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Commas (Part One)

Back to the basics with regular Challenge winner, Ann Grover. Weekly lessons to help you hone your basic writing skills.

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Commas (Part One)

Postby Anja » Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:51 pm

I’m not sure which day of the week or how often I’ll post a lesson. I’ll know better after I see how it fits into my life and how much interaction there is. We can spend as much time as you need on each topic.

I’m not an authority on this by any means. My only real qualifications are that I did take some university English, and I homeschooled for 22 years. I also privately taught ESL. And being an A-type, I am a stickler for “properness.”

I’m going to break up all the “rules” for commas into several lessons, just covering a few points each time.

Commas are highly misused and abused. There is a saying something to the effect that when you proofread your article, remove at least half the commas. I don’t agree entirely with that, because if you understand their usage, you shouldn’t have to remove any. On the other hand, if you are unsure about any comma, chances are it’s unnecessary.


Use COMMAS to separate words, phrases, and CLAUSES that are written in a series of three or more coordinating elements.

Ellen enjoys eating grapes, strawberries, and apples. (Separate words.)

(Important point: It is also correct to leave out the final comma. But I’m from the school of thought that considers that form “less correct.”)

Ellen enjoys eating grapes, strawberries and apples. Separate words.

John went into the barn, brushed his horse, and fed the milk cow. (Separate phrases.)

Mary went to town, she paid the bills, and she had lunch with a friend. (Separate SHORT independent clauses.)

I would be wary of using the last example, just because of the risk of writing a COMMA SPLICE. Comma splices will be covered another time.

Use commas to separate two or more COORDINATE ADJECTIVES that describe the same NOUN.

William adopted the small, untrained puppy.

William bought a new wool suit.

How can you tell if the ADJECTIVES are COORDINATE?

Two tests:

a) You will be able to join the adjectives with “and.”

b) You will be able to interchange the adjectives positions within the sentence.

Try it with the examples.

William adopted the small AND untrained puppy. (Adjectives coordinate.)

William adopted the untrained, small puppy. (Adjectives coordinate.)

Therefore, USE a comma between the two adjectives.

Try the next sentence.

William bought a new AND wool suit. (Adjectives NOT coordinate.)

William bought a wool new suit. (Adjectives NOT coordinate.)

Try this:

I have a fast blue car.

Check out why there is no comma. Try the two tests.

Colours are NOT usually coordinate adjectives. Do NOT use a comma between colours and the other adjectives.

That's all for now.

Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome.
Ann Grover

"What remains of a story after it is finished? Another story..." Eli Wiesel

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Postby browniesgal » Tue Jan 19, 2010 5:32 pm

Thanks Ann, I think I understand these. I think I have always struggled in the spots where a colon or semicolon should go. I usually opt for a comma.
Thanks, Ruth B.

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Postby Green Leaves » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:27 pm

This was helpful to me as well.

I soooo need this lesson on commas. Thanks, Ann!

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Re: Commas

Postby rita5000 » Tue Jan 19, 2010 7:29 pm

Green Leaves wrote:This was helpful to me as well.

I soooo need this lesson on commas. Thanks, Ann!

Me too. :D

Thanks so much! :D
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Postby Laurie » Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:43 pm

Thanks especially for your explanation of coordinate adjectives. Helpful stuff. :)

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Postby joyfaire » Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:16 pm

Ann, looking forward to the class. Your comments and examples are very easy to follow. :thankssign
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Postby CherieAnn » Tue Jan 26, 2010 12:07 am

Very good info :) Particularly the part on how to tell if adjectives coordinate.

Thanks for the lesson :)

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Postby ebrightken » Tue May 04, 2010 8:09 am

It would be nice to have a lesson on other times when you should use a comma as it relates to a conjunction

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Postby Anja » Fri May 07, 2010 4:39 pm

Check Commas (Part Three). Commas with conjunctions are explained there.
Ann Grover

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Postby mymask » Fri May 07, 2010 5:27 pm

Thank you!!!! gotta luv anja!
KATAB: (Hebrew) " To write, inscribe, describe, ENGRAVE." Lord may our words engrave in the hearts of Men, an image of YOU!


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