#WriteGripe: On Commas


My first language is Polish, the most comma-happy language ever. If I were to write that first sentence, there would be one after “Polish” and before “ever.” English doesn’t work this way. For clarity’s sake, commas are so helpful and I get into back-and-forth edits about them too often. Here are some tips.

Bustle provides an excellent overview of the importance of the Oxford comma in particular, the one that tends to go before “and.” Some funny misreadings can come of its omission. I find it really helpful for parsing through the meanings of sentence and understanding lists.

Aside from lists, Ohio State University also provides common errors that come with comma use. I never knew about the FANBOYS acronym for working through coordinating conjunctions. That would have been helpful learning ESL.

One thing that’s been left out, however, was the use of commas to fix misplaced modifiers. It’s important to ask yourself what the intended meaning of a sentence should be before adding or omitting commas. It really helps with clarity. When I read, I want to think about content, not syntax, and so, I imagine, do most people.

Happy writing,


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