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Commas, Part 6

Rule – When starting a sentence with a weak clause, use a comma after it. Conversely, do not use a comma when the sentence starts with a strong clause followed by a weak clause.

Examples:
If you are not sure about this, let me know now.
Let me know now if you are not sure about this.

Rule – Use a comma after phrases of more than three words that begin a sentence. If the phrase has three or fewer words, the comma is optional.

Examples:
To apply for this job, you must have previous experience.
On February 14 many couples give each other candy or flowers.
OR
On February 14, many couples give each other candy or flowers.

Rule – Use commas surrounding words such as therefore and however when they are used as interrupters.

Examples:
I would, therefore, like a response.
I would be happy, however, to volunteer for the Red Cross.

 

Pop Quiz
Choose the correct sentence.

1A.Whether my team wins this weekend or not, I will have to go to work on Monday.
1B. Whether my team wins this weekend or not I will have to go to work on Monday.

2A. I will have to go to work on Monday, whether my team wins this weekend or not.
2B. I will have to go to work on Monday whether my team wins this weekend or not.

3A. Beginning tomorrow, I am going to walk a mile every Wednesday.
3B. Beginning tomorrow I am going to walk a mile every Wednesday.

4A. I would be interested however in learning more about commas.
4B. I would be interested, however in learning more about commas.
4C. I would be interested however, in learning more about commas.
4D. I would be interested, however, in learning more about commas.

Pop Quiz Answers

1A.Whether my team wins this weekend or not, I will have to go to work on Monday.

2B. I will have to go to work on Monday whether my team wins this weekend or not.

3A. Beginning tomorrow, I am going to walk a mile every Wednesday. OR
3B. Beginning tomorrow I am going to walk a mile every Wednesday.

4D. I would be interested, however, in learning more about commas.

Posted on Sunday, January 6, 2013, at 6:48 pm


8 Comments on Commas, Part 6

8 responses to “Commas, Part 6”

  1. Subrina says:

    Thanks, I have always had problems with commas.

  2. Shakar K. says:

    I have a question about apostrophe in English; there is an example written on one of my books in this way “after the second world war’ people began to realize themselves” , is the use of the punctuation after the word war is right or wrong??

    • Jane says:

      The proper punctuation mark following war should be a comma, not an apostrophe. Follow the first Rule stated in the first line of this article.

  3. Mindy B. says:

    I have searched for the answer to this question on your blog, but I couldn’t find it. Here is an ACT question which is supposed to be revised:
    Over the next few hours eight battleships were damaged and five of those were sunk.
    G. Over the next few hours, eight battleships were damaged, and five of those were sunk.
    H. Over the next few hours, eight battleships were damaged, five of which were sunk.

    It says that both the original and G are wrong and that H is right. I asked a friend why and she said that the problem is not that the original and G are clunky, but that “of those” is different from “of which,” but she didn’t know exactly why and recommended your blog. However, I have not been able to find the answer on it. Would you be so kind as to tell me?

    • This question demonstrates the gray area that commas often inhabit. Sometimes a comma signals an audible pause; other times it is a device that has less to do with hearing than with reading smoothly. With that in mind, the original sentence, with no commas, looks acceptable in our age of dropping commas whenever possible. The sentence flows nicely without commas, and there is no danger of ambiguity. Perhaps ACT is sticking strictly to the practice of placing a comma after a dependent clause that begins a sentence (“Over the next few hours”).

      If a comma were called for, it would be after “damaged” in all the examples. You wouldn’t be wrong putting one after “hours,” but in this case we can understand why a writer wouldn’t. Perhaps in the case of sentence G, ACT is staying in strict adherence to the practice of not placing a comma after the independent clause when followed by an “and” connector to a dependent clause.

  4. Dinora says:

    What is the GrammarBook’s position on what some call restrictive introductory clauses? Do you advise writing

    When he reached home he found the letter.

    or

    When he reached home, he found the letter?

    What about sentences like this, where if clauses are nested into a complex sentence:

    The Supreme Court found that because the screening process is not a “principal activity” of the workers’ jobs under a federal labor law it is not subject to compensation.

    Is there a name for sentences like this? And should there be a comma before it and after law?

    • Our Rule 10 of Commas says, “When starting a sentence with a dependent clause, use a comma after it.” Therefore: When he reached home, he found the letter. We should acknowledge, though, that contemporary editors often do not demand a comma in these situations if the sentence is concise, and the sense is clear and unambiguous without it. These days, When he reached home he found the letter would be many editors’ preference.

      In the second example, the comma after “law” would be a courtesy to signal the end of that long dependent clause at the beginning.
      In general, using the comma remains good discipline for beginning writers.

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