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Commas, Part 10

Rule 1 – Use a comma when beginning sentences with introductory words such as well, why, hello, no, yes, etc.
Examples:
Yes, I do need that report.
Well, I never thought I’d live to see the day…

Rule 2 – Use a comma before and after introductory words such as namely, that is, i.e., for example, e.g., or for instance when they are followed by a series of items.
Example:
You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.

NOTE: i.e. (in Latin: id est) means that is; e.g. (in Latin: exempli gratia) roughly means for example.

Pop Quiz
Select the correct sentence.

1A. No you may not have a dollar.
1B. No, you may not have a dollar.

2A. Well isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever heard?
2B. Well, isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever heard?

3A. I will work in one of only three states, namely, Washington, Oregon, or Idaho.
3B. I will work in one of only three states namely, Washington, Oregon, or Idaho.
3C. I will work in one of only three states namely Washington, Oregon, or Idaho.

4A. We are learning about many different punctuation marks, i.e., periods, commas, and semicolons.
4B. We are learning about many different punctuation marks, e.g., periods, commas, and semicolons.

Pop Quiz Answers

1B. No, you may not have a dollar.
2B. Well, isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever heard?
3A. I will work in one of only three states, namely, Washington, Oregon, or Idaho.
4B. We are learning about many different punctuation marks, e.g., periods, commas, and semicolons. (Using e.g. means that these three punctuation marks are examples of what you are learning about. Using i.e. would have meant that these three are the only ones you are learning about.)

Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013, at 10:34 pm


10 Comments

10 Responses to “Commas, Part 10”

  1. Carol Carlisle says:

    Regarding Rule 2, it was always my understanding that a semicolon was used before the word and a comma after:
    ; that is,
    ; namely,
    ; e.g.,

    • Jane says:

      Your rule only applies when the introductory words introduce a complete sentence. Our Rule 2 of Semicolons says, “It is preferable to use a semicolon before introductory words such as namely, however, therefore, that is, i.e., for example, e.g., or for instance when they introduce a complete sentence. It is also preferable to use a comma after the introductory word.”

  2. Ed C. says:

    In the following, would it not be better to use a colon after or before “e.g.”?
    You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.

    • Jane says:

      Our Rule 1 of Colons on our GrammarBook.com website says:
      Rule 1

      Use the colon after a complete sentence to introduce a list of items when introductory words such as namely, for example, or that is do not appear.

      Examples:
      You may be required to bring many items: sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.
      I want the following items: butter, sugar, and flour.
      I want an assistant who can do the following: (1) input data, (2) write reports, and (3) complete tax forms.

      In the sentence you provided, e.g., which is functionally the same as for example, does appear. Therefore, the colon is not appropriate.

  3. Pierrette T says:

    I have a question regarding commas and quotation marks.

    In the sentence below, where does the comma go: before or after “entitled”?

    Enclosed is a Report, entitled “Why Should You Trust Hunter-Kelsey for Your Property Tax Loan?”

    Thanks,

    • Jane says:

      There is no need for a comma and there is no need to capitalize report:

      Enclosed is a report entitled “Why Should You Trust Hunter-Kelsey for Your Property Tax Loan?”

  4. Sally says:

    In your very helpful advice you state that a comma should come before i.e./e.g. when they are followed by a series of items. What about when they are followed by just one item? I am particularly interested in British English conventions. Is the sentence below correct?

    Difficult exercises, e.g. press ups, should be avoided in the first month after surgery.

    • Jane says:

      Use of the abbreviation e.g. followed by only a single item is awkward. You will normally see a single item accompanied by such as, for instance or for example, and it will generally be nonessential to the meaning of the sentence and therefore should be surrounded by commas or parentheses. I would recommend: “Difficult exercises, such as press-ups, should be avoided in the first month after surgery.” OR “Difficult exercises (such as press-ups) should be avoided in the first month after surgery.” OR “Difficult exercises (press-ups, for example) should be avoided in the first month after surgery.” (Americans use the term push-ups.)

  5. Debbie says:

    Are there any set rules for punctuating song lyrics?

    For example:
    Holy Spirit, my heart(,) enter; Set my mind on You, I pray.
    Through Christ’s death and resurrection, Please wash all my sins away.
    Strengthen my faith to believe So(,) contentment(,) I receive.

    Should there be a comma after heart because the normal way to say the sentence would be – Holy Spirit, enter my heart.

    And should there be commas around contentment because a better way to say the sentence would be – Strengthen my faith to believe So I receive contentment.

    I thought the writer could leave the words Set, Please, and So capitalized because they emphasize a second part on the same line.

    • There are not so much rules as long-standing conventions for writing out song lyrics. The first obligation on the part of the transcriber is to make every effort to find the original sheet music, or official copy of the song, and write it exactly as shown. If this isn’t possible, write it out line by line, capitalizing the first word in each line. We would recommend some changes to your version. The numbers are explained below:

      Holy Spirit, my heart(,)1 enter; Set2 my mind on You, I pray.
      Through Christ’s death and resurrection, Please3 wash all my sins away.
      Strengthen my faith to believe So4(,)5 contentment(,)6 I receive.

      1: No comma. A comma would create ambiguity. Are you telling the heart to enter, or saying “enter my heart”? Since it’s the latter, and there are no commas in “enter my heart,” there would be no commas in “my heart enter” either.
      2, 3, 4: No capitals. If you want a capital, start a new line.
      5, 6: No commas. (See 1.) As you point out, the clause is saying, “so I receive contentment,” which requires no commas.

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