Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Comma

Let us take pause to appreciate one of the most useful, versatile, and nimble members of punctuation, The Comma.
The Comma, though slight in stature, has tremendous strength and agility.  She can appear several times in the same sentence performing a multitude of different functions which help give that sentence greater structure, stability, and clarity.  If you underestimate her capabilities, then you do so at your own peril. 

SUPER POWERS:
The Comma has an array of useful powers.  Among them are the abilities to separate words or groups of words that occur in a series (like when you're making a list of three or more items: "I'm strong, fast, and fearless.").  Her stronger powers include being able to join phrases and dependent clauses to the main clause of a sentence.

SUPER TEAMWORK:
The Comma is very well known for teaming up with her ally, The Conjunction.  They join forces to correctly join two or more independent clauses into one solid sentence.  Neither of them is strong enough to do this task on their own, but together, they get the job done with ease.  Also, The Comma is always ready to assist The Interjection and The Adjective whenever they’re in need of her help.

USE THE COMMA:
  • To separate words in a series (A.K.A. the serial comma)
  • With a coordinating conjunction
  • After an interjection
  • To separate multiple adjectives
  • When directly addressing a person

SUPER EXAMPLES:

#1) 

I need a mask, a cape, some gloves, and stretchy pants!

commas: to separate three or more words or groups of words in a series

#2) 

Give me the money, or things will get ugly.

commas: place before a coordinating conjunction

#3)

Wow, that’s super sticky.

commas: after an interjection

 #4)

Do not press that large, ominous button.

commas: to separate multiple adjectives
  
#5)

Captain Catch, you saved my life.

commas: when directly addressing a person (at the beginning of a sentence)
  
#6)

You’re my hero, Captain Catch.

commas: when directly addressing a person (at the end of a sentence)

A SINGLE COMMA CAN MAKE A SUPER DIFFERENCE:

If you don’t use a comma between two items, they’re considered a single unit. 

#1) 

Mr. Crook, Mr. Bandit and Mr. Thief will each get an equal share of the loot.

There’s no comma between Mr. Bandit and Mr. Thief, so they’re a single unit.
This means Mr. Crook gets 50%, Mr. Bandit gets 25%, and Mr. Thief gets 25%.
In this sentence, the three criminals did not actually get equal shares of the loot.

#2) 

Mr. Crook, Mr. Bandit, and Mr. Thief will each get an equal share of the loot.

There’s a comma separating each criminal, so they’re each a single unit.   
This means Mr. Crook gets 33%, Mr. Bandit gets 33%, and Mr. Thief gets 33%.
In this sentence, the three criminals got equal shares of the loot.

They say that crime doesn’t pay, but it will pay even less if you don’t use your commas correctly.

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