Grammar Woes: Commas (Part 3)

Grammar Woes: 
Commas (Part 3)

Please see this link for a list of comma rules, or the last post for rules #1-3.

4. After an introductory phrase

This is by far the most forgotten comma I come across when grading student papers. Poor comma! We are supposed to offset an introductory phrase or word with a comma. Why? It helps your reader find the subject of the sentence. In the English language, we unconsciously look for subject--> verb--> object in order to make sense of what we read. By offsetting important fluff that comes before it, we help our reader.

  • Before she submitted her manuscript, Amy spent hours perfecting her commas. 

We want to keep the introductory phrase because it makes it interesting, adds detail, and varies up sentence structures (rather than always starting with "Amy" for example). We just need that comma to pause the reader's brain so he/she can focus on the upcoming subject.

5. To offset parenthetical "asides"

We use these for the same reason as above. We want our subject-verb-object sequence clear for our readers. Sometimes we modify part of the sentence that could technically go in parentheses or parenthetical commas, that works like an aside would in a play. Grammar books say these are nonessential items, meaning not needed for the sentence to make sense.

  • Jenny, along with her cousins Gregg and Jordan, was coming to the party.
The "meat" of the sentence is in bold. An indicator that this should be an aside and the author is focusing on Jenny is the word "was" instead of "were" (but this is another grammar function we'll tackle later). A good way to check if it is parenthetical (nonessential) is that it could be cut and the sentence could still make sense: Jenny was coming to the party. 

I think that's enough for our brains today. Stay tuned for more comma rules.


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