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#147775 - 06/15/05 06:04 AM The Concise Word on Commas
Artemis Offline
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Registered: 04/24/03
Posts: 2807
Loc: California fly-over country
The comma poll sent me hunting and I found a nice, succinct summary of commas usage. It's so good, I'm going to take the time and effort to type it here. This is from "Instant Spelling Dictionary" which is a small handy desk reference for "All persons who write, dictate, transcribe or check the writing of others." The book contains 25,000 English words with tips on spelling, pronounciation and word division at the end of line. Since there is no UBB code for underline, I'm going bold the underlined words. The italics are theirs.

USE OF THE COMMA (pg. 272)

1. The comma (,) is used after an adverbial dependent clause when the dependent clause precedes the main clause. When the dependent clause does not begin the sentence, the comma is usually unnecessary.
Quote:
After the director had read the minutes of the meeting, he called for the financial report.
The director called for the financial report after he had read the minutes of the meeting
2. The comma is used after a participial phrase or and absolute phrase at the beginning of a sentence.
Quote:
Seeing the foreman enter the plant, he quickly went to work.
The rain having stopped, we went to work.
3. The comma is used after an introductory infinitive phrase.
Quote:
To be successful, you must read widely.
4. The comma is used to set off parenthetical expressions, whether words, phrases, or clauses.
(a) Transitional words such as however, therefore, moreover, besides, consequently should be set off by commas.
Quote:
Consequently, I did not receive an answer to his letter.
(b) Phrases such as so to speak, in short, as a result, of course should be set off by commas.
Quote:
We found, in short, many errors in his work. Of course, there are many ways to tackle the problem.
(c) Clauses such as I think. we suppose, he says should be set off by commas.
Quote:
Someone, I suppose, should check the report.
(d) Explanatory expressions, such as and I agree with him, so far as his is concerned, etc., which break the logical sequence of words should be set of by commas.
Quote:
The president disliked the policy, and I agreed with him, of letting all eomployees name their vacation time.
5. The comma is used after introductory expressions such as yes, indeed, surely (when it means yes), well.
Quote:
Yes, I will attend to the matter.
6. The comma is used to set off a nonrestrictive clause. A nonrestrictive clause is set off because it is not needed to complete the meaning of a sentence. A nonrestrice clause is similar to a parenthetical expression in that it gives added information about the word it modifies.
Restrictive clauses are never set off by commas. A restrictive clause is a clause that is neede to complete the meaning of the sentence because the clause identifies the word it modifies. A restrictive clause cannot be left out of a sentence, whereas a nonrestrictive clause can be.
Quote:
The girl who lives next door came to work in our office. (The clause who lives next door is restrictive because it is needed to identify the word girl. The clause is not set off by commas.)
Mary Jones, who lives next dorr, came to work in our office. (The clause who lives next door is nonrestrictive because it is not needed to identify the name Mary Jones. The name Mary Jones clearly identifies the person being talked about , and the clause merely gives added information about the person Mary Jones.)
7. The comma is used to set off words in apposition. An appositive is a word or phrase that defines or identifies another word. An appositive means the same as the word it defines.
Quote:
Jones, our office manager, is ill.
Robert Brown, our sales manager, is a capable man.
8. The comma is used to set off words used in direct address.
Quote:
We regreat, Mr. Thomas, that your order was unsatisfactorily filled.
9. The comma is used to separate a series of three or more words, phrases, or clauses. thumbsup
Quote:
She asked for paper, pencils, and a ruler.
He stalked off the stage, turned around, came back, and glared at the audience.
At the meeting it was decide to (1) give two weeks' vacation with pay, (2) give pensions at age sixty-five, (3)establish a profit sharing plan.
Ed: Note there is not an and before (3).

- continued in next post -
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Artemis
_________________________
History is easy once you've lived it. - Duncan MacLeod
Writing history is easy once you've lived it. - Artemis

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#147776 - 06/15/05 11:03 AM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
Artemis Offline
Pulitzer

Registered: 04/24/03
Posts: 2807
Loc: California fly-over country
10. The comma is used to separate coordinate adjectives which modify the same noun. Adjectives are coordinate if the word and can be used between them.
Quote:
The efficient, business-like secretary received an increase in pay. (Comma - the efficient and business-like secretary. Both adjectives modify secretary.)
The five silver spoons were very expensive. (No comma. You would not say five and silver spoons.)
11. The comma is used in a compound sentence to separate independent clauses joined by one of the coordinate conjunctions and, but, for ,or, nor and while when it means the same as but.
Quote:
I dictated the letter as you ordered, but she did not transcribe it correctly.
Minneapolis is a large industrial center, and it has many cultural attractions.
(a) If the clauses of a compound sentence are very short and closely connected, the comma may be goofy omitted.
Quote:
He looked but he did not see her.
(b) Do not use a comma between two independent clauses unless a coordinate conjunction is used. The use of a comma without a coordinate conjunction between two independent clauses is call the comma fault. The following sentence illustrates the comma fault:
Quote:
The men in the shipping department will not follow instructions, they repeatedly make serious errors. (Incorrect - comma should not be used without a coordinate conjunction.)
Note 1. The comma fault may be eliminated by punctuating the sentence in one of the three following ways:
(a) Use a coordinate conjunction after the comma:
Quote:
The men in the shipping department will not follow instructions, andthey repeatedly make serious errors. (correct)
(b) Use a semicolon between the two independent clauses:
Quote:
The men in the shipping department will not follow instructions; they repeatedly make serious errors.
(c) Punctuate the two independent clauses as two simple sentences:
Quote:
The men in the shipping department will not follow instructions. They repeatedly make serious errors. (correct)
Note 2. When the independent clauses of a compound sentence are very long or have internal punctuation, a semicolon is generally used before the coordinate conjunction. Internal punctuation means that there are commas within one or both of the independent clauses.
Quote:
The men in the shipping department will not follow instructions[b; and, as a result[/b], they repeatedly make serious errors.
12. The comma is used to set off words or phrases expressing contrast.
Quote:
I asked you to file the contract, not destroy it.
You may be excused from the conference this time, but never again.
13. The comma is used to set off a definite place, month or year.
Quote:
The president was born April 8, 1872, at 1224 Elm Street, Cleveland, Ohio.
14. The comma is used to set off a short direct quotation.
Quote:
The director asked, "how many of you are in favor of the change in policy?"

15. The comma is used to separate a declarative clause and an interrogative clause which immediately follows.
[quote] The plane will arrive on time, will it not?
Jack is to get a promotion, isn't he?
16. The comma is used to separate a phrase from the rest of the sentence when the phrase is inverted or our of its natural order.
Quote:
Like you, I think the policy is a worthwhile one.
In spite of his promise, he was late to work again.
17. The comma is used to indicate the omission of a word.
Quote:
fishing forms a quieet man; hunting, an eager man; racing, a greedy man.
18. The comma is used to set off a proper name when followed by an academic degree or honorary title. the comma is used to separate two or more degrees or titles.
Quote:
Philip F. Adams, A.B., M.A., Ph.D., lecturer in English.
19. The comma is used to point off the thousands in figures of four digits or more.
Quote:
1,117 20,718, 1,817,000
20. The comma is used to separate two sets of figures or two identical words.
Quote:
As I told you, you should write immediately.
Send me 10, No. 1234 and7, No. 138.
Since 1993, 12,000 new machines have been sold.
WHEW! thud
Artemis
_________________________
History is easy once you've lived it. - Duncan MacLeod
Writing history is easy once you've lived it. - Artemis

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#147777 - 06/17/05 09:35 AM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
lynnm Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/08/03
Posts: 1090
Loc: Chicago USA
Thanks, Artemis!

This is very handy and very comprehensive.

The comma usage I seem to see a lot these days which I believe is incorrect is adding a comma before an and when the second clause is dependent:

He ran to the front door, and threw it open with anticipation. Incorrect

He ran to the front door and threw it open with anticipation. Correct

I see this in published books, which is what lead me to construct the poll. I'd wondered if the rules had changed. wink

Thanks for taking the time to post all of this.

Lynn
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You know that boy'd walk on water for you? Or he'd drown tryin'. -Perry White to Lois in Just Say Noah

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#147778 - 06/17/05 11:34 AM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
BanAnna Offline

Columnist

Registered: 04/22/03
Posts: 713
Loc: Glendale, CA
Rule 11, which is what Lynn's poll was about, is the mistake that I've seen most often too. The rule as it's written there is how I learned it in several different classes. smile

Thanks for posting that, Artemis!

~Anna

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#147779 - 06/23/05 12:59 PM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
rivka Offline
Member

Registered: 04/24/03
Posts: 1587
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
I've never heard a comma splice called a comma fault before. huh Other than that, great resource! Thanks. smile
_________________________
Do you know the most surprising thing about divorce? It doesn't actually kill you, like a bullet to the heart or a head-on car wreck. It should. When someone you've promised to cherish till death do you part says, "I never loved you," it should kill you instantly.

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#147780 - 06/24/05 06:58 AM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
gerry Offline
Member

Registered: 04/24/03
Posts: 543
Loc: Canada
Artemis' post on the usage of the comma is an excellent resource, but if someone wants something can be kept in her/his head, I suggest the SPIT rules for commas.

I used to give this to my students and I found it helped a lot.

SPIT
S = use a comma in a series of words, phrases or sentences. e.g.Clark, Lois, Jimmy and Perry work at the Daily Planet.

P = use a comma to separate prinicple clauses. (A principle clause is basically a sentence that can stand on its own.) e.g. Clark eats junk food, but Lois eats chocolate ice-cream.

I - use a comma after an introductory word, phrase or clause. e.g. As soon as Clark hears a cry for help, he runs off and changes into Superman. However, no one notices him do this.

T = use commas to separate the thought interruption from the rest of the sentence. e.g. Lois Lane, investigative reporter extraordinaire, never recognized that Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter, was Superman, a strange visitor from another planet.

Hope that helps.

gerry

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#147781 - 06/24/05 09:32 AM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
Artemis Offline
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Registered: 04/24/03
Posts: 2807
Loc: California fly-over country
Excellent suggestion, gerry. I never heard of SPIT before, but it's a great mnemonic. I'm a great believer in KISS for presentations (a.k.a. Death by PowerPoint) - Keep It Simple, Stupid.
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Artemis
_________________________
History is easy once you've lived it. - Duncan MacLeod
Writing history is easy once you've lived it. - Artemis

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#147782 - 06/24/05 10:21 AM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
Mister Data Offline
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Registered: 04/24/03
Posts: 2994
Loc: In a minivan, next to Elisabet...
Maybe this should be stickied to the top of this forum...

James
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#147783 - 06/24/05 05:11 PM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
EmilyH Offline
Member

Registered: 04/24/03
Posts: 652
Loc: MN
I'm bookmarking this thread. It's a very handy reference.
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#147784 - 06/24/05 05:20 PM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
BanAnna Offline

Columnist

Registered: 04/22/03
Posts: 713
Loc: Glendale, CA
I've featured this topic at the top of the forum so that writers can use it as a reference in the future. Feel free to keep discussing it as long as you'd like. smile

Thanks for posting this, Artemis, and thanks to James for the suggestion. laugh

~Anna
Forum Moderator

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#147785 - 06/26/05 04:24 AM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
Artemis Offline
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Registered: 04/24/03
Posts: 2807
Loc: California fly-over country
Wow, I was hunting for this to see more recent replies and found I'm a STICKY!!!! Me does happy dance! dance eek Thanks for recommending it be stuck, James. Yes, we've been using the handy little book for a long time. But good punctuation never goes out of style!
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Artemis
_________________________
History is easy once you've lived it. - Duncan MacLeod
Writing history is easy once you've lived it. - Artemis

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#147786 - 11/13/06 06:20 AM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
jojo_da_crow Offline
Member

Registered: 05/30/06
Posts: 1065
Loc: Los Angeles
I would say this is the number one problem that I have when writting a story. Thank you for the resource!
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Lois: Ork!

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#147787 - 11/15/06 05:57 AM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
kateydidnt Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/01/06
Posts: 49
Loc: Provo, UT
This is a really great resource! Thanks for putting it together.

On additional point:
In a list or series of items, there is the option to use the serial (or Oxford) comma. This is a comma placed before the and and the final item.

With serial comma: Clark, Lois, Jimmy, and Perry work at the Daily Planet.
(The serial comma is the one before and.)

Without serial comma: Clark, Lois, Jimmy and Perry work at the Daily Planet.

While the serial comma is not mandatory, it is the current trend. The most recent edition of the Chicago Manual of Style suggests its use.
_________________________
"I don't know Mom; it's a bomb stain." -Clark Kent

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#147788 - 02/10/07 11:56 AM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
Artemis Offline
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Registered: 04/24/03
Posts: 2807
Loc: California fly-over country
Good point, katey. You may notice that the Microsoft Word grammar checker uses the serial comma.
I'm glad many FoLCs found this as a resource.
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Artemis
_________________________
History is easy once you've lived it. - Duncan MacLeod
Writing history is easy once you've lived it. - Artemis

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#147789 - 02/10/07 12:20 PM Re: The Concise Word on Commas
Wendymr Offline

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Registered: 04/22/03
Posts: 3454
Loc: London (the one in Ontario, Ca...
Quote:

While the serial comma is not mandatory, it is the current trend. The most recent edition of the Chicago Manual of Style suggests its use.
...if you're in the US. UK grammar rules do not dictate the use of the serial comma smile You'll find that many people from other countries where English is the native language don't use it because it's not the current trend there. One British publisher, Oxford University Press, does insist on this comma in its style guide (hence the other title of the 'Oxford comma'), but OUP is alone in this preference. goofy


Wendy smile
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