The Write Stuff
Spring 2008 Volume 4 Issue 2
Let’s Hear It For the Comma
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of having a conversation with someone who fails to pause while talking, you know how irritating that can be. It’s equaling irritating when people don’t include pauses in their writing by failing to use commas.
The poor comma seems to have become an afterthought for many writers, based on the work I’ve been seeing lately. I don’t understand why, because commas are excellent tools for guiding readers through text. (Take the comma out of the preceding sentence and read it aloud; it loses flow and emphasis.)
When should you use commas? Here are a few tips:
- Separate items in a simple series…with a hitch. The Sharks’ colors are Pacific teal, black and orange. The Sharks’ colors are Pacific teal, black, and orange. Both versions are correct. You’ll be taught the latter way in school, but you’ll see the former way used in newspapers.
- Separate items in complex series. San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov led the NHL in wins, earned six shutouts, and had a save percentage of .910.
- Separate coordinate adjectives. The Sharks are a fast, skilled team. (If “and” can be inserted between the adjectives, and they can be switched without changing the sentence’s meaning, they’re coordinates.)
- After introductory phrases. To win the Stanley Cup, the Sharks must earn 16 victories in four playoff series.
- In compound sentences. Joe Thornton led the league in assists, but he finished fourth in total points.
- Separate adjective phrases. Jeremy Roenick, reinventing himself after several sub-par seasons, plays a major role in the Sharks’ attack.
Can you tell that the NHL playoffs are underway…and guess my favorite team? Don’t be surprised if my trademark purple nails are teal one of these days!
I hope you’re having a great spring! As always, I’m available to assist you with writing and editing projects. Call me at 619-291-4645 to discuss your needs.