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eleutheromaniac
January 11th, 2005, 01:05 AM
The Comma ,

The comma is easily the most misused punctuation mark. This is mostly because it has so many uses (often sharing these uses with other punctuation marks) and because the rules about using a comma are not as clearly defined as with other punctuation. When editing punctuation be especially watchful of commas. Its uses are as follows (with a few omitions which will be covered in other posts, such as dialogue):

1. Before and, but, or for in compound sentences (and only compound sentences).

EX: The mentors worked hard on this thread, but it was all worth while.

EX: Writingforums.com is more popular than ever, for it is a well run site with many interesting and intelligent members.

Occasionally, it may be acceptable not to use a comma if the indepedent clauses are short and balanced.

EX: The Red Sox were leading the division and everyone in Boston was optimistic.

Important note: Comma's can only be used to seperate independant statements if one of the co-ordinate conjunctions--and, but or for--is used. Otherwise a semi-colon or a period should be used.

2. Following Yes, No, an exclamation such as Oh, or an interjection such as Well.

EX: Yes, he was going to be late for the meeting.

EX: Well, let me just say I've always been an admirer of yours.

EX: Oh, excuse me.

3. To set off:

A: A series (three or more words, phrases, or clauses)

Words: She was very beautiful, graceful, and elegant.

Phrases: The contents of the bag included a make-up case, a box of crayons, and a small wad of dollar bills.

Clauses: It had become obvious that he was not alone, that he was being spied on, and that he was in grave danger.

Preferred: Red, white, and blue.
Acceptable: Red, white and blue. (no comma before and)

B: Direct Address.

When directly addressing a person by name, the name should always off-set by a comma.

EX: John, remember to take out the garbage tonight.

EX: We must end this fued, Fred.

C: Appositives.

Dashes may also be used in this manner, depending on the emphasis the writer wishes to place on the appositive statement.

EX: John Smith, my best friend since third grade, is leaving the country later this week.

John Smith--my best friend since third grade--is leaving....

D: Sentence modifiers such as however, in fact, of course, indeed, in short, nevertheless, etc.

EX: I knew, of course, that I would never get out alive.

EX: Indeed, everyone thought he was a cad.

E: Independant introductory phrases.

EX: With the fridge door having been left open all night, the food had spoiled.

F: Non-restrictive clauses. (A clause which does not restrict or limit anything, but merely adds another idea or fact to the person or thing expressed in the main part of the sentence.)

EX: My father sent me off to camp, which he said would be a very rewarding experience.

EX: Writing, which is arguably the height of artistic expression, can take years to master.

G: Introductory adverbs

EX: Suddenly, he found himself in the middle of no-where and all alone.

EX: Fortunately, the collision wasn't as bad as it initially looked, and no one was seriously hurt.


Dashes --


Here's how a dash should be used according to Reed Smith's 'Learning to Write':


1. To mark a sudden change or an abrupt break in thought.

EX: Please send me two--no, I'll need three--extra cases.

2. To makee appositive, explanatory, or parenthetical matter stand outmore clearly and conspicuously.

EX: Jim was amazed--positively thunderstruck--when I told him he had won.

3. Before a word that summarizes the preceding particulars.

EX: The historians, the diarists, the chroniclers--these are the spokesmen of the past.

Also note that you shouldn't capitalise the words following a dash.