Grammar Greatness: Commas (killing it with commas).

October 14, 2019 | By | 1 Reply More

Punctuation is simply how you make your writing read more like how you speak.

So how’s the comma work? When you’re speaking out loud, a comma is a brief pause for breath (so you don’t run out of puff before you finish speaking).

There are seven magnificently easy rules to follow where you really MUST use a comma.

I’ll start with the easy ones first, number 6/7 are where the fun starts!

(1) Addresses and dates.

When writing an address or date down, you place a comma in between each piece of information (road, town, state, country – or day, month, year).

Examples:

  • Date. Friday, 13th February, 2019 or February 13th, 2019
  • Address. 22 Sunny Street, Bigtown, TX, USA or 5 Cedar Avenue, Purley, Surrey, UK

(2) To separate dialogue when characters are speaking.

You drop a comma in to separate dialogue quotes.

Examples:

  • “I hate you,” hissed Sally.
  • “You’re a bully,’ Bob accused his friend. “Why do you talk to me like that?”

(3) Adding a comma after an introduction.

You should add a comma after an introductory element.

Examples:

  • Hello, this will be the best day of your life.
  • Well, that is quite a turn up for the books.

(4) Using commas to separate extra and unnecessary information.

You should use a comma to separate extra and unnecessary information (the kind you could delete and your sentence still makes sense).

Examples:

  • I parked my car, it was beginning to rust, next to Lucy’s BMW.
  • My massive buff friend, he worked out every weekend, sat next to me in the canteen.

(5) Lists

Lists should use commas to separate each item in the list.

Examples:

  • It was a great lunch. I had bacon, sausages, eggs, and baked beans.
  • My partner says I possess a fine smile, dark hair, sharp abs, a cool dress sense, and muscles that a Hollywood star would kill for.

(6) Breaking up incomplete thoughts that don’t make sense by themselves.

If you’ve got a portion of a sentence that wouldn’t make sense if you wrote it down by itself, you drop in a comma (this is what grammar pros refer to as the “dependent clause” when they are trying to impress ).

Examples:

  • After I saw the flood, I nearly died.
  • As soon as he shot at me, my traitorous friend ducked back behind the concrete wall.

(7) Independent Clause (nothing like Santa Claus).

This is where a sentence with multiple thoughts that could often sit on their own (called “independent clauses” by grammar pros), are joined by one of the following magnificent seven words … AND, BUT, FOR, NOR, OR, SO, YET.

These 7 are known as “conjunctions” by grammar pros – you can memorise these 7 via the acronym FANBOYS … F(or) A(nd) N(or) B(ut) O(r) Y(et) S(o).

You also need to slip a comma in before each of the FANBOYs.

Examples:

  • My friend is a great chum, BUT he is also a little annoying when he plays computer games with me.
  • My friend is not always friendly, AND he also gets very competitive when he plays video games against me.

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Category: Wizard of Words

About the Author ()

I have been working as a full-time author publishing fantasy and science fiction novels for HarperCollins for the last seven years.

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