Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Commas: Proper Use

Please use proper punctuation when you write. I understand that language evolves and perhaps some outdated rules are no longer necessary. (Of course, some rules become relevant again, such as using “they” to indicate a singular, gender neutral pronoun.)

When you write academic papers, emails, even Facebook posts, don’t forget to use proper punctuation. Punctuation helps to express the ideas that you are spending time to share with others.

Commas are, at times, completely ignored. Remember the book “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss? The title is a great example of a (purposeful) misuse of commas. On her site Save the Comma, you can test your comma IQ with a quick and entertaining online quiz.

Maybe some writers are ignoring commas because they have questions about their use. For a quick reminder of the rules, I strongly recommend the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s Commas: Quick Rules. You can click through extended rules and more, including commas' relationship with semi-colons on the left.

To test yourself, you can try the exercises that Diana Hacker offers in A Writer’s Reference. (If the site asks you to log in, simply click “cancel.”) The chosen answer will be clearly explained to you and you can better understand why you were right (or wrong.)

We learn language in part by using it. Therefore, when you read published, edited work, pay attention to how commas are used. By actively reading, you can learn to be a better writer.  I know you can become a better writer. 

What are your favorite comma-use resources?


Anonymous said...

Chloe, I suggest you take a listen to the song "Oxford Comma" by Vampire Weekend. It pretty much expresses the way I feel about people like you who are a bit too fixated on other people's punctuation habits. I think there are bigger problems in the world than folks misusing or failing to use a comma.

Chloe Yelena Miller said...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reading the blog.

For interested readers, here's a link to the video and song (which was indeed comical):

Of course there are many issues in this world that are bigger than proper punctuation: Famine, war, disease... the list continues.

In order to discuss these "bigger problems," we rely upon a common language that follows certain rules concerning our grammar and vocabulary. As mentioned in this blog post, these rules shift with usage.

This blog is interested in helping people to write clearly in order to communicate important ideas.