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Writing => Back to Basics => Topic started by: Sheritha on August 07, 2011, 09:17:51 AM

Title: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: Sheritha on August 07, 2011, 09:17:51 AM
 :huh:
I always assumed I knew when to use a comma.  But feedback from editors and online critique groups tell me otherwise. 

What is the basic rule when using a comma?
When do I use commas?
AND when do I use a semi colon?

Please help.

Sher
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: MaryL on August 07, 2011, 09:28:25 AM
:huh:
I always assumed I knew when to use a comma.  But feedback from editors and online critique groups tell me otherwise. 

What is the basic rule when using a comma?
When do I use commas?
AND when do I use a semi colon?

Please help.

Sher

Hi, Sher. It would take all day to list the uses of the comma. You should google "comma usage" and "semi-colon usage" for the answers. You'll find lots of good sites with this information. There are also excellent hardcover resources available.
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: Tabris on August 07, 2011, 09:40:28 AM
Here are your basics:

I ate a sandwich, and I drank a cola. (between two independent clauses before the conjunction)
I ate a sandwich and drank a cola. (not between an independent clause and a dependent clause)
I ate a sandwich and a cola. (not between a list of two)
I ate a sandwich, an apple, and a cola. (in between a list of three.)
I ate a sandwich because I was hungry (never before because)
I ate a sandwich, then drank my coke (you'll want one before "then")


Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: MaryL on August 07, 2011, 09:43:55 AM

I ate a sandwich because I was hungry (never before because)


I screw this one up most of the time in long sentences!  :wink:
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: Tabris on August 07, 2011, 09:49:42 AM
In a long sentence, sometimes you need it. I'm a comma-nazi but honestly, sometimes you put them there because they're necessary and not because the grammar books say to do it.

Oh, and I guess I should cover the other main use:

Because I was hungry, I ate a sandwich (between the dependent clause and independent clause where the dependent comes first)
but not
I ate a sandwich because I was hungry (because the independent came first)
and not
I ate a sandwich during the movie
but you would say
During the movie, I ate a sandwich.
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: Sheritha on August 07, 2011, 10:23:09 AM
thanks everyone.

I am saving this page.
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: Magic_Seeker on August 07, 2011, 10:28:09 AM
:agree: with Tabris's posts.

A very good, very short, and probably very cheap reference book for this type of question is "Elements of Style" by Strunk & White -- in print since at least 1918.  Some of it's a little old-fashioned, but for basic rules it's great.

Short.  A quick read.  And sometimes quite funny.  (Or I have a warped sense of humor.)  :up:
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: violet on August 07, 2011, 03:52:24 PM
Eats, Shoots & Leaves is also a great reference book. Fun to read as well.

Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: jfinley on August 09, 2011, 06:24:43 PM
I find Melissa Donovan's blog -- http://www.writingforward.com/ -- is also a good and quick resource for questions like this.
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: Jole on August 26, 2011, 07:49:07 PM
hey Sheritha,

just thought i'd mention that American punctuation is different to British, so i guess it depends where you live. here in Australia, we use the British version. our comma use is similar, but we don't use a comma before the last 'and' in a series. for instance, instead of: I ate a sandwich, an apple, and a coke--it would be--I ate a sandwich, an apple and a coke.

i noticed you live in south africa. your punctuation might be different over there as well. (?) :)
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: Beckahrah on August 26, 2011, 10:03:09 PM
Eats Shoots & Leaves is a great resource.  Poor comma use is one of my pet peeves, though I know the rules surrounding its use are as various as the ways one can mess them up.  Here is one of my favorite examples of how an improper comma can change the whole meaning of a sentence:

Let's kill Hitler.
Let's kill, Hitler.

Good luck! :)
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: nascentnovelist on August 26, 2011, 10:25:33 PM
Here's a great, short resource on how and when to use a semicolon: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon

Seconding the suggestion of Strunk and White's Elements of Style. It's free to download.

Martine
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: AshK on August 28, 2011, 08:03:17 AM
:agree: with Tabris's posts.

A very good, very short, and probably very cheap reference book for this type of question is "Elements of Style" by Strunk & White -- in print since at least 1918.  Some of it's a little old-fashioned, but for basic rules it's great.

Short.  A quick read.  And sometimes quite funny.  (Or I have a warped sense of humor.)  :up:

You must be warped...because I had a BLAST reading it and I know for sure I am warped.
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: JeanneG on August 28, 2011, 02:43:47 PM
A bit of trivia about Strunk & White's The Elements of Style-- Did you know that White is the same E.B. White who wrote Charlotte's Web? Pretty cool, no?

Now back to your original programming...  ;D

JeanneG
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: MaryL on August 28, 2011, 09:16:21 PM
A bit of trivia about Strunk & White's The Elements of Style-- Did you know that White is the same E.B. White who wrote Charlotte's Web? Pretty cool, no?

Now back to your original programming...  ;D

JeanneG

Wow! I'd never made that connection. Cool fun fact!
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: AshK on August 29, 2011, 02:51:52 PM
A bit of trivia about Strunk & White's The Elements of Style-- Did you know that White is the same E.B. White who wrote Charlotte's Web? Pretty cool, no?

Now back to your original programming...  ;D

JeanneG
I've got a copy of the Web in the other room. I'm going to go spot-check its style.  >:D
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: WhiteGardenia on October 06, 2011, 02:08:12 AM

Hope this post isn't too old to comment on...

I know this is probably OLD SCHOOL and there are more up-to-date reference books, but my great-great grandfather actually wrote a book about punctuation, published in 1897 (yes, 1897--not a typo!).  Had to give Francis some props. 


http://books.google.com/books?id=GgISAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false (http://books.google.com/books?id=GgISAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false)


Isn't the Internet fascinating?  Here's a man who was born in 1850 and you can find books that he wrote on the Internet. 
Just think, fellow writers, someone will be searching the Internet 150+ years from now and your book(s) will come up in their search...!  How cool is that?   :dance:


Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: Magic_Seeker on October 06, 2011, 09:02:13 AM
 :up: Hey, very cool!  :toast:

Welcome to QT! :welcome:
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: nascentnovelist on October 07, 2011, 02:19:39 PM
Just saw a great example of why commas are important. In Boston's South Station, the signs to the subway reads: Red Line and Silver Line to the airport. Okay, so I was pretty tired and I did get it (after an embarrassing 5 minutes of looking for the direction that would not take me to the airport), but I'd prefer if they'd written: Red Line, and Silver Line to the airport. Just saying...
Title: Re: When and how do I use a comma?
Post by: JaelynnFaye on November 04, 2011, 09:29:01 AM
Thanks Tabris!  :clap: