My 6 Year Old Seems To Have No Common Sense Confounded Commas

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Confounded Commas

Knowing when, where, how many, and/or why to put commas in a text is the most difficult task involved in the work of writing, editing and proofreading.

There are several style guides that help with kit placement; however, most of them agree on a few common ground.

Rules for Comma Use

1. Use commas before coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, not, or, so, etc.) joining independent clauses if they are not easy to understand:

• Yes: Mike jumped up and down, and put the ball through the hoop.

• No: Susan sings and Sally dances.

2. Use commas to separate words, phrases, and clauses in a sentence:

• James ate beans, onions, and tortillas.

• John tore down the old house, drew up new design plans, and built a new house.

• During the holiday season, thousands take time off from work.

3. Use commas between coordinating adjectives (adjectives that modify the same noun separately):

• Matthew ate the red, juicy apple.

• Sarah walked down the long, empty corridor.

4. Use commas to set off parenthesis (“aside”) if it is short and closely related to the rest of the sentence:

• The elves, for example, are the happiest in the toy lot.

• Santa Clause, to be sure, is also a very happy person at this time of year.

5. Use commas to set off non-restrictive (unnecessary) applications:

• Yes: Mark Twain, the American author, was famous for his anger.

• No: American author Mark Twain was famous for his temper.

6. Use commas to set off non-restrictive clauses beginning with Who, Which, Which, Which, and That:

• Yes: Foreigners, who do not follow our laws, make their own rules.

(As it is, no aliens follow our laws.)

• No: Foreigners who do not follow our laws make their own rules.

(As it is, not all foreigners make their own rules; only those who do not follow our laws!)

7. Use commas to set off non-restrictive adverbial phrases and clauses:

• Yes: The film takes place in the mountains, where it is often cold.

(The focus is on the mountains, not the temperature; that’s just one aspect.)

• No: The film takes place in the mountain areas where it is cold.

(The focus is mainly on the mountain areas where it is cold.)

8. Use commas after a long introductory phrase or clause:

• After many years of endless hardship, Mary threw in the towel.

• Although he ate everything on his plate, he was still hungry.

9. Use commas to set off alternative or different expressions:

• It was Juan, not Marco, who wanted to go swimming.

10. Use commas in a date that has the order of month, day, and year:

• Mrs Clause was born on December 25, 1805, and still lives in the North Pole.

If you still need some help with often confusing commas, you can seek specific help from these frequently used style guides:

• The Chicago Manual of Style

• The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

• Publication Handbook of the American Psychological Association

• CSE Handbook for Authors, Editors, and Publishers

One last tip – if in doubt, read it out! You can often “hear” where a comma is coming from!

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