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Using Commas Correctly

What are commas?

Commas are the most common punctuation mark used in English and therefore the most difficult to keep under control.  They signal the reader that it's time to pause briefly but then keep going to the end of the sentence.

What causes comma errors?

Here are the three main causes of comma errors:

  1. Using the old "put a comma where I stop to take a breath" rule;

  2. Thinking that you must put a comma before every AND in a sentence;

  3. Catching a bad case of comma-itis, a condition that makes a writer feel the need to insert a comma after every couple words.
How can I check for comma correctness?

After you have written your paper, use the FIND command to move through your writing, comma by comma.  If you can't think of a good reason to have a comma in any particular sentence, chances are that comma is not needed.  (See COMMA DO'S AND DON'TS.)

How do I fix comma errors?

Refer to COMMA DO'S AND DON'TS for a quick list of the places where commas are needed and those places where they are not needed.  If you're tempted to use a comma in a sentence you are writing, but it doesn't fit into one of the "Comma Do's" categories, keep this simple comma rule in mind:

When in doubt, leave it out!

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