I am getting a little silly with the titles of my blog post. I like it! In my head, I keep singing “comma, comma, comma, chameleon”. I know those are not the words to the song, but at the same time, it was a bad song. Catchy, but bad none the less.
Let’s dive in and get this over with. I know I chose to write about when to use commas, but honestly writing a post on grammar is terrifying! You have to go through it a thousand times and you STILL miss your mistakes! Also, I am not a grammar guru. All the information on this post is presented only after researching and wading through a bunch of stuff in books and websites devoted to grammar. I’m just trying to present it in a simple easy to understand manner.
Commas used with nonessential elements of a sentence.
This is the one very clear memory I have when learning grammar as a kid. I had a teacher, her name was Ms. Crowe, she was also my Sunday School teacher. I saw this woman six days week; therefore, I did not get away with ANYTHING!
The rule she drilled into my little head was this: When your sentence has nonessential words or phrases (and clauses- I don’t remember her say it but it’s true), you put that information between commas. Nonessential means things that don’t change the meaning of your sentence.
EXAMPLE: The pastor, hoping for higher attendance, offered a gift card to visitors.
hoping for higher attendance is a nonessential phrase. Read the sentence without the phrase: The pastor offered gift cards to visitors.
While “hoping for higher attendance” does give the reader the pastor’s motive the sentence doesn’t need this phrase to make it a complete sentence that stands alone.
This is also true if you have nonessential clauses.
EXAMPLE: My grandmother, who is eighty-five, walks six miles a day.
Figuring out what is actually essential and nonessential can be tricky but that is a lesson for another day! Ms. Crowe would be so proud of me for remembering this one.
- Okay, other uses of commas would be after an introductory phrase, words that come before the main clause. See the Okay in the previous sentence for the example – clever huh?
- When you have three or more words, phrases, or clauses in a written series. Look, I did it again.
- You also want to use commas whenever it is necessary to prevent possible misreading. That’s a good idea, right? Oh boy, I am on fire today. –NOTE: this rule is where all the fun comma joke come from such as…
I like cooking my family my friends and my pets. Use commas here so you are not a cannibal.
- Use a comma to shift from the main discourse and a quotation. EXAMPLE: “I was able,” she smiled, “to get you an appointment with the doctor.
That’s enough for today. There are many other comma guidelines. I would strongly recommend the grammar girl books if you want to learn more.