Are commas really all that important?
Student: Help, my teacher said I need more punctuation.
Me: You’ve come to the right place!
Student needed to add commas to the essay.
Student also needed advice for knowing when to add commas, even when the Tutor is not around. Here’s a partial list, based on Student’s essay.
- Cause, effect
- Due to the air raid siren, he panicked and fell down the stairs.
- Time/place phrase, sentence
- When he heard his family eating breakfast, he realized he was late to work.
- Month, year,
- On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed with much celebration.
- The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, with much celebration.
- Idea, and continuation of idea
- They started here, and finished there.
- Transition word, sentence
- This, but that.
- This, as well as that.
- A few transitions need punctuation on both sides
- This, however, that
- This, therefore, that
- List of this, that, the other
- Let’s bring plates, forks, and spoons.
Wait a minute
- I’ve seen lists where the last item gets no comma: plates, forks and spoons
- Yes, but that’s not very clear.
- The last comma separates the last item from the second to last.
- The last comma is so famous that it has its own name:
- The Oxford Comma
- Incidentally, list of lists needs a semicolon (;) between the lists:
- Let’s bring plates, forks, and spoons; sandwiches, snacks, soda; cups, napkins, paper towels.