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The Uses of the Comma that are often Overlooked

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Sat Jun 06, 2009 10:56 pm
mikedb1492 says...

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 I bought an ice cream cone.

2) Billy wanted to win, but he is bad at baseball.

3) Will Michael go to the park, or will he stay home?

4) Wilma went to bed, but Fred 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 Fred 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.
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Thu Jul 02, 2009 6:29 pm
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winie603 says...

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

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Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:49 am
napalmerski says...

Oh boy,
and I just finished aditing my stuff. Back to the drawing board :D
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Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:30 pm
Maddy says...

Good! These rules, like you mentioned above, are not often said. :) Thanks for explaining this!
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Tue Apr 26, 2011 2:09 am
Soulkana says...

Thanks for the explanation, I hope this helps me a 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
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Wed May 18, 2011 3:42 pm
Matthews says...

Thanks for the tips, the second when especially, I might have broken.... O.o
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Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:16 pm
Dethl says...

I'm kind of addicted to comas, and I think that I over-use them....great tips!

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