English language and editing · Uncategorized

Charis for Writing: Lesson 51 Using commas effectively


A warm welcome to the second season of our online writing class! Last season was good and we promise more interesting, easy -to-understand and interactive lessons this season. And we want more feedback from you in the form of questions and suggested lessons. Remember, it is a class and interaction is an essential part.

As editors, one of the most common errors we encounter in proofreading are errors related to punctuation especially commas. Like one writer said, ‘the writer who handles this puny little stop correctly and sensibly can probably punctuate as well as need be’. In other words, a proper use of the punctuation is the secret to good writing. Improper usage of commas is especially difficult to deal with because many don’t even know they don’t know how to use it. So, the focus of this lesson is to review when it is appropriate to use commas and when it is not. We will do this in six simple sections.

1: DO: Use one comma to separate the introductory clause of a sentence from the rest of the sentence. An introductory clause is a word or group of words that help to introduce a sentence by giving some kind of a background. Examples are You see, after a while, before we arrived, by the way , well, and thereafter.                                                                                    

Eg.: After we had waited for about an hour, the doctor arrived with the news of a baby boy.

DON’T: Use commas to separate this type of  clause at the end of the sentence from the rest of the sentence.

Eg.: The doctor arrived with the news of a baby boy after we had waited for about an hour.                  

2: DO: Use commas to separate more than two items in a list.

Eg.: Timothy Doner speaks over 20 languages including Spanish, Greek, Aramaic, French, Swahili, Yiddish, Hausa and English.

NOTE: You may or may not insert a comma before ‘and’ preceding the last item depending on what you have been taught in school. (…Hausa, and English). This comma is called the Oxford comma and it is the subject of much controversy.

3. DO: Use two commas (before and after) to separate an additional or unnecessary piece of information that has been inserted inside a sentence for clarity.

Eg.: Paris, the capital of France, is sometimes known as the city of lights.

Do not forget to add salt, a much-needed ingredient, to the soup

DON’T: Use the commas when the additional information is absolutely necessary to understand the sentence.

Eg.: The men that you saw me talking to are my brothers.

Well, you must be enjoying the lesson up to this point. But this is all space will allow us this week. Join us for our next lesson I LOVE COOKING MY FAMILY AND PETS II. Please send us your questions and feedback, and share the lesson too. Remember at Charismata, we draft, proofread and edit all kinds of documents as well as provide other great services such as logo designs and copywriting.

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