A Lesson About Commas And Independent Clauses In Sentences

Tuesday, September 06, 2011 20:30
A Lesson About Commas And Independent Clauses In Sentences

Tags: client communications | marketing

I am not going to tell you I know everything about commas, but I do have a couple of pointers.

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Commas are not like most punctuation marks. You have some freedom about when and where to insert commas. But there are some rules.

One rule is that you want to separate two clauses in a sentence with a comma only if each clause has its own subject.

For example: Harold went to beach, and then to the meeting.

That’s a misplaced comma. The second clause of the sentence, “and then to the meeting,” does not have its own subject. It’s not an independent clause that could stand alone as a sentence.

Now consider this: Harold went to beach, and then Susan went to the meeting.

That comma is just fine. Since the second clause has its own subject (Susan), it may be separated by a comma.

Only independent clauses get separate by a comma.


I don't know why I know that or why it has stuck in my brain. But it helps make me a good writer, so I thought I'd pass it along.

I want to thank all of you who commented on my recent rant about em dashes.

Sitting here writing at the kitchen table or on my deck is isolating. Having you tell me what to you want me to write about is genuinely appreciated.

Knowing you care about em dashes thrills me, and that’s why I wanted I'm hoping you'll like this little ditty about commas.

Comments (3)

It should be noted that if you add a word that makes the second portion of the sentence dependent on the first phrase, then a comma should also be used.

Ex. After Harold went to the beach, he went to the meeting.

They should also be used in relative clauses that are non-restrictive in nature.

Ex.#1: I sorted the stacks of paper, which were over two feet tall. (Meaning: I sorted all the stacks, they were large, over two feet tall.)

Ex.#2: I sorted the stacks of paper which were over two feet tall. (Meaning: I only sorted the stacks that were over two feet tall, leaving the rest of the stacks alone.)

[This comment was edited by Gluck to correct Ex. 2 after comment below was posted by vguiettlein. (Wow, we've got some real grammarians reading A4A.)]
Searcy , September 07, 2011
In example two, you would typically use "that" instead of "which".
vguettlein , September 07, 2011
Guys, Guys. You both need to read "Eats, Shoots & Leaves", the humorous, short but very lively book about punctuation which has been a NYT bestseller. Written by Lynn Truss a true stickler for correct punctuation, it will make your inner stickler happy.
mitchellkeil , September 07, 2011

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