ARE YOU COMMA HAPPY?
Hey there! You comma here often? BAHAHAHAHA!!! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself; it gets me all the time! So, do you have a comma problem? The first step is to admit you have a problem. As for me, I suffer from CCAS (Chronic Comma Abuse Syndrome). I mean, I just, I, just really, really, like to use, commas! I’m a natural pause-er, so it’s only natural, that I want to pause, in my writing! After all, I write, just like I talk, and, there is no shame, in that.
There comes a time however, when even a self-professed comma abuser such as myself has to step back and well, edit, and not use quite so many, commas. Sigh. It’s a sad time really. It has occurred to me that, I just know I ain’t the only one! Yes, I used ain’t. A Grammar Nazi just fainted. So, how does one use a comma? When is it appropriate? Welp! I found me a few rules!
For the more simplistic uses of a comma, (OMG! I just wrote the word comma and actually put a comma! BAHAHAHA!! These things amuse me…I have no life; I thought you knew this) please see below:
Closing a letter (Ex: Sincerely, Yours truly, Best,)
Opening a letter (Ex: Dear Derp, Hello, To Whom It May Concern,)
May 12, 1945 (Date)
Moon, Outer Space (City/Address)
At the beginning of a direct, “quotation.” (Ex: He said, “Hi.”)
Series: (Ex: I ate eggs, toast and orange juice) *
*This Brings me to the…
This Comma War is hundreds of years in the making. There have been casualties. So basically, you use an Oxford comma when there is a complicated list or series and you want to avoid confusion. Sometimes you need it and sometimes you don’t. For example:
A SIMPLE LIST
She wore a pink shirt, navy shoes and a hat.
You don’t really need the Oxford comma here. Unless your audience is textually blind, they will figure out your meaning and any extra punctuation is just showing off. No one likes a braggart. Now, things get sticky though.
I look up to my parents, Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.
WOAH! Ma and Pa are Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey? Say wah? Dude, I didn’t even know they were an item! Pssst…who told Hillary? You see the potential for confusion here? Now if the sentence read; I look up to my parents, Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey, the possibility for confusion is drastically reduced and one can clearly see that each person is clearly defined within the series.
NOW! That’s all fine and dandy but what about the real…the nitty gritty, down and dirty comma usage? Read on my punctually inadequate friends. Read on!
Use commas with conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet. For example: I ate my burger in two minutes, but I want a piece of yours.
Psst…just so you know the comma placement, they are usually BEFORE and, but, or, nor. They are usually AFTER so and yet ç (OMG! That was totally a three for all conjunction set! Ok back to the lesson) IF they begin a sentence, which they really shouldn’t do, which is weird but English is just weird and…Ok.
Basically, the comma/conjunction placement is usually totally dependent on the context. Conjunctions really shouldn’t begin a sentence but if you are writing dialogue and that is how your character speaks; be true to your character and screw the placement! WHEW! Grammar Nazis dropping like flies roun’ here!
Use commas to separate non-essential words or clauses. Example: I am, as you can see, very angry.
Technically, if you took out the “…as you can see…” the sentence would still make sense; “I am very angry.” The extra phrase just adds emphasis and a comma is necessary to separate it from the main point of the sentence.
Use a comma to separate multiple adjectives that describe the same noun when the word “and” could’ve been used instead. For Instance: He is a tall, handsome man. This sentence would have made just as much sense if I said, “He is a tall and handsome man.” We often use the comma to separate and omit “and” because reading “and” over and over can become tedious and make the writing sound redundant and stilted. Something we NEVER want to do. Unless it’s funny.
Use commas before or surrounding a person’s name and/or title that is being specifically addressed. “Will you, Mary, marry me?” “Yes, Doctor, I will.”
To separate a statement from a question. “I can go, can’t I?”
When separating two contrasting parts of a sentence. “That is my Justin Bieber ticket, not yours!” (Pfft…that was unrealistic right? I mean, who buys Justin Bieber tickets?)
When using introductory words such as now, well, or yes. For example: Yes, I would like to punch you in the throat. Well, you asked.
Use commas with the words however and therefore when they are used as interrupters. What do I mean? (Ex: We’re having a conversation so I would, therefore, like some type of response. Ex 2: I can’t punch you in the throat today, however, tomorrow sounds like a possibility.)
Well there you have it folks! Your comprehensive list of comma rules. Let’s end the madness people. There a thousands and thousands of misused, underused, unappreciated, and neglected commas the world over! Stop the abuse today! Let us be citizens of Commas United and work to end CCAS (Chronic Comma Abuse Syndrome). If it takes one of us. It takes all of us.