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Young Writers Society
Grammar & Research
The Uses of the Comma that are often Overlooked
Sat Jun 06, 2009 10:56 pm
There are many articles on YWS and elsewhere that tell how to use the comma, but I've decided to present the less commonly mentioned ones, the ones that usually are passed over in reviewing. When I see them, I mention them in my reviews, but it has become repetitive for me to explain them over and over. So, in order to have these situations written down, hopefully for someone's benefit, I will go over the two main ones with examples.
Commas and Compound Sentences:
First we'll talk about when to use them in compound sentences. What is a compound sentence? Follow this link, for Musicaloo7311 does a far better job at explaining what it is than I can (you'll also learn what she has to say atop mine).
Very bluntly speaking, though, compound sentences are sentences connected with words like the following: and, but, or, for (Musicaloo7311 has a better list of them in the link above).
Here are some examples:
1) I went to the park, and
bought an ice cream cone.
2) Billy wanted to win, but
is bad at baseball.
3) Will Michael go to the park, or will
4) Wilma went to bed, but
was locked out by the cat again.
So do we understand what a compound sentence is? Good. Now, the ones listed above have a comma separating them, correct? Notice the words I put in bold? These words are the reason for the comma. Since it restates who it is, that means you need a comma. However, if one were to not restate who it is, then a comma isn't needed.
Here are some examples of situations where a comma isn't needed.
1) I went to the park and bought an ice cream cone. (Notice how I got rid of the second 'I'? This is why there is no comma)
2) Billy wanted to win but is bad at baseball. (This time I got rid of 'he')
3) Will Michael go to the park or stay home? (like last time, I got rid of 'he').
4) Wilma went to bed, but
was locked out by the cat again. (This time I couldn't get rid of the comma and the name. Why? Because we need to state that it's Fred that is stuck outside instead of Wilma, so we had to keep the comma and say it was Fred. If Wilma had gone to bed but was stuck out side, then we could make it like so:
Wilma went to bed but was locked out by the cat again.
This way only makes sense if we're talking about the same person. So, if the compound sentence ends up talking about the separate states or actions of two or more different people, then a comma will be necessary).
I hope I stated that one clearly enough for you all to understand, and keep in mind that it applies to all compound sentences. Now we'll move on to another overlooked comma usage.
Commas and Description:
Here is the one I see most people never catching. It has to do with describing things. Here's the rule.
Rule of Describing (catchy title, I know): Whenever more than one word describes another you need to separate them with commas.
Now that you know the basic idea of it, here are some examples.
1) The ragged, tired dog rested on the ground. (Both "ragged" and "tired" describe "dog", so they need a comma)
2) I walked to the dirty, old house. (Both "dirty" and "old" describe "house", so throw in a comma separating them)
3) The woman had honey blond hair. (This time I didn't need a comma. This is because "honey" and "blond" don't both describe "hair". "Honey" actually describes "blond", so no comma is needed)
4) He put on his canary yellow helmet. (Same as the last one. "Canary" describes "yellow", so a comma isn't needed)
Well, that's all I've come to say. These two situations are very commonly misused, and I rarely see anything mentioned about them, so I thought I'd present my explanation. I hope it was helpful.
Trying to get to heaven without Jesus is like climbing to the summit of Mount Everest naked. You die before it happens.
Thu Jul 02, 2009 6:29 pm
And to think all this time I've been putting a comma between 'chocolate' and 'brown'!!!
Sometimes you're the apple, sometimes you're the mouth- me XD
Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:49 am
and I just finished aditing my stuff. Back to the drawing board
she got a dazed impression of a whirling chaos in which steel flashed and hacked, arms tossed, snarling faces appeared and vanished, and straining bodies collided, rebounded, locked and mingled in a devil's dance of madness.
Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:30 pm
Good! These rules, like you mentioned above, are not often said.
Thanks for explaining this!
-If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you!
-"Careful with that light at the end of the tunnel, it might be another train coming."
This awesome post bought to you by me.
Tue Apr 26, 2011 2:09 am
Thanks for the explanation, I hope this helps me a lot...my commas are either not used where they should or they are used when they aren't needed....oh the frustration. Thanks for this I really can't wait to read this like heck over and over XD
May the gentle moon take you into peaceful dreams. May the mighty sun brighten your new days.
Wed May 18, 2011 3:42 pm
Thanks for the tips, the second when especially, I might have broken.... O.o
Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:16 pm
I'm kind of addicted to comas, and I think that I over-use them....great tips!
If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.
— Peter Handke
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