towards the fire, waving her arms in the air."

And, Or, Nor, For, But, So, Yet

These words require attention. Except for "and" all of them should have commas. The word and is an exception because it can have different functions in a sentence.

  • If and is used to separate an element in a series - three or more things - it should have a comma. "We have apples, oranges, and tomatoes." A lot of people skip this comma, but not writing it gives the sentence another meaning. It's the difference between "macaroni and cheese" and "macaroni, and cheese."
  • If and is used as a conjunction - to connect two independent clauses - it should have a comma. "They ran down the street, and the firetruck raced the other way."

Subordinating conjunctions

It's not as bad as it sounds. A subordinating conjunction is a word that connects a main clause to a subordinate clause. There are many subordinating conjunctions. These are words like:

Because, Before, After, Although, Unless, Until, When, As, Since, While, Which


"Paul needed a nap, because he hadn't slept well."
"Although Isabela liked chips, she didn't enjoy the new flavor."
"Mike didn't want to come to the store, unless they were shopping for toys."

Parenthetical elements

A parenthetical is a part of a sentence used to clarify or explain.


"Maria's computer, which she mostly uses for writing, ran out of battery."

To avoid confusion


"Outside the lawn was cluttered with fallen leaves."
"Outside, the lawn was cluttered with fallen leaves."

"Let's eat Grandma."
"Let's eat, Grandma."

"We're going to learn to cut and paste kids."
"We're going to learn to cut and paste, kids."


  1. Oh thank God! I've been accused of being a comma-holic and using too many commas, but I was remembering grade school lessons - and this post just reconfirmed what I already knew (but was starting to doubt). Thank you!

  2. Thank you for coming over! I like commas - mine are staying. =)


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