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How to Properly Train the Comma

Updated on October 11, 2011

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.

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.

  1. Train commas to separate dependent elements when in a series of three or more. The ingredients are: eggs, oil, water and flour.

  2. 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.

  3. 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).

  4. 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.

  5. Train the comma to separate a “signal phrase” from a quotation. Grandma said, “Nice to see you dear.”

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. A well trained comma can be used to restate something or to separate a contradictory element. I like vanilla ice cream, but not chocolate.

A common green comma
A common green comma


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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    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 6 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank's for helping me clarify my use of commas.

    • Vicki99 profile image

      Vicki99 6 years ago from Meridian Idaho

      I am happy that the information has been found useful. I had the worst time with commas. I though that I had remembered being taught as a child that any pause required a comma, which is not actually the case. Ah well, live and learn.

    • Bobby the asshat profile image

      Bobby the asshat 6 years ago from Fairbanks, Alaska

      Thank you so much for this hub on the comma. I was just having a conversation in my english writing class about my over use of the comma. This was most helpful.

    • MaineWriter profile image

      MaineWriter 6 years ago from Maine

      I tend to have problems with comas, so I will be bookmarking this page as a reference.

    • profile image

      joejagodensky 6 years ago

      Excellent. A nifty little mark. Your description is clear and concise. Thanks..

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Absolutely wonderful hub about the comma! Most helpful.

      Glad to see you are taking the hub challenge.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Nice hub! I tend to have a problem reigning in those pesky commas as well! Thanks for the tips.

    • annmackiemiller profile image

      annmackiemiller 6 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

      very well written, now are you going to train the apostrophe - it certainly needs it :0) voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

      good luck on Hubpages

    • Vicki99 profile image

      Vicki99 6 years ago from Meridian Idaho

      Thank you for your comments. I am happy that this information is useful.

      My editor on another site would ding me for my love of the free range comma on a fairly regular basis. This is my attempt to tame the wild beasts in my own ramblings.

    • rockdresses profile image

      rockdresses 6 years ago from Turkey

      Very useful info? Thanks a lot for your brilliant sharing!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Oh I loved this. Wait, I think I meant to write:

      Oh, I loved this, LOL. I am going to bookmark it as well.

    • the clean life profile image

      Mark Bruno 6 years ago from New Jersey Shore

      Thank you so much for this lesson. I have been doing a few things wrong regarding the Comma, Thanks for bringing me up to speed :)

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      This was a delightful presentation of the poor misunderstood comma. It made me smile. Thanks for the smiles. Good luck on your challenge!

    • Nils Visser profile image

      BOOK REVIEWS 6 years ago from The Low Countries

      Guilty as charged.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      The comma is definitely the hardest piece of punctuation to manage! People either use it too often (especially new writers) or not enough. I vacillate between the two LOL

      nicely laid out info

    • Vicki99 profile image

      Vicki99 6 years ago from Meridian Idaho

      Thank you! I have to be very careful with my comma usage. It has been a love/hate relationship for sure.

    • LABrashear profile image

      LABrashear 6 years ago from My Perfect Place, USA

      Great informatinon! I love your presentation. I love the comma. I let it run "free-range" at first and often have to go herd them in. Bookmarking for future reference, voting up, and sending thanks!

    • Bob Bagley profile image

      Bob Bagley 6 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida

      Vicki99, this is a good training manual. Thanks, Bob