How and When to Use Commas – Using Commas Explained

January 13th, 2012 by

Often stumped on how and when to use commas?

As a writer, you’ll have to pay attention to proper punctuation to keep your work sparkly clean – and this is where using commas correctly matters. Commas are commonly used to enclose parenthetical phrases, before quotes, between adjectives, in lists and after introductory clauses or elements.

For a start, let’s take a look at the relationship between commas and introductory clauses.

How and When to Use Commas – Using Commas Explained

Time to come out of your comma coma!

Now, what is an introductory element?

True to its name, an introductory element is a word, phrase or even a clause that provides an introduction to the given sentence. A comma after the introductory element indicates a pause before the main clause of the sentence kicks in.

If you’re scratching your head at this point, here are some reading exercises that can help you understand the concept better. Let’s consider some introductory words like however, moreover, yes, and well. Read out the below examples aloud and check if you pause right where the comma is given:

However, we decided to cancel all plans and just take rest.

Yes, you can leave now.

If you did pause at the right spots, give yourself a quick pat on the back – this is one of the easiest ways to figure out where to use a comma.

Some of the common introductory clauses start with when, after, before, because, although, if, as,and while. Try out this second reading exercise:

If you are coming home now, you must pick up the groceries from the store.

Before you start working on this project, you need to meet the CEO.

While I chop the vegetables, you can blanch the spinach.

How do you spot this error?

Writers often tend to miss the commas that follow introductory elements and the easiest way to spot this error, as mentioned above, is to read out your final copy aloud. Whenever you pause after an introductory element in any sentence, insert the comma religiously.

Although there are some exceptions, using commas after introductory clauses enhances the readability significantly. Proper punctuation can also bring in a level of clarity, so do the good deed and spread the word!

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