Don’t go Comma Crazy

Over the years, I’ve seen manuscripts and college assignments riddled with commas and I’ve seen them without even the basic commas. When I asked one student what rules he used for inserting commas in his writing, he said, “I put a comma everywhere I pause to take a breath when reading.”

What? Is that in an English textbook somewhere?

It is just a bad to have too many commas as it is to have too few, so check your own writing against these basic comma rules.

  • Use a comma after an introductory clause. (Example: If you are looking for a job, try the Internet.)
  • Use a comma before the conjunction that joins two independent clauses (independent clauses could stand alone as two sentences without the conjunction joining them). (Example:  Job candidates should match their skills to the position, and they should know something about the target company.)
  • Use a comma to sent off a nonessential clause. (Example: Y. E. Yang, who was ranked 110th, beat Tiger Woods by three strokes in the PGA championship yesterday.)
  • Use commas to separate units in dates and geographical expressions. (Example: On Sunday, August 16, 2009, the PGA saw a huge upset in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when Yang defeated Woods.)
  • Use commas to separate items in a series. (Example: To learn more about a specific career field, do an informational interview, research on the Internet, do volunteer work, or get into a training program.)

If you can apply these few rules to your comma use, you’ll be way ahead of the competition when you submit your work to an agent or publisher.

Happy writing!

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