For a long time, the comma has been venerated as some mystical, magical creation. Writers regularly employed then fired the standard grammar tool with little understanding of its base uses. A thorough perusal of the Chicago Manual of Style reveals twenty-plus pages that lead mere mortal writers to believe the sneaky comma defies simplistic explanation. Hold on. Assist is on the way. Broken down in attack sizes, the comma can be comprehended and effectively utilized.
According to the Freedom Edition, English Grammar and Composition, “The comma – the most commonly used mark of punctuation – is utilized mainly to group words that will belong together and to separate the ones that do not. ”
Wow! That sounds basic. Could it really be so simple?
Based on the above definition, the particular comma’s nutshell purpose is to individual or to group. Think of the very went out with bra commercial – to lift and separate.
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It’s an old phrase, but on-point for the comma debate. If words can be lifted, or removed, from a sentence without upsetting the meaning, taking them out totally, then a comma is used to offset those very words. NOTE the prior sentence.
More common examples of lifting out are:
1) John, the preacher’s son, was always in trouble from school. Being the preacher’s boy might be important to John and his dad, but the phrase ‘the preacher’s son’ can be removed from this sentence. The casual reader will still realize who’s in hot water with the college.
2) On the night in question, June 18th, 2008, the preacher’s child ran away from home. The specific date might be important in a court of law proceeding, yet it can be completely lifted from this sentence without disturbing the main meaning. So employment of the commas around the date will add clarity to the writing.
The second fundamental utilization for a comma is to separately listing items. The Jones ate reddish colored beans and rice, spicy blackened grouper, and cream pudding. TAKE NOTE the previous sentence. However , there are two issues any writer must think about when forming a list.
First, there is the common journalism thought that the last comma is not needed when separating the list, as the ‘and’ may serve the primary function as the final comma. For example: Sally ate red, yellow and glowing blue jelly beans. As opposed to Sally got red, yellow, and blue jello beans. The dilemma is one of clarity. By employing only the ‘and’ to serve as the comma will you determine the three separate colors of jelly beans Sally enjoyed? Or even does the solitary ‘and’ seem to make the jelly beans a combination color? As all aspiring writers understand, getting the words RIGHT for the reader can be tough. If utilizing this comma, the OXFORD comma as really known in literary circles, adds clarity to the sentence, then use a final comma in the list.
Second, phrases that are commonly thought of together are listed together and separated only by the conjunction ‘and’. The above instance is red beans and grain. As red beans and grain pair together the way bread and butter, Bonnie and Clyde, oil and vinegar do, then the combination should be grouped together. Two items which are intimately related in believed processes should be listed together and never separated with a comma.
The comma certainly holds other intrinsic, plus oftentimes, complicated purposes for writing. One search on any Internet engine will result in several million hits, many from universities and institutions of higher learning, for comma explanation. The comma is an ubiquitous form of punctuation with multiple and varied uses. However , when writers follow the basic rules concerning ‘lifting and separating’ and ‘listing’ then their work will be on more solid comma ground.