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Nine Comma Pitfalls to Avoid

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5. Essential information doesn’t require commas.

If removed from the sentence, the meaning is changed or the identifying/distinguishing fact is lost.

  • Incorrect: The young boys, who vandalized the park, are in police custody.
  • Correct: The young boys who vandalized the park are in police custody.

6. Direct addresses are set off by commas.

  • Incorrect: The book is on the table Danielle.
  • Correct: The book is on the table, Danielle.

7. A comma isn’t needed when a coordinating conjunction isn’t connecting two independent clauses or separating three or more items/actions.

  • Incorrect: Charlie ran to Danny’s house, and knocked on the door.
  • Correct: Charlie ran to Danny’s house and knocked on the door.

8. A commas isn’t used when a dependent (or subordinate) clause follows an independent clause; however, use a comma after a dependent (or subordinate) clause when it comes before an independent clause.

  • Incorrect: Paul and Linda enjoyed the hike, despite the rain.
  • Correct: Paul and Linda enjoyed the hike despite the rain.
  • Correct: Despite the rain, Paul and Linda enjoyed the hike.

9. Interrupters (words, phrases, or clauses that significantly break the flow of a sentence) are set off by commas.

  • Incorrect: Nancy of course was late again.
  • Correct: Nancy, of course, was late again.
  • Incorrect: Martin’s bedroom was to say the least a pigsty.
  • Correct: Martin’s bedroom was, to say the least, a pigsty.

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4 comments

Printed out and on my wall, Kelly!! I know I’m guilty of a lot of this. Pesky commas – hate ’em!

Amor Libris (Kelly Hartigan)

I’m glad you found this helpful enough to print and hang on your wall, Siobhan. Yes, those commas can be pesky!

[…] use them. If you aren’t sick of hearing about commas after reading this article, you can read Nine Comma Pitfalls to Avoid Ironically, you’ll have to hear about the dreaded comma splice again—albeit […]

I’m saving this chart. I like having rules in one place for easy access.
Thanks, Susanne

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