How to Properly Train the Comma
Ah, the comma; the poor, misunderstood comma. Many writers are scared of them, Editors abhor them, and they lie scattered across the penned landscape like so many potholes on a gravel road.
If given the right direction, the comma is a beautiful little punctuation mark that eases confusion and enhances readability. Alas, left to its own devises, the free-range comma skitters across the page with abandon, leaving overly punctuated clauses and phrases in its wake. The carnage left behind when commas run amok can be devastating to writers and readers alike.
Training Aids for Errant Punctuation
A Comma Can be the Difference Between Life and Death!
Obedience Lessons for the Comma
With a little guidance, the comma can become a well-heeled member of literary society. Here is a selection of simple comma commands that can be of aid in domesticating this unruly mark.
Train commas to separate dependent elements when in a series of three or more. The ingredients are: eggs, oil, water and flour.
The comma can also be trained to separate adjectives that are used to describe something together. The night was filled with the fresh, bold scent of jasmine.
The comma is exceptional when trained with a conjunction to separate coordinated independent elements. John played the flute, and Jill sang along. Common conjunctions can be remembered with the mnemonic “FANBOYS” (FOR, AND, NOR, BUT, OR YET, STILL).
Teach commas to follow introductory words, clauses and phrases. Train commas alone or in pairs to set off names of people being addressed. Ted, this is a lovely party. Thank you, Julie, for inviting me. I had a wonderful time, Don.
Train the comma to separate a “signal phrase” from a quotation. Grandma said, “Nice to see you dear.”
With a little coaxing, the comma will separate introductory words or phrases. After the movie, Jane went out for ice cream. Yes, I went out for ice cream as well. When we were done with our ice cream, we left the shop.
Commas have long been educated in the art of setting off parenthetical statements (additional information). Train a pair of commas to surround parenthetical remarks. Kona, my dog, loves to fetch.
A well trained comma can be used to restate something or to separate a contradictory element. I like vanilla ice cream, but not chocolate.
Once the comma has been properly domesticated, it will no longer scamper through works causing halts and false starts. There will no longer be a need to live in fear.
Viva la Comma!
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