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.