Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Writing Wednesday: Three things to know about commas

My friend Susie reached out to me after last week's post about quotation marks with some questions about commas. And while I wrote about commas a few months ago, it's worth doing a second post about them — especially since another friend, Sophia, emailed me a few days ago with comma questions, too. They can be tricky!

I'm going to keep things brief and just list the three main things you should know about commas:

1. You need a comma when you connect two complete thoughts with a conjunction (and, but, or). Here's an example: Lindsay absolutely loves the color red, but she really likes orange and brown, too. Remember, though, that you must include the conjunction between the two thoughts; otherwise, you're connecting the thoughts with just a comma and creating a comma splice. Incorrect: I love orange, I love brown even more.

2. You need a comma to set off introductory prepositional phrases. The keyword here is introductory. You wouldn't need a comma in the phrase The shop around the corner, but you would need one in this sentence: Around the corner, Andrew waited anxiously for Lindsay to walk by so he could jump out and scare her. Adding a comma signals a pause and also makes your sentence easier to read.

3. You need commas to set off parenthetical information, like someone's title. At my company, I have to do this all the time. I'll give you an example: Lindsay, a communication coordinator, updates CHG's social media sites and blog. Notice that commas go before and after the parenthetical information.

I hope that was helpful! Let me know what other questions you have about commas, including specific examples, and I'll answer them either in the comments or by email.


  1. Oh this is so helpful!! I'm always worried I'm adding too many commas, or commas in the wrong place! It's been a long time since I've been in school... AND I have mommy brain to top it off :) ha ha!


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