Writing Tips: Basic Rules to Remember About Comma

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

One little comma can sometimes mean big trouble when you’re writing. Take this example: “Let’s eat Mom.” Without a comma, you just transformed an innocent invitation to something awful.

Watch how clever the little comma is in this Ted-Ed original lesson (video below), which focuses on two basic rules involving conjunctions and subordinates.

Conjunctions are FANBOYS

Conjunctions are “small” words that connect words and phrases. To remember the different conjunctions, think of the acronym FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.

They sometimes require the help of the comma. For example: Barthelem was accepted into the University of Chicago, and he is on the waitlist for Stanford University.

 Subordinates are Heavyweights

Subordinates are the heavyweights of sentences. They connect two unequal things: dependent and independent clauses. They include although, because, before, however, unless, and even though.

Subordinates sometimes need the comma. For example: “Even though Bartheleme loves to sing, he never sings in front of others.”

Don’t stumble on the little comma. View “The Comma Story” by Terisa Folaron and Brett Underhill.

Read other stories with accompanying videos:

Oxford Comma: To Use or Not to Use? That is the Question

Do You Know What Makes a Book a Book?

Almond, Vanilla, or Coffee? Let’s Talk about Old-Book Smell

Just like Your Body, Your Mind Needs a Daily Workout

Why Do We Need Literature? Four Unexpected Benefits

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA


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  1. Who versus Whom: Remember Just One Rule | Cindy Fazzi
  2. Do We Really Need the Oxford Comma? A Federal Court Says Yes | Cindy Fazzi

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