See the Printer-Friendly Version
Commas: They're Not Just For English Majors Anymore.

FIVE RULES TO COMMA GLORY


Don't Forget!: 
YOU MUST HAVE A REASON FOR EACH COMMA YOU USE.

IE - Introductory Elements
An introductory element is a word, phrase, or clause before the main part of the sentence. It usually tells us something about the main clause.

  • If we cannot control our tempers, we may have to bite those mimes.
  • On the other hand, they may bite us first.
CE - Contrasting Elements
Use commas to set up a strong contrast.  Some key words: but, yet, not, never
    Wilma, not Betty, has a necklace made of rocks.
21C - Two Independent Clauses
(a.k.a. "compound sentences") When two independent clauses are joined with a coordinating (and not any other kind of) conjunction, place a comma before the conjunction.
(Remember: FANBOYS!)
    The Misfit takes the son's shirt, and he shoots the grandmother.
CA - Compound (or Coordinate) Adjectives
Use commas to separate consecutive adjectives:
    The closet was full of old, worn clothes.
Do not, however, use a comma when the order of the adjectives matters (i.e., when you can't simply reverse them without seriously changing the meaning):
We were suspicious of the fried green tomatoes.
(After all, fried green tomatoes may taste good, but green fried tomatoes might make you sick).

NRE - Non-Restrictive Elements
These elements are the ones known, often misleadingly, as "the part you could just take out": parenthetical comments, direct address, appositives, transitional words and phrases, etc.

    The pressure of being a clown was enough, it seems, to make even a brave man weep.
They can also appear at the end of a sentence:
He wanted to run into the airplane propeller, an act that would have dramatically shortened his life expectancy.

The clowns were scary, especially the sarcastic ones.


2003 - 2008 Joseph Sigalas



IE: Introductory Elements

CE: Contrasting Elements

2IC: Two Independent Clauses

CA: Compound or Coordinate Adjectives

NRE: Non-Restrictive Elements


A Few Other Situations (quotations, lists, etc.)