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Comma Abuse

Updated on January 9, 2014

Hello, kids.

Today in class we looked at an entire chapter on the usage of commas. I started out the chapter by saying that most of the material in the chapter will be review. For frequent readers of my hubpages, past entries may be helpful in supporting this. Once again, I am going to attempt to squeeze an entire chapter into one fun hub!

Before we get into too deep of a lesson, let's look at the concept of (my terminology, at least) "comma and." This references the age-old debate of whether to put a comma before the final comma in a list. Some references books will emphasize doing it and others will not. If you look through various published works, some will follow the rule and some will not. So, I'm not quite sure (I'll admit it) how to handle this. However, since I teach "comma and" because I believe it is clearer, that is the road I am taking you down.

Commas are used to separate ideas. One such separation is in a list of nouns, verbs, or adjectives.

Madonna's performances are bold, provocative, and thought-provoking.

I am a writer, actor, and educator.

In my free time, I like to watch movies, read books, and write essays. (This is also an example of parallel structure; wait for it!)

For lists to include commas, there must be three or items being used. If I thought Madonna's performances were not thought-provoking, I would just say, "Madonna's performances are bold and provocative."

Commas are used to join compound sentences that are started with one of the FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Paul was supposed to help out serving ice cream, but he was called upon to do other work.

If we isolate "comma but," the two ideas stand on their own. We join them together with "comma but" and we have a correctly structured compound sentence.

If we create complex sentences, sometimes we use commas and sometimes we do not.

Mark's workout routines have improved since he stopped eating ice cream.

Since Mark stopped eating ice cream, his workout routines have improved.

The word since is one of the subordinating conjunctions used for complex sentences, which contain one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. When a subordinator appears in the middle of the sentence, there is no need for a comma. However, if the subordinator begins the sentence, a comma must be placed after the phrase it introduces.

Commas are also used to separate day of the week from a month: Tuesday, October 16, and to separate a date from a year: October 16, 2012.

Separate a town/city from a state: West Springfield, Massachusetts, and a street address from an apartment or suite: 100 Main Street, Apt 10.

When writing letters, place a comma after the salutation and closing.

Dear Mr. Henshaw,

Thanks for the inspiration.


Matt Cogswell

As I have mulled over before, I am not sure why some people put commas after a subject and before a verb. I think we go comma-crazy and just start inserting them anywhere, but that is a wrong practice. So please stop.

This one was a short one, and I'm going to keep it that way.


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    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I love the play on words of your title! (Karma Chameleon was a fave song of mine way back when. I'm hearing it in my head now as I type!)

      I stuck to my guns for years and continued using a comma before 'and' in a list long after it became fashionable not to do so. Then I began to write features for an international corporate publication, and the managing editor told me not to do it. I broke myself of the habit.

      Now the habit of not using a comma before 'and' is ingrained, so I'll stick with the practice. I do like that it's one of those gray areas in grammar, an "either/or" situation. When writing or editing something that requires a specific style guidebook, I let myself be guided by its rules.

      Good hub. Voted Up++ (no button for "Great Title."


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