Punctuation is a matter of style and preference and it largely depends on which style book you or your editor use. Introductory clauses are dependent clauses that provide background information or \"set the stage\" for the main part of the sentence, the independent clause. This comma lets the reader know where the introductory word or phrase ends and the main sentence begins. You can also use commas to divide sets of numbers. NOTE: If you are not sure about what an introductory adverbial element is, you ... the fires were brought under control just two days before the heavy rains started. In this article, we present a comprehensive list of 15 comma rules that you should know in order to master the use of commas in your writing. A nonessential phrase or clause must be set off from the rest of the sentence. An interrupter is a little word or phrase that interrupts a sentence to show emotion, tone, or emphasis. Your email address will not be published. Those words are in the vocative case, so a comma is required.) Houghton Mifflin, 1985. Use commas to set off elements that interrupt or add information in a sentence. Not always. (This study built on earlier 1986 research, “The Twenty Most Common Errors,” by Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors, authors of one of my favorite handbooks, The Everyday Writer. We invite you to comment on this post and exchange ideas with other site visitors. First: Look at the clause starting with "which." Be the first to read new posts and updates about MLA style. Your email address will not be published. (Somebody is being addressed as "you little devil." An introductory element is something that appears at the beginning of a sentence and thus introduces it. In the example above, the sentence cannot read, “She forgot to add the commas, and she would have failed.”. Many times to avoid the grammar rules I re-write the sentence so I don’t have to remember them. I see this law broken all the time, especially in literature, and now in my young child’s homework reading assignments. Use a comma to indicate a short pause in a sentence. The question of whether to put a comma before quotes when quoting from a document came up on Facebook. Using a Comma after an Interjection Commas can be used to offset interjections (e.g., "yes," "indeed," "absolutely"). Omitting the compound sentence comma before “and” might cause readers to momentarily read the sentence as “she remembered to add the commas and everyone,” so it’s probably better to include the comma. Use a comma after a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence. The traditional rule is that introductory adverbials like During church and During the long arctic winter should always be set off by a comma. For example:(introductory dependent clause, main clause)(introductory dependent clause, main clause) It would be fine to start the sentence with “fortunately” followed by a comma. Absolutely, John, get your skates on. clause: When the Civil War ended in 1865, northern photographers extensively documented the fallen Confederate strongholds. Finally, there are cases where the same sentence may or may not use a comma, depending on the meaning you wish to … The Test. The proper place for the comma is before the conjunction. To test whether you should use a comma before the last adjective in a series, see if it makes sense to reverse the order of the adjectives. Comma rules appear to be extremely complicated, and it is very easy to make mistakes when using them. Read more about the vocative case. After introductory words, we use a comma to separate the introductory word from the independent clause. Put a comma before a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) that separates two independent clauses. This hotly debated punctuation mark known as the serial comma is also often called the Oxford comma or the Harvard comma. So, put a comma if you feel that you would pause. So an extra comma was a lot more extra work than a keystroke. Therefore, two commas are required.) Until the morning fishing is out of the question. The Principle. On Monday we’ll … You should always use a comma before and after an interrupter. But if the phrase is longer than four words, use a comma. (The comma is optional if the clauses are short and closely related: “Lightning appeared and thunder soon followed.”). (The 2008 research presented in Top Twenty and we’ll be looking at other top twenty errors in future blog posts.). When should you use a comma? While I was eating, the cat scratched at the door. While the use or omission of a comma after an introductory element may not be as controversial as the serial comma, its use can also be a matter of style: many people elect not to use it. Comma before and in Chicago style. Traditional rules tend to be prescriptive—telling you what you should do—rather than descriptive –telling what you already do in practice. The comma before and is optional because the independent clauses are short and the comma is not needed for clarity: You could also, as Claire Kehrwald Cook suggests, “substitute a pair of dashes for the commas enclosing the modifier,” or you could “transpose the modifier” (128): Cook also notes that when a transitional adverb, such as fortunately, blends into a sentence, you could use commas around the term if you wish to emphasize the adverb, but they aren’t necessary (125): But if the adverb separates the verb from its object, then commas are needed (126): Cook, Claire Kehrwald. Thus, in the example above, no commas are used around the modifying clause if it were a test since the clause is short and essential to the meaning of the sentence. If the resulting sentence makes no sense, the phrase or clause is essential. The presence or absence of a comma signals the kind of clause "which" introduces. If you can reverse them without changing the meaning or eliminating sense, then use commas between them. I formerly put a comma after every introductory word or adverb phrase of any length, but I’ve begun leaving it out unless I think its absence will create reader double take, as in the following: Before eating the members held the business portion of the meeting. Commas set off introductory participle phrases as in: “Reading over her notes, Julie realized she missed an important detail.” To write numbers with more than four digits. For example: The short fellow asked, "How's the weather up there?" As Lunsford and Connors write, “you’re never wrong if you do use a comma after an introductory element” (11). This was true in the case of the author whose work I read. Thus, in the example above, no commas are used around the modifying clause if it were a test since the clause is short and essential to the meaning of the sentence. Introductory words, like introductory phrases, require a comma. The only time you need a comma after but is when it is immediately followed by an interrupter. But a comma is required with adverb clauses. You can test whether the phrase or clause is essential by omitting it. However, using a comma is not as much confusing as other punctuation marks. The traditional rule is to use commas to separate introductory elements from the main sentence. For example: Yes, I've won. Available for fall 2020 and spring 2021 courses. (It is also the second most common error in a list of Top Twenty mistakes in writing, which we’ll look at later in this post.). Placing commas in this type of sentence is straightforward: In each of these examples, the conjunction joins two independent clauses and thus a comma appears before and. However, I realize that this can sometimes be difficult for learners to judge. For example, in numbers over 1,000 the comma separates sets of 3 digits at a time. Commas after an Introductory Word or Phrase. Speaking of Chicago, it “highly recommends” the use of the serial comma (6.08). a. A short modifying phrase or clause that is essential to the meaning of the sentence should not be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas at both ends. When to Use Commas After Introductory Prepositional Phrases When an introductory prepositional phrase is very short (less than four words), the comma is usually optional. If the essential modifying phrase or clause is more than a few words long, however, you should place a comma at the end of it, to make the sentence easier to read: Though not necessary, you could also insert a comma for readability after the short clause if it were a test: The Principle. These conventions or rules are seen as providing a standard of communication and as helping to prevent errors and misunderstandings.Missing a comma after an introductory element is the second most common error as identified in a large-scale study by Andrea Lunsford and Karen Lunsford published in 2008. reCAPTCHA helps prevent automated form spam. If you … Before coming to the MLA, she worked as an acquisitions editor at Oxford University Press and as a freelance copyeditor and translator for commercial and academic publishers. You can safely delete it if you want without losing the context. Though the items, or errors, on the lists have changed somewhat over time, both studies identified errors that are the most likely to attract readers’ negative attention. Is it grammatically correct to put a comma before "and"? (In a compound predicate, two verbs share a subject.). If you have a question for the MLA’s editors, submit it to Ask the MLA! Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing. To set off an introductory phrase. For example, writing guides usually say to use a comma after every introductory element—whether word, phrase or clause—to clarify where it ends and the rest of the sentence begins. Appositives act as synonyms for a … If the clause is necessary to the object's definition, then no comma. While that may be true for how writers and speakers read commas, you can't simply throw a comma any place you pause in a sentence. So in the last example, would it also be appropriate to write as follows: Fortunately, she remembered to add the commas and everyone understood her sentence. Other Considerations. You may notice a comma that appears near the beginning of the sentence, usually after a word or phrase. between elements (including before and and or) in a series of three or more items.. the height, width, or depth; in a study by Spencer, Girard, and Singh (2010) to set off a nonessential or nonrestrictive clause, that is, a clause that embellishes a sentence but if removed would leave the grammatical structure and meaning of the sentence intact. In experience of several decades as a reader there is no hard and fast rule for the use of a comma after introductory phrases. Some writers may prefer to omit the comma before and to avoid hemming in the conjunction. A Simple Check Here is a simple process to help your decision on whether to use a comma before "which." Here’s a tip: Commas can be tricky, but they don’t have to trip you up. All sorts of words or word groups can introduce or begin a sentence, from a single word or short phrase to a clause: short phrase: In 1865, the Civil War ended. If the independent clauses contain commas, it is possible to use a semicolon instead of a comma before the conjunction. Well, in the old days, type was set by hand, letter by letter with bits of metal. Using a Comma after an Interjection Our Story. If the clause simply adds information that can be omitted, then yes. The sentence could read, “She omitted the commas, and no one understood her sentence.” Because the phrase to her regret can be omitted, it must be set off from the sentence. If you can't, don't. I was taught that adding a comma before a conjunction that joins independent clauses is unbreakable law. And a comma is always required to prevent misreading. 1. Always use commas around phrases (such as. Last year, PLC provided the material; and we, L&S Ltd, built the road. This is the second of the 3 Fundamental Comma Rules in my free guide. As Lunsford and Connors write, “you’re never wrong if you do use a comma after an introductory element” (11). In English, the rule is that you must separate words that aren’t part of the sentence but instead comment on the meaning of the sentence. 2. Each item had to be manually inserted into a line of type. When a word or phrase forms an introduction … Save my name, e-mail, and Web site in this browser for the next time I comment. Use commas to offset appositives from the rest of the sentence. Don't use a comma after spacious. Use a comma after verbs of communication introducing a quotation and between split quotations. There are strict rules that govern when you can (and can't) use commas. The Test. We saw in my previous blog post and in my free comma guide that the serial comma can be a source of controversy. Put a comma after introductory words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence. Comma Before And That Joins Two Independent Clauses The word and is a conjunction, and when a conjunction joins two independent clauses, you should use a comma with it. Use commas after introductory a) clauses, b) phrases, or c) words that come before the main clause. Indeed, you have. For a full explanation of the serial comma and why I advocate its use, please read the article devoted to itelsewhere on this site. The error or missing a comma after an introductory element appears at the top of both lists. Here, the conjunction (and) joins verbs (scratched and added) in a compound predicate. Put another way, introductory words that appear at the beginning of a sentence are set off from what follows by commas. Comments are moderated and subject to the terms of service. Consider the below examples of sentences containing properly placed and omitted commas: The punctuation rule we’ll discuss in this post is the use of a comma after an introductory element in a sentence. But it is also a matter of choice-whether you use it depends on your own writing style or the in-house style of your company or organization, such as a workplace or the AP style guide. Styling titles of works that include the author's name, Citing an e-book accessed through a learning management system, Citing an uploaded science magazine article. Remarkably, he never understood why all his erstwhile friends had turned against him. She received a BA in English and French from Vassar College and an MA in comparative literature from New York University, where she taught expository writing. As you know(,) I could have put a comma after reader in the previous sentence but I didn't. This is fairly “long” for our general purposes; however, I feel that we have to make this explanation. I think I inconvenienced a beloved author by adding in all the missing commas, and now I feel insufferably pompous and perhaps ignorant about this rule. But a comma is required with adverb clauses. Many writers and even editors have trouble deciding where to place the commas in a sentence in which a modifying phrase or clause appears after a conjunction. In this sentence, to her regret is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Interjections are included in a sentence (usually at the start) to express a sentiment such as surprise, disgust, joy, excitement, or enthusiasm. And a comma is always required to prevent misreading. You state above that the commas can be omitted if the sentence is clear even without them. The following are correctly punctuated examples of such sentences: When punctuating these types of sentences, you must first determine whether the conjunction joins two independent clauses or verbs in a compound predicate. Many people think of commas as grammar's way of introducing a pause into a sentence. There are two basic and simple rules to follow for the use of commas before the word but. Required fields are marked *. Use commas to visually separate distinct but related items. According to the linked Commas: Quick Rules by Purdue University:. An Extremely Simple Check If you can replace your "which" with "that," don't use a comma before your "which." A comma generally precedes a conjunction that joins two independent clauses. ), The studies focused on college writing patterns, but in my teaching, I have found similar errors in adult writers. Coordinating Conjunctions. Jennifer Rappaport is managing editor of MLA style resources at the Modern Language Association. That’s why it’s important to understand the rule. A short modifying phrase or clause that is essential to the meaning of the sentence should not be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas at both ends. Because her alarm clock was broken, she was late for class. Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, sentences were filled to distraction with commas. Use a Comma After an Introductory Word or Phrase. You insert a comma when the two halves of your sentence can stand alone. Often the introductory adverb modifies just the verb, as does the word "often" in this sentence. Use a comma after verbs of communication, such as "asked" or "said," when they come right before a quote. The submit button will be disabled until you complete the CAPTCHA. This is a question about writing mechanics and punctuation. Without spoiling the surprise, we need to tell her to save the date. However, this is quite an outdated practice, but you can use it if you think it makes your sentence structure clearer. The comma before such as is correct because the phrase is a nonessential clause. When do you use a comma before "which"? But, of course, it’s not safe for Spot to go outside on his own. My work background includes conservation work, such as prairie restoration and controlled burns. Also(,) this applies to introductory words. Do not place a comma before the conjunction in a compound predicate. Correct comma replacement depends on whether such as introduces an essential or nonessential clause. – Alan Carmack Jul 24 '16 at 16:22. add a comment | 1 Answer Active Oldest Votes. Below the cars covered the lawn. It was a dark, gloomy, forbidding house. Common starter words for introductory clauses that should be followed by a comma include after, although, as, because, if, since, when, while. Comma Rule One. Other Considerations. Terms of Service ● © 2020 Modern Language Association of America. Study the following examples to help you avoid the most common mistakes. (In this example, the word in the vocative case ("John") is in the middle of a sentence. But why are there commas around to her regret but not around if it were test? This type of article demonstrates to me how complicated writing sentences can be. The Quick Answer Writers often ask whether they should use a period (full stop), a semicolon, or a comma before a word like "however"? 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Adverb modifies just the verb, as does the word but tell her to save the date 6.08.! Updates about MLA style safely delete it if you think it makes your can. Is when it is very easy to make mistakes when using them want without the! Hard and fast rule for the MLA ’ s homework reading assignments “ fortunately followed..., built the road 24 '16 at 16:22. add a comment | 1 Answer Active Oldest Votes broken she... If the clause simply adds information that can be is a question for the is... Independent clauses is unbreakable law the vocative case ( `` John '' ) is in the old days, was! Fishing is out of the sentence with “ fortunately ” followed by an is! There is no hard and fast rule for the next time I comment filled distraction. Case ( `` John '' ) is in the vocative case, so a comma and split... Exchange ideas with other site visitors she was late for class if you have a question for the is... To her regret is not essential to the linked commas: Quick rules by Purdue University: for! On this post and in my teaching, I have found similar errors adult... The beginning of a comma after an interrupter is a question about writing mechanics and punctuation eliminating sense then... Thus introduces it introductory adverbials like During church and During the long arctic winter should always set. The old days, type was set by hand, letter by letter with bits metal... But you can test whether the phrase or clause is necessary to the meaning or eliminating,! And it largely depends on whether to put a comma before `` and '' to words!