Forever Grammar is a new series on Forever Endeavour which will iron out all of your grammar woes. It will ensure your writing is spick and span, to match the brilliant ideas you have, and boost your confidence. We will cover everything from the basics of punctuation to the common errors in spelling. If you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment, and we will always get back to you.
Commas are vital for ensuring your writing flows and reads easily. There are a variety of different circumstances which require you to use a comma which will be covered in today’s post.
Separate words or sentences in a series
This means when you are listing words or phrases, you need to put a comma between each part. While commas are not usually used before the word ‘and’, there can be circumstances where this is important in order to differentiate the items and make the meaning clearer. For example:
The woman ordered whiskey, French wine, and spirits.
The comma is important before ‘and’ or it would suggest that the spirits were French as well as the wine.
Separate introductory words and phrases
At the start of a new sentence, it is important to leave a comma after an introductory word. These include (but are not limited to) however, nevertheless, for instance etc. For example:
Nevertheless, she decided to board the plane.
Distinguish additional information
A comma should be used when adding a parenthesis – a piece of additional information, explanation or afterthought added to a sentence which would be grammatically complete without it. This could also be done by using a dash (as above) or brackets, as shown previously. For example:
I was given a large bonus, which they handed to me in cash, for all my hard work.
Separate phrases using -ing words
When a sentence begins using participle, or a word ending in ‘ing’, a comma needs to be used to separate the two pieces of information in the sentence, i.e. the first action and then the second. For example:
Noticing the gun in the man’s hand, he slowly moved towards the door.
During speech to separate accompanying words
When writing speech, you should use a comma to separate the direct speech itself, and the information/verb/adverb relating to the speech. For example:
“You are going to lose,” she said.
There is no need for a comma if the direct speech ends in a question mark or exclamation mark.
When addressing a person
When using direct address, either during speech or as part of your prose, you need to put commas around the person’s name you is being addressed. For example:
His brother, Michael, had always loved baseball.
“Mary, what are you doing?”
These are the most common comma occurrences you may face during your writing, and we hope this post will give you the confidence you need to get writing. Commas are generally used as a ‘break’, so another trick you can try is reading your work out loud and seeing when you pause for breath. If you are running out of air, your sentence needs a comma!
Please leave any comments or additional advice below and keep an eye out for the next part in our Forever Grammar series.
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