Commas

For many, it’s also called the enemy.  Commas are neither friend nor foe. 
[About Cat Hartliebe] [Writer’s Stuff]

The little curved guys at the bottom of a line are only there to help produce a more intricate sentence.  Like with my previous statement, it is not always needed, whereas within this one several are present.

The rules for commas are not easy to recall.  At least, it felt that way for most of my life.  But there are only a few cases where they are needed. 

Listings are the first place commas are found and understood.  Everyone knows you need commas when a list contains three or more items.  They teach that in first grade now.

So if I say, “Dogs, cats, and gophers are cool.”  I need the commas to keep my list separate and together.  <I am friend of the oxford comma!>

Listings are only one of many places commas need to exist, though.  Any time you are using a word like ‘and’, ‘but’, or ‘or’, you need to comma before it if it combines two complete sentences.  ‘Whereas’ above fits that category.  This is probably the second most well known and still messed up use for commas.

Another place for commas fits after a phrase separated from the sentence.  The ‘if and then’ statements need commas as long as they start with ‘if’.  If ‘if’ is in the center of the sentence, you do not need a comma.  People can be easily confused if commas end up surrounding an ‘if’ in the center.  ‘If’ smooths out a sentence in the center.  After, before, or the various other words used to create a separate but unequal comment prior or after or in the middle of a sentence need a comma.

Even after the man went to sleep, he still had his eyes wide open.  He, who cannot be a friend of mine, did the unthinkable.  The boy stayed home, even though his friends asked him to play.

When using ‘and’ or another as mentioned above and the second part isn’t a full sentence, then there should be no comma.  ‘And’ only needs a comma when it’s two sentences.  Think of it this way.  If you cannot separate them into two sentences on their own, they do not need a comma.  A semi colon can also replace the ‘and’, ‘but’, and ‘or’ with comma. <This is the dreaded comma splice.>

Another option for the comma would be when you have two adjectives and decide not to use ‘and’.  You can replace ‘and’ with a comma in this case:

The soft, fluffy teddy bear helps keeps kids safe at night.

I may have failed here.  I feel like I missed a comma rule.  The ‘also’ and ‘too’ generally get commas in the same way ‘though’, ‘after’, and ‘when’ do.  These can have more then just the one word especially in ‘when’s case.

When in doubt, leave it out.  People can read without paying close attention to commas.  Or if you truly have a question if a comma belongs, rewrite the entire sentence to lose that possible requirement.  Or ask.  There are many who study these rules.  Although if it’s an assignment aim to get the question to the one grading.  They know best what they are looking for.

When in doubt, leave it out.

Sometimes I feel like I’m still learning.  English is not exactly an easy language to get perfect.  Not even sure how I managed perfect scores when I was back in class.


[About Cat Hartliebe] [Writer’s Stuff]

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