Tips on Using Commas, yes Commas

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Image via Creative Commons, Rasmus Olsen’s Flickr photostream. (Source)

My name is Mark and I have a problem. I abuse commas and I abuse them in nearly every post on Dumb Little Man, in emails at work and in correspondence to my customers.

There. I feel better.

Remarkably, the comma abuse was so bad that a co-worker of mine actually sent me a handful of tips on comma usage. She graduated from Northwestern University in 2002 and she is, among other things, our team’s proofreader. She has grammar and wording pegged to a tee.

Here is her advice and I marked the things I would have gotten wrong:

    • Use a comma after phrases of more than three words that begin a sentence.
      • Correct Example: To get a gold medal, you must dedicate yourself to a training routine.
  • Use a comma after the date and year if they are used together. If its only the month and year, no comma is needed.
  • Correct Example: I was born on January 1,1973, the same day the new year begins.
  • No comma is needed to separate nouns or noun clauses in a compound subject.
  • Incorrect Example (no comma needed): The music teacher from your high school, and the football coach from mine are married.

 

  • The Pause: Just because you are pausing in your thoughts while typing doesn’t mean that the reader is pausing in their reading!

 

  • Combining Sentences: Do not use a comma to simply join 2 complete sentences. Use a conjunction (remember Conjunction Junction?)
  • Incorrect Example: The Chicago Cubs are going to lose tomorrow, they really have bad pitching.
  • Correct Example: The Chicago Cubs are going to lose tomorrow because they really have bad pitching.

There are clearly more comma rules but these were the things that irritated this woman enough to correct me. By the way, if you see grammar fouls on Dumb Little Man, call me out on them. Several of you have already and I appreciate it!

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