Anja wrote:Commas - Part Four
I said in another thread that if you say something before you get the main point of your sentence, add a comma. In other words, if you build a sentence backwards, add a comma.
In technical talk, use a comma after an introductory adverbial clause, verbal phrase, or absolute phrase.
When he got up in the morning, he made coffee. (Introductory Adverbial Clause)
Seeing my bus coming down the road, I ran to the bus stop. (Introductory Participial Phrase)
Upon hearing the terrible news, Sarah burst into tears. (Introductory Gerund Phrase)
To get an early start, we have to get up before 5 am. (Introductory Infinitive Phrase)
My tickets having been bought, I had no choice but to go. (Introductory Absolute Phrase)
Do you need to be able to identify the different kinds of phrases or clauses? No, life is too short. You DO need to recognize they are phrases / clauses and need to be set off with commas.
One way to identify the need for comma is to rearrange the sentence. This is what I mean by built backwards. The subject and predicate are not at the beginning of the sentence, like those examples given to us in Grade 3, when we had to underline the subject once and the predicate twice.
In these examples, the subject / predicate are AFTER the comma, with additional information coming first.
Each one can be said another way.
He made coffee when he got up in the morning.
Sarah burst into tears upon hearing the terrible news.
We have to get up before 5 am to get an early start.
The other two will still require a comma when reversed.
To tread on Jan’s territory a bit... It is important to USE as many sentence patterns as necessary or possible to add variety to your writing. It adds rhythm... emphasis... not just a “plodding along” cadence with the same kind of sentence structure and length all through. It is important to know, then, how to punctuate according to the sentence pattern.
Commas are used to set off certain parenthetical elements such as honestly, to tell the truth, unbelievably, regardless, in other words, afterwards...
Use a comma to prevent misreading the sentence.
To Mary, Elliot was an enigma. (Try that without the comma.)
Below, the sea crashed against the cliffs.
Use a comma to set off questions dependent on the independent clause.
They shoot horses, don’t they?
We don’t have any milk in the fridge, do we?
Lindsay Vonne won the downhill skiing event, didn’t she?
FINALLY, use a comma to separate sharply contrasted coordinate elements.
She was not meddling, only helping.
Homework - Make up a variety of sentences that require commas using any comma rules. Try five.
That's how I learned it when building a sentence backwards. Although, I keep looking at some of my sentences in my book, and I want to delete it. It just feels awkward.
Seems that I thought I was another commaholic, but in reality it appears I haven't been using enough of them.
Does the comma always have to be there when building backwards?
When he got up in the morning, he made coffee.
I have some sentences like this one in your examples that seem to flow better without the comma (to me anyway), but I want to do it right.