The Comma, Clarified.

I could spend a very long time to write in my own words what so many people have already written about comma usage.  In fact, I just spent an hour trying to do just that, which was far more than any sane human should.  It was when I realized that I sounded like my 7th grade English teacher that I decided it was a great time to call it quits.

Here are three excellent sites that explain in technical terms where and when to properly use a comma:

Purdue University OWL:  Quick Comma Rules –  A quick explanation of the basics.

Grammarbook: Punctuation rules – Comma – A very clear explanation of ALL comma rules.

Wikipedia: Comma – in addition to all the many usage rules and examples, it has a nifty history section.

So yes, there are definite rules that are followed; but you can use a comma anywhere you feel it will clarify the meaning of a phrase.

My biggest comma pitfalls are –

  • Using a comma to join two mini sentences together without one of the  “joiner” words (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet). In that instance one would use a semicolon.
  • Forgetting where the commas go when punctuating dialogue.  Use a comma to separate the text from the quote, and punctuation ALWAYS goes inside the quotation marks.
  • Thinking that a long sentence needs a comma even when it is technically correct without.
  • Forgetting to offset a name or title with commas when someone is directly addressed.  “June, will you pass the peas?” or, “Will you, Sir, take off your hat?”
  • Getting comma happy to add dramatic pauses in a sentence.  A little drama here and there is alright, but use it too often and you start sounding like William Shatner.  “Must, get off, this confounded, planet…”

As always, Happy Writing!

< To see last week’s language usage post, click here

To see all technical writing posts, click here


About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.
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9 Responses to The Comma, Clarified.

  1. Love it, as always.
    And, if you don’t mind the shameless plug, consider my own “Don’t Fear the Comma”,

  2. nrhatch says:

    Isn’t there a song about commas:

    “Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon . . . she comes and goes . . . ” : )


  3. Paula says:

    Hey nrhatch…isn’t that the way the song really goes? Of course it must be. Misquoting could bring you some bad karma! 😀

  4. Paula says:

    Oh! I forgot to add one thing! Many years ago I was attending a group psychic reading. I was told that I had a comic marriage – which I though odd, but, accepted it, as my husband and I both loved to laugh and crack wise. I did not take into account that she was British, and was actually telling us that we had a “karmic” marriage…destined to go on for many lifetimes…which, although we might enjoy that, this life was enough for now! (We’ve been married 35 years this October…guess it took this time.)

  5. Pingback: Weekly Review #12 « My Literary Quest

  6. Walker says:

    Oh, I so need this. I am awful about throwing commas in where ever, I think, they might belong, and using them inappropriately, too. Hee Hee!

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