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Commas: Editor's Notes #221
October 15, 2016

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma.
In the afternoon I put it back again.

--Oscar Wilde

In this issue:

1. Commas, commas, and commas
2. Tickled my funnybone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1. Commas, commas, and commas
I often get plaintive requests from clients to make clear the use of commas. Since the use of commas is often debated among those who make a living doing such things, I refer my clients to style guides. And if you are plagued by indecision when it comes to commas, you may very well want to get a good style guide.

My copy of The Chicago Manual of Style has eleven closely typed pages on the topic of commas. Smaller style guides deal with fewer uses of commas.

To those of you who want a short and simple guide to the use of commas, I give you this issue in the understanding that these are not all the rules and that some of them are debated.
  • Use a comma to separate parts of a series. I know how to use periods, apostrophes, and commas.
  • Use commas to separate multiple adjectives modifying a common noun. The small, frustrating, confusing comma is the topic of this newletter.
  • Use a comma to separate the clauses of a compound sentence that are joined by a coordinating conjunction. Commas are easy to make, but they are sometimes hard to justify.
  • Use a comma to separate interjections. Hey, I love commas!
  • Use a comma to set off a long phrase or clause preceding the subject of the sentence. Until I decided on this topic, I had no idea what to write about today.
  • Use a comma to indicate interruptions of normal word order. These days, to make another point, many have no idea how to use commas at all.
  • Use commas to set off non-restrictive elements. The comma, a small mark on the page, creates a brief pause. See also the section on that/which for more on restrictive and non-restrictive clauses on this page of my site:
  • Use a comma to separate contrasted sentence elements. I want to use commas correctly, not with abandon.
  • Use a comma to prevent misreading. Soon after, the track meet ended.
  • Use a comma to set off direct speech. "It's over," she said. Note that there is a great deal more to know about exactly how to use commas with direct speech, but this will do for the short list of comma uses here.
  • Use commas in dates and addresses. Since this is one part of comma usage that varies a great deal from country to country, I will let you find the standard for your country on your own.


2.Tickled my funnybone
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.


3. Interesting Web site
Check out more information on comma use at The Chicago Manual of Style Web site

4. Writing prompt
Set a timer for 90 seconds. Write a list of things you can see from where you are sitting. When the timer goes off, stop the list and write a piece that uses all the words on your list but is not set in the place you are sitting.

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