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How to use commas

The Idea and Rules for Proper Usage Of Comma

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How to use commas
 John Millar   Published On Aug 11, 2021 | Updated on Dec 28, 2023  Writing Service

Even expert writers struggle with the positioning of commas. In theory, everyone knows what a comma is and the purpose it is used for. It’s a pause between fragments of a sentence. In practice, it is undoubtedly a challenging affair to figure out where commas actually exist. The below-mentioned guide will help you to understand how to use commas in the right fashion.

When You Should Use Commas

The below-mentioned comma rules will give you a clear idea of its proper usage. Have a look at the most familiar cases where commas always gain the upper hand:

a) With parenthetical elements or interrupters

In simple terms, interrupters are thoughts inserted in the middle of a statement to convey an emotion or add emphasis. A parenthetical element injects extra information into the sentence but can be removed without altering the meaning. You should always use commas to set off both.

For example Whatever the situation I will go to Delhi (incorrect).

Whatever the situation, I will go to Delhi (correct).

b) With a direct address

When you are directly addressing a person by name, always place a comma after the name.

Example: Freddy, have you ever been to Paris?

c) With a question tag

You must use commas when you follow up a statement with a question.
Example: Social media is addictive, isn’t it?

d) With complex sentences

A complex sentence comprises two clauses. There can be an independent clause and dependent clause or two independent clauses. You need to place a comma between them depending on the positions and types of clauses.

Example: I have a desktop, but I use it hardly.

e) After an introductory clause

It’s necessary to put a comma after an introductory phrase or clause. It enables readers to understand that the introductory clause has ended, and the critical part of the sentence is about to begin.

Example: When Jack was about to leave, his friend arrived.

f) Between all items in a series

Placing a comma is inevitable to separate each element in a series, especially when the series has three or more items of the same form and function.

Example: 1. We bought apricots, avocados, and apples today. (Series of words)

2. Jack promised that he would be a good boy, that he will prepare his lessons in study time, and that he wouldn’t climb onto the roof. (Series of clauses)

3. The professor looked through his bag, through his desk, and around the college for the lost course module. (Series of phrases)

g) To set off appositives

An appositive is referred to as a noun or a noun phrase that renames a close noun. The purpose of appositives is to offer nonessential information. However, restrictive appositives aren’t separated by commas, unlike nonrestrictive appositives.

Example: 1. Akbar, the great Mughal emperor, is famous for his humanistic approach. (Appositive)

2. The poet Wordsworth is renowned for his nature poetry. (No appositive)

Why Use Commas?

There is a saying that you can’t question the rules. But still, there are exceptions. If you are one of those, this section is for you. Commas are important due to the below-mentioned reasons:

a) It enhances clarity in sentences.
b) It breaks a large sentence into smaller fragments, making it easier to read.
c) It helps readers to understand the meaning of certain sentences and sometimes even paragraphs.
d) Commas help the audience figure out the words that go together and parts of sentences that are most important.

However, if you use commas incorrectly, it may confuse the readers in more ways than one.

How to Use Commas in a List

Putting a comma between each item is a common thing that everyone blindly follows. But, there is a certain language technique of using commas in a list. You must not place a comma in case two items are mentioned. If multiple items are present, you shouldn’t put a comma before the last item. You have to use ‘and’ in this case.

Some Popular Myths of Comma Usage 

Myth 1

Commas are mandatory in long sentences. However, it doesn’t hold true all the time. The sentence length doesn’t determine whether it needs a comma or not.

Myth 2

You must include a comma wherever you pause. But, various readers pause in different places of a sentence, and thereby making difficult the exact positioning of commas.

Myth 3

Commas are mysterious, for which it becomes impossible for readers to identify where they belong. Yes, some rules are flexible, but mostly, commas are used in predictable places.

Putting commas in the right places is important to make your sentences look and mean clear. If you ignore this aspect, readers will face difficulties while going through your write-up. In some instances, it may also alter the meaning of a sentence or paragraph. After reading the above blog, you must have understood the complexities associated with comma positioning, rules, and importance.

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