Use of comma ...

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Use of comma ... Empty Use of comma ...

Post by Kangas on Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:44 am

In any language the use of comma causes some problems, but if you are bilingual and try to deal with two languages at the same time then it might become a bit worse.

It is widespread the notion that you use a comma ‘wherever you would pause”, but that is, in fact, wrong. In English, the comma has four distinct uses. I will use the same nomenclature used by Larry Trask in his explanation on the University of Essex website . So, according to this website, the four uses of comma are called listing comma, joining comma, gapping comma and bracketing comma.

I will explain each one of them according to the University of Essex

  • Listing Comma
    The listing comma is used to list three or more words, phrases or even complete sentences that are joined by the words and or or. It substitutes these words.

    • Use a listing comma in a list wherever you could use the word and or or instead.
      Exemple: Tony visited France, Italy and Greece.

    • Before and or or if that is necessary to make the sense of your sentence clear.
      Example: It was only me, Sarah, Tom, and Tess and John. (this implies that Tess and John are a couple or work together, so they count as a number in the list)

  • Joining Comma
    As its name indicates, a joining comma is used to connect segments in the sentence. It is followed by the connecting words and, or, but, yet or while.
    Example: He is a very good student, but still has a lot of work to do.

  • Gapping Comma
    In this case you use comma in substitution of a word that have already occurred in the sentence and you decided not to repeat.
    Example: Japan’s bullet train is the fastest in the world and the old steam, the slowest.

  • Bracketing Comma
    They always come in pairs, unless one of them would come at the beginning or at the end of the sentence. They represent a weak interruption which could be removed from the sentence without taking its sense.
    Example: My husband, who never took me seriously, always refused to praise my work.

Larry Trask gives us a few great tips to help us make a correct use of commas. His tips consist in 4 simples questions, and if we answer these questions correctly we will never get our commas wrong again …

So if you have any doubts or are still unsure about your commas ask yourself these 4 simple questions:

  1. Can the comma be replaced by and or or?
  2. Is it followed by one of the connecting words and, or, but, yet or while?
  3. Does it represent the absence of repetition?
  4. Does it form one of a pair of commas setting off an interruption which can be removed from the sentence?

If all your answers are “NO” then you have done something wrong. Review your sentence and make sure everything is done correctly.



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