The basic principles of the Common Comma – Tips on how to Add Clarity to Writing

For years, the comma has been venerated as some mystical, magical creation. Writers consistently employed then fired the standard sentence structure tool with little understanding of the base uses. A thorough perusal from the Chicago Manual of Style reveals twenty-plus pages that lead mere human writers to believe the sneaky comma defies simplistic explanation. Hold on. Help is on the way. Broken down in attack sizes, the comma can be grasped and effectively utilized.

According to the Freedom Edition, English Grammar and Composition, “The comma – the most commonly used mark of punctuation – can be used mainly to group words that belong together and to separate those that do not. ”

Wow! That noises basic. Could it really be so simple?

Based on the above definition, the comma’s nutshell purpose is to separate or to group. Think of the very dated bra commercial – to raise and separate. It’s an old term, but on-point for the comma conversation. If words can be lifted, or removed, from a sentence without upsetting the meaning, taking them out totally, then a comma is used to counteract those very words. NOTE the prior sentence.

More common examples of lifting out are:

1) John, the preacher’s son, was always in trouble with school. Being the preacher’s son might be important to John and his dad, but the phrase ‘the preacher’s son’ can be removed from this sentence. The casual reader will still understand who’s in hot water with the school.

2) On the night in question, 06 18th, 2008, the preacher’s boy ran away from home. The specific date may be important in a court of regulation proceeding, yet it can be completely raised from this sentence without disturbing the primary meaning. So employment of the commas around the date will add clearness to the writing.

The second fundamental use for a comma is to separately listing items. The Jones ate reddish colored beans and rice, spicy blackened grouper, and cream pudding. NOTE the previous sentence. However , there are two issues any writer must consider when forming a list.

First, you have the common journalism thought that the last comma is not needed when separating the list, as the ‘and’ may serve the primary function as the final comma. For example: Sally ate red, yellow and blue jelly beans. As opposed to Sally consumed red, yellow, and blue jello beans. The dilemma is one of clarity. By employing only the ‘and’ in order to serve as the comma will you determine the three separate colors of jelly beans Sally enjoyed? Or even does the solitary ‘and’ appear to make the jelly beans a combination colour? As all aspiring writers know, getting the words RIGHT for the reader can be tough. If utilizing this comma, the OXFORD comma as it can known in literary circles, provides clarity to the sentence, then use a final comma in the list.

Second, phrases that are commonly thought of together are usually listed together and separated only by the conjunction ‘and’. The above illustration is red beans and rice. As red beans and grain pair together the way bread plus butter, Bonnie and Clyde, oil and vinegar do, then the mixture should be grouped together. Two items that are intimately related in believed processes should be listed together rather than separated with a comma.

The comma certainly holds other intrinsic, and oftentimes, complicated purposes for composing. One search on any Internet engine will result in several million hits, numerous from universities and institutions better learning, for comma explanation. The comma is an ubiquitous form of punctuation with multiple and varied utilizes. However , when writers follow the simple rules concerning ‘lifting and separating’ and ‘listing’ then their work will be on more solid comma ground
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