Common Comma Conundrums

Looking for a quick link to useful information and not some introductory work? Scroll to the bottom of the post for a list of conundrums and their associated entries.

Commas Are, Literally, The Worst

Whenever I read over something I’ve written, I always find commas to remove or add. I don’t think I’ve ever edited a piece and not found comma errors. I’ll probably find comma errors in this piece whenever I read over it. This one punctuation causes me, and probably others, a lot of grief.

The nightmare of every writer, possibly everyone.

The nightmare of every writer, possibly everyone.

Why? I think it stems from the mistaken idea that writing, and thus comma use, is and can be entirely intuitive. The intuition behind commas is that they should be placed whenever there is a natural pause in speaking, but this isn’t always the case. Because of this, I (and many writers, I find) place more commas than necessary. Unfortunately, the English language doesn’t read like William Shatner speaks, and this can make our jobs, hobbies, and lives more difficult.

So, when writing, I usually try to keep an analytical part of my brain online so that I can consider whether or not a comma should be used. Below, I’ll put down a few of the rules that I find are helpful to keep in the back of my mind when writing. If I have a question, though, the first and easiest thing to do is perform a search for comma rules with ‘grammar girl’ attached to the end. I find that the way she talks about rules is simple, entertaining, and memorable. You can find links and hints on my List of Software and Websites post.

Commonly Ignored Comma Rules

As an engineer by training and a redneck by birth, I have come across some exceptionally gnarly pieces of writing. No matter whether it’s technical reports, stories, or even Facebook posts, the same rules apply (though are often ignored). Whenever writing, regardless of formality, I suggest using your best writing skills. This helps you get and stay in practice when writing something important or when writing something for a strict audience.

Each article that follows this one (will add links below when relevant) will be a small article with more information on a topic. In each, I will provide a correct example followed by explanation, hints, and some examples. Hopefully it’ll be a fun, quick reminder on everyone’s least favorite punctuation.

Conundrums 1 – Coordinating Conjunctions and Conjunctive Adverbs
Conundrums 2 – Parentheticals

3 thoughts on “Common Comma Conundrums

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