Last time during the explanation on “What is a punctuation“, I mentioned that the uses of commas will be elaborated in a later session and this is exactly what this article is focussed on; so fasten your seat belts.
What Is A Comma?
→ A comma is a sign or punctuation mark which denotes the shortest pause and the least amount of separation between words, phrases or clauses.
Importance Of Commas
→ The comma is the most frequently used punctuation mark and has an array of uses.
Is this a coincidence, is this a chance?
Of course not! As I previously told you, a punctuation mark helps to translate or convey the exact voice inflexion from spoken to written words. And when anyone talks, there’s always a series of short pauses. Now by definition, a comma marks a short pause.
Now be careful to not overuse commas, that is, do not use too much of it in your sentence. Why? It will spoil the meaning of your sentence and making it confusing for your readers. A sentence with many unnecessary commas often leads to several interpretation.
When To Use Commas?
Your common sense and the desire to make your meaning clear, will usually guide you where a pause is needed. Just try to say aloud what you want to write and see for yourself where you make obvious pauses. Everything comes with practice and maturity of your writing skills.
General Uses Of Commas – When Are Commas Used?
1) To separate words in a list or series
→ Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Fernando Torres were the top three players nominated for the FIFA world player of the year.
2) To mark off direct speech
→ Aliya said, “He’s the handsome I was telling you about the other day.”
3) To mark off or separate expressions like: “however, in fact, of course, therefore, after all, indeed, for instance“, from the rest of a sentence
→ Indeed, Manchester United won the prestigious title of the world best football club.
→ It was, however, too expensive for our budget.
4) To show Ellipsis
→ You may go your way; I, mine.
→ He will soon succeed; you, never.
5) To mark off question tags.
→ The new year’s eve was great, isn’t it?
6) To separate short co-ordinate clauses
→ Please run upstairs, go to my room, get me my bag.
→ I came, I saw, I conquered.
→ When it rained, we got wet.
7) To mark off nouns in apposition
→ Problogger, Darren Rowse, is very much loved and solicited in the blogosphere.
8.) To separate clauses in a compound sentence.
→ Mickels Rea was very busy with his first official album, so he did not come to the last Star Academy get-together party.
In Complex Sentences, the comma should not be used when the omission of the Relative Clause would make the Principal Clause meaningless or would change its meanings. (Explanation of the red words in a later session)
Consider the following sentence:
→ “Shakespeare plays which were written in the years 1604-1609 are all tragic and sombre.”
⇒ Now, if commas marked off the clause as follows:
“Shakespeare plays, which were written in the years 1604-1609, are all tragic and sombre.”
This would completely change the whole meaning of the sentence and would thus convey the main meaning of: “Shakespeare plays are all tragic and sombre.”
Is this what the original sentence wanted to say? No, the original meant that only those written in the years 1604-1609 were tragic.
Got it? So, be careful when using commas.
There are other different ways in which commas are used, but I have brought forward only the most common and important ones. Commas can be used as per your intuition since different people and writers essentially have varied styles – but provided you convey the right meaning without ambiguities. In any case, I would to love to hear your comments below..