Sunday, August 23, 2009

Grammar: Introducing the comma

No, we're not going back to the beginning in this series of grammar goofs on commas, but proceeding to using commas after introductions.

To begin with, introductory clauses are dependent clauses that introduce the rest of the sentence, or the independent part of the sentence. Introductory clauses begins with adverbs: after, although, as, because, before, if, since, though, until, when, therefore, etc.

If I am to believe what is written, I have six months to live

Although a reviewer's job is to write what they did or did not like about a book, it is still just their opinion and thus subjective.

Introductory phrases are not dependent clauses, but have a subject and verb that are separate from the main clause, the independent clause, of the sentence. Introductory phrases may include phrases that are prepositional, appositive, participial, infinitive and absolute phrases.

To control weight, models limit their intake of carbohydrates and fats. (introductory infinitive phrase, main clause)

Lying judiciously, Annabelle chose her words carefully in order to keep the police from examining her further. (introductory participial phrase, main clause)

An intelligent and well-liked woman, Eleanor Roosevelt used her position and power to effect changes in her neighborhood of Greenwich Place. (introductory appositive phrase, main clause)

Blustering loudly and continuously, Jeremiah proclaimed his innocent. (introductory absolute phrase, main clause)

After enactment of the obscenely expensive stimulus package, unemployment continues to climb while the president jets all over the country and around the world with his vast entourage. (Introductory prepositional phrase, main clause)

Using words like however, furthermore, therefore, still and meanwhile provide links and continuity from one sentence to another.

The tea parties continue. Meanwhile, liberals continue to push their pork-heavy agendas.

The tests were conclusive. Still, there is a question of whether or not the illness is psychosomatic or physical.

There are instances when a comma is not necessary after an introductory clause. Here's how to tell the difference.

Use a comma:

  • After an introductory clause when the introduction has a subject and verb of its own (dependent clause).

  • After a long introductory prepositional phrase or more than one introductory prepositional phrase when there are more than five words before the main clause.

  • After introductory verbal phrases, some appositive phrases or absolute phrases.

  • If there is a distinct pause in order to avoid confusion. When you read it aloud, do you pause? Would the reader have to read the sentence more than once to understand it? If you answer yes, a comma is needed.

Do not use a comma:

  • After a brief prepositional phrase of less than five words.

  • After a restrictive (essential) appositive phrase. My best friend Connie and I met when we took driver's education in high school. (noun or pronoun is green and appositive is in yellow)

  • To separate the subject from the predicate.
  • (see below)

    Writing, rewriting and editing a novel is one of the easiest parts of being a writer when you consider the time and effort necessary to promote and market the published book.

    To write a book without any idea of how to market and sell it is a waste of the writer's and the publisher's time.

    It is difficult to trust someone who has blatantly lied to you over and over while professing their friendship and honesty.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. There is still more information on commas to come, but next week should finish this comma coma once and for all. Until then, may all your grammars goofs be easily fixed.

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