Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Commas

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When you are writing a report that will eventually find its way up the chain, it is crucial that you use proper grammar. Unfortunately commas can be tricky to deal with and people often misuse them.  So let’s take a look at the general rules of commas and see when it is truly appropriate to use them and when they can sit out.

So let’s look at five common uses and misuses of commas.

In order to join two free-standing sentences with a conjunction, you must use a comma to separate the thoughts. This can be useful, because it helps your sentences flow and makes your ideas seem more complete.

  •  For Example: Eric wrote a book about penguins. Rhinos are Eric’s favorite animal.
  • Adjusted: Eric wrote a book about penguins, but rhinos are his favorite animal.

When starting a sentence with an introductory phrase, you must use a comma to change the meaning of a statement. This is very important because it adds meaning to your sentence and is grammatically correct.

  • For Example: Although I love running, I can only withstand about an hour.

The most common use for a comma is to list out a series of nouns. This is important to eliminate redundancy. Using this not only makes your writing sound more correct, but shows your level of intelligence.

  • For Example: To make a cake you will need to buy flour and milk and eggs.
  • Adjusted: To make a cake you will need to buy flour, milk, and eggs.

Adding in additional information to an already complete sentence requires a comma. This is very sophisticated way to write, often seen in professional journals and upper level. The statement that you add in can be removed, and the sentence will still make sense.

  • For Example: My car, which is five years old, constantly needs repair.

Commas must be used in order to introduce somebody’s quoted statement. This creates the necessary pause between your statement and what the other person said.

  • For Example: Ryan was telling his mother, “There are two grocery stores in this town”.

Remember that incorrectly using commas in your writing can mislead your audience, this can demote you from a professional into just another voice. More importantly commas could save grandpa’s life!

Kevin Krauss

University of South Florida

ENC 3250

Last Edit: 12/06/2012

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