Online Writing Courses: Commas Part I

Improve writing skills with my online writing classes

This is another installment of my online writing classes. Several people have requested that I write an article about comma usage, so consider me your online writing tutor! Using commas correctly can be confusing, but learning to do so will improve your writing skills.

Why do correct commas improve writing skills? Commas improve writing skills by making sentences clear and easy to understand. A misplaced comma can change the entire meaning of a sentence. For example, look at these examples from two different Holy Bibles:

“This I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

“This I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

According to the Bible, Christ said these words to the thief on the cross. Even though the exact same words are used in both sentences, the sentences have different meanings because of the placement of the comma. In the first, Christ is telling the thief that he will go to Paradise, but he doesn’t say when the thief will get his reward. In the second sentence, Jesus is telling the thief that both victims will be in Paradise on that very day.

I just use these as an example and am not trying to start a religious debate. I had much rather be an online writing tutor and continue with my online writing courses than to be a minister!

Items in a series

Three or more words, phrases, or clauses that are in a series joined by and, or, or nor need commas:

Sam, Joe, and Mike are in the living room.

She brought rolls, a pie, and a casserole.

I enjoy fishing, going to the beach, and hiking in the woods.

The final comma in a series is considered optional in a few online writing classes, but the majority of experts favor including it.

Coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. These are easy to remember as “FANBOYS.” When a coordinating conjunction joins two independent clauses, a comma is needed:

I went outside, and I discovered that my car had been stolen.

See? These are two clauses that would make perfect sense on their own. Each part of this compound sentence has a subject and a verb and is a complete thought:

I went outside.

I discovered that my car had been stolen.

If both parts of the sentence joined by FANBOYS aren’t independent, you don’t need a comma:

I went outside and discovered that my car had been stolen.

“Discovered that my car had been stolen” doesn’t have a subject and isn’t an independent clause. Here are some more examples:

I went to the store, and I bought some bread.

I went to the store and bought some bread.

She was sick, but she went to the party.

She was sick but went to the party.

He’s skinny, yet he’s muscular.

He’s skinny yet muscular.

Appositives

An appositive renames the subject and should be separated with commas:

Mr. Jones, my math teacher, always gives us homework.

My sister, Sara Brown, lives in Florida.

Coordinate adjectives

Many people make mistakes with coordinate adjectives. Coordinate adjectives are adjectives that have equal importance and appear next to each other in a sentence. They should be separated by a comma:

We saw a gnarled, twisted tree at the beach.

On the table was an expensive, exotic figurine.

This is where it gets tricky: If the two modifiers aren’t coordinate adjectives, you don’t use a comma:

The big red barn was in a green field.

You wouldn’t use a comma between big and red. How can you tell if two adjectives aren’t coordinate adjectives? There are two ways to tell. If and can be substituted for the comma, the comma is needed. Also, if the adjectives can be used in reverse order, they’re coordinate adjectives and need a comma to separate them.

We saw a gnarled and twisted tree at the beach.

We saw a twisted and gnarled tree at the beach.

See? This pair of adjectives needs a comma. The following, however, do not:

The big and red barn was in a green field. (incorrect)

The red, big barn was in a green field. (incorrect)

These sentences are awkward. Big and red are not coordinate adjectives here, so there’s no need for a comma.

Dates

Comma use with dates can also get confusing. A general rule of thumb is that when two numbers OR two words are used next to each other, a comma is needed:

Thanksgiving is on Thursday, November 25.

I got my first pony on December 25, 1966.

Columbus landed in the New World in October 1492.

You don’t need a comma if different parts of the date are connected by a preposition:

Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday in November.

In American English, a comma is also needed after a complete date:

On October 13, 1492, Columbus landed in the New World.

Summary

I hope students found this information helpful and will employ these strategies to improve writing skills. There’s much more to learn about commas, and I plan on providing more online writing classes about commas and punctuation. In the links below, you'll find more of my online writing courses!

 

Improve writing skills with online writing classes.
Improve writing skills with online writing classes.

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Comments 143 comments

lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 5 years ago from Bishop, Ca

Now I need to REMEMBER this. A bookmark is in order, habee!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 5 years ago

Wow, so clearly explained, I'm hoping my sentence with all the commas are in the correct place! Rated useful!


rkhyclak profile image

rkhyclak 5 years ago from Ohio

Rated up! I get frustrated when I read stuff with poor punctuation. I know I make mistakes, but I try *really* hard to get it right! Thanks for a useful hub!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Next to spelling, people generally make more mistakes with incorrect punctuation. One of my favorites which you have probably heard illustrates the use of commas:

Woman, without her man, is nothing. OR

Woman, without her, man is nothing. Take your pick. :)


WildIris 5 years ago

You'd think we'd all know this by now, but the mechanics of writing still eludes me at times. I guess my editor is on extended vacation. A very useful refresher on the comma.Thanks.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Laurel. Hope you're okay.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, rkhyclak!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Drbj, another good example!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Lol, Iris. Thanks!


Dawn71 profile image

Dawn71 5 years ago from UK

Great hub, very well written and will be bookmarking, rating up. Now I'm paranoid that comma placement was wrong! lol!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Ma’am, you are a brilliant, and a much appreciated teacher. I’m hanging on your lips :)))) Thanks, Habee! I would like to add, though, that writers tend to ignore some of the rules in order to provoke certain emotions.

But yes, we certainly have to know the rules before we can break it. Thanks again!


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

Thanks for the lesson. We all need it, especially me.


Dmian profile image

Dmian 5 years ago

rated useful, thanks for so much info.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Very useful information for everyone. Well done.


leni sands profile image

leni sands 5 years ago from UK

Very useful hub and very well written. I, too, have bookmarked this hub. Rated useful and voted up!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Thanks for this habee, I needed this hub! I will bookmark it and refer to it often. I have never used a comma with "and" as I believed it was unnecessary. I see now it is more complex than that.

A very helpful little hub habee. I hope I can improve my hubs with this info.

My English is a bit Australian and ragged at times.


OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 5 years ago

habee

Thanks for the lesson, and I will look for more lessons from you.

~:]


lctodd1947 profile image

lctodd1947 5 years ago from USA

I really needed this, and I will try to remember to do it correctly. Thanks Habee


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

You are my teacher. I am glad to learn anything from you, including this one. I hope I can apply this lesson on my hub. Thank you very much, Habee. Rating up!

Prasetio:)


screation profile image

screation 5 years ago

thanks for this very informative hub.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Dawn, don't worry - most folks probably won't notice!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Martie, my friend, you're making me blush! lol


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

KK gals, is it worth a cup of coffee??


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Dmian, thanks for reading!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Rob, thanks for commenting!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Leni, glad you found the hub useful!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Ah, but Earnest, you have that wonderful Aussie accent!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Opinion Duck, I'll be glad to have you!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

You're welcome, Ictodd!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Many thanks to you, Prasetio, my friend!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Screation, you are more than welcome!


Autumn Lynn profile image

Autumn Lynn 5 years ago from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Great hub for a newbie like me. My head has been swimming from all the keyword, SEO stuff that I am clueless about. I have decided to just focus on writing and hubs like yours are a huge help. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with the comma challenged masses.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

You're welcome, Autumn! There's a lot to learn about writing online!


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

I liiiiiiiiiiiike :-)


3 Finger Reader 5 years ago

Excellent lesson! I've forgotten a lot of these rules...


C.J. Wright 5 years ago

Thanks for this HUB!


Pulse101 profile image

Pulse101 5 years ago

Hi, habee. Bookmarked for my daughter to read. Thanks for sharing this.

Rated it up!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for a great help.


kookoo88 profile image

kookoo88 5 years ago from Cripple Creek

very useful. thank you. :)


Go Daddy profile image

Go Daddy 5 years ago

This is one of the most useful hubs I have ever read. The things I learn here will definitely go a long way. Thanks for this wonderful hub!


suejanet profile image

suejanet 5 years ago

Very Useful hub. Now I need one to tell me how to text.


muriahgorde profile image

muriahgorde 5 years ago from New York

Excellent hub, I have learnt a lot from it! Thanks a bunch!


Kristine Manley 5 years ago

I so needed this. Thanks for the great Hub.


fastfreta profile image

fastfreta 5 years ago from Southern California

Now this is one of those hubs for bookmarking for later use. I intend to read all of these hubs, because I'm sure I need them. Thanks for the lesson.


buttar_d profile image

buttar_d 5 years ago from Chandigarh

thanks for the hub.


KLeichester 5 years ago

A very helpful hub. Thanks for taking time and posting this.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Many thanks, De Greek!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

3 Finger, glad it was a reminder for you!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Pulse, I appreciate that!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

You're very welcome, CJ!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Glad you stopped by, HH!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you, Kookoo!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Wow, Go Daddy! You made my day!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Suejanet, I need that one, too! lol


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Muriuh, glad you found my online writing classes helpful!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Kristine, thank you for reading!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

FF, my old pal, it's great to see you!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

You're welcome, Buttar!

KL, I appreciate you, too!


Purple Perl profile image

Purple Perl 5 years ago from Bangalore,India

habee, this hub is very well put and useful for all. Voted you up and useful!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Perl!


matherese profile image

matherese 5 years ago

I find your hub very good i really like it


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Glad youliked it, Matherese!


OpticIllusions profile image

OpticIllusions 5 years ago from United States

What a useful hub, Habee!


sreekumar sukumaran 5 years ago

You can as well write about usage of articles" the, a, an " and explain the difference in meaning when used alternatively. For example, there is a fly in a tea-cup, there is fly in the tea cup, there is the fly in a tea cup.... so on and so forth. Best wishes.


reallygoodpoetry profile image

reallygoodpoetry 5 years ago

can u write an article about when 2 captialize something


MobyWho profile image

MobyWho 5 years ago from Burlington VT

Great hub! Simply pure, and purely simple. Just what the writing doctor ordered. Did I really need a comma there? It takes away the simplicity of it.


Susan Starts Now profile image

Susan Starts Now 5 years ago from California

Thank you for the useful advice. Your style was clear and concise. It always seems to be easier to remember things when they are explained clearly.


pchung74 5 years ago

Thanks, habee. Clear and concise.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Optic!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Maybe I will, sreekumar!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Reallygood, I'll try to work that in for you!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Moby, you have a way with words!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

So true, Susan. Thanks!

pchung, glad you liked my writing skills class!


Maria Cecilia profile image

Maria Cecilia 5 years ago from Philippines

oh my Habee I am not surprise you are one of the latest Hubpages achiever, this is just great and I will definitely learn from it..


hhelen profile image

hhelen 5 years ago

What a great hub, girl! Keep it up.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Maria, you are so sweet!

Hhelen, thanks for your support!


graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 5 years ago

Great hub, very clear. 'm going to share this with my high school son.


Mikeydoes profile image

Mikeydoes 5 years ago from Fl,IL,IND

Very useful for me, I'd have to say my biggest problem is commas. I've finally started to figure them out!

This is definetely a great hub, I will have to read it several times to really get it down.

Thank you!


Xishan Ansari profile image

Xishan Ansari 5 years ago from Pakistan

thanks definitely it will increase writing skills


Kirsten Fisher profile image

Kirsten Fisher 5 years ago

Thank you. Well written, and an important lesson.


katrinasui profile image

katrinasui 5 years ago

Great Hub, Very well written. I learned a lot from your hub.


trimar7 profile image

trimar7 5 years ago from New York

Teachers everywhere will love you - most especially foreign language teachers.


stevemullins 5 years ago

really like this - think teachers will like it and the foreign language students looking for tips etc...


TurtleDog profile image

TurtleDog 5 years ago

The power of the comma! Very interesting how different comma placement changes the whole sentence. No doubt that I'm ruining the comma on my hubs. Thanks for the rules of comma use. Should help a lot. I voted UP! useful


pennyofheaven profile image

pennyofheaven 5 years ago from New Zealand

I enjoyed this lesson! Thank you!


2patricias profile image

2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

I love commas. My writing motto is 'when in doubt, throw in a comma.' Therefore, this hub is just what I need. Now all I've got to do is remember it.


Yuleluv 5 years ago

Punctuation usage in correct manner is a must for smart writing skills or literal communication.


Mary 5 years ago

I really enjoyed your class. I still have trouble with punctuation. I have started watching movies with the subtitles on so I can watch how to place them. Your site has made it even more clear. Thanks.


Sylvia Leong profile image

Sylvia Leong 5 years ago from North Vancouver (Canada)

Awesome Hub! I've always had difficulty with commas. Thank you!


Sylvia Leong profile image

Sylvia Leong 5 years ago from North Vancouver (Canada)

Awesome Hub! I've always had difficulty with commas. Thank you!


dgicre profile image

dgicre 5 years ago from USA

You are amazing and awesome, a true master of the comma. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. Kind regards!


DebbieEdwards 5 years ago

This is awesome! So many of us get stuck on that one little thing that really is a big thing. Thanks for the hub :=)


hubpageswriter 5 years ago

Awesome hub.


CreateHubpages profile image

CreateHubpages 5 years ago

Now I miss my English teacher in HS :)


kazemaru2 profile image

kazemaru2 5 years ago from usa

Now my grammar is slightly better thanks for the insight.


Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick

Thanks, I am fond of commas, and tend to misplace them.


daisy7rox 5 years ago

I want to know more about kid stories and what will be best to use in kid chapter books. But you are could I have read 2 of your classes and I like them, your good and I bet every one would agree.


tim-tim profile image

tim-tim 5 years ago from Normal, Illinois

I am not surprised to see this from a teacher:) Great hub, Habee!


Baileestar101 profile image

Baileestar101 5 years ago from St. Joseph, Michigan

I love how you wrote about comments and tied that in with God and Christ. I am a new hubber so, this uis a great motivation for me!


CavemanSam profile image

CavemanSam 5 years ago

Great refresher. I'm reentering the copyediting workforce after a couple years absence so this was rather helpful. I used the AP stylebook in the past and I remember not using the last comma in a series... the one that comes right before "and." So whenever I see it it gets on my nerves. :)


Rebelchick1 profile image

Rebelchick1 5 years ago

OMG! You're so awesome for doing this. I really need all the help I can get. I keep getting stuck while working on my novel. Writing dialog and getting in the correct form doesn't seem like such a chore until you actually have to do it. I marvel at where all my grammar skills and proper punctuation went off to and I end up scraping chapter after chapter because I feel. I'm not writing it properly. Thanks so much for posting.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Grace, I really wrote my online writing courses with students in mind!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Mikey, it's great to have you as a guest!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Xishan, that's great!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Kirsten, I appreciate your kind comment!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

I'm really glad, Katrina!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Lol, trimar! That would be awesome!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Steve, thanks for reading and commenting!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks a bunch, Turtledog!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

You're very welcome, Penny!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

lol, 2pats! You know the real saying is "When in doubt, leave it out," right?


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Too true, Yule!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

That's a good strategy, Mary!


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

Thanks for the refresher, Habee! Helpful hub for sure.


FloBe profile image

FloBe 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Your hubs on writing are a very useful resource. Thanks for sharing this information with us in such a succinct way.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Sylvia, you're in good company!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Dgicre, you are TOO kind!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Debbie, you are quite welcome!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Hubwriter, thanks mucho!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Create, he/she must have been a good teacher!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Kaze, good - glad I could be of help!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Bob, I'm honored to have you here!


paul pruel profile image

paul pruel 5 years ago from Philippines and Saudi Arabia

Interesting one! Nice sharing. Thanks. Merry Christmas.


Ms Re profile image

Ms Re 5 years ago from Memphis, TN

Wow! You are doing a great thing here. Keep it going. I think this may be useful for my homeschoolers. Thanks, Habee!


Gets profile image

Gets 5 years ago

I don't always digest things as fast as I used to. I'm sure I will be coming back more than once to see if I did it right. This is a very informative hub. Thank you.


Raydfernandez profile image

Raydfernandez 5 years ago

this is really great.... nice work!!!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Aw, thanks, Daisy! So glad you like my online writing courses!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

I'll always be a teacher at heart, tim-tim!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Nice to meet you, Bailee!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks a bunch, Toronto!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Same here, Sam! Thanks for visiting!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Rebelchik, best of luck with your novel!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Good to see you, Oceans!


ExecResumeGenius profile image

ExecResumeGenius 5 years ago from Sacramento, CA

Great Hub. Today's generation doesn't pay attention to proper grammar or writing and communication styles. I especially appreciate all the examples.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Flo, glad you like my online writing courses!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Many thanks, Paul!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Ms Re, I've had homeschoolers email me and say they're using several of my online writing classes!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Gets, glad you stopped by!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Ray, thanks for reading and commenting!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Genius, I agree, and I find it unsettling.


jenp123 profile image

jenp123 5 years ago

Great, simple way to teach commas! Thanks for the hub!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

You're welcome, Jen!


David Bowman 5 years ago

Regarding appositives:

You're dead on with commas to separate appositives from the rest of the sentence with commas. As we learned in Zen Comma: Separate non-restrictive appositives with commas.

However, an appositive isn't limited to renaming the subject. For example, consider this sentence:

"I bought a toy for my dog, Rex."

In this sample, "Rex" is in apposition to "my dog," even though "Rex" isn't the subject.

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