Commas are a vital part of sentence construction. They help your reader figure out what parts of a sentence go together, and what parts are separate. For today’s blog entry I decided to forgo the more famous image highlighting grandma cannibalism. Instead, in the above image, two commas are missing, leading to the consumption of both family and pets. When listing several things, commas help separate those items: “I like cooking, my family, and pets.” The use of commas in a list is relatively straight forward, but commas have many other uses.
For help with these various comma usages, check out the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s handy Commas Handout. They highlight several important comma myths, including that long sentences need commas, and that a comma should go everywhere you pause when speaking. They also encourage the use of a mnemonic device called “FANBOYS.” “FANBOYS” stands for conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. These words help connect parts of a sentence, and when they are connecting two independent clauses, you need a comma.
Still worried about your commas, or perhaps you remain beguiled by grammar? You can make an appointment with a Writing in History tutor. They are available Monday through Friday, usually 9am to 5pm. Learn more and make an appointment on our website.
Best, Dr. Ferdinando