Writing Non-Fiction posted February 22, 2021


The Comma

by giraffmang

Commas… I hate them. They are the bane of my existence. I’m willing to bet many other folk struggle with them, too. But is it really that difficult to get to grips with them on a basic level?

I’m home-schooling my nine-year-old at the minute. She’s learning about commas and the four basic usages for them.
  • To separate items in a list
  • After a fronted adverbial (yeah, I was scratching my head at this one as well)
  • To add extra information to a sentence
  • After direct speech
So, there you go. So easy even a nine-year-old could do it.

Not simple enough. Okay, here come the examples –

Separating items –

‘I packed swimming trunks, towel, sunscreen and spare clothes for the trip.’
In this sentence, the items are separated by a comma to show they are different or unique. ‘And’ is used before the last item in the list.

After a fronted adverbial –

‘As I switched off the light, the room went dark.’
Here, only the part of the sentence following the comma (the main clause) would make sense on its own – The room went dark. The first part of the sentence (the fronted adverbial) tells the reader when, where, or how something happened.

To add extra information to a sentence –

‘The boy, who had been fouled, rolled around on the ground in agony.’
The extra information in this sentence comes between two commas. This is sometimes called the ‘parenthesis’ and in this case is a relative clause as it tells us more about the boy. The sentence would still make sense without the extra information – The boy rolled around on the ground in agony.

After direct speech –

“I can’t wait to try using the comma,” announced another frustrated writer.
The comma shows the person has finished speaking and is immediately followed by the closing speech marks. The sentence is not finished, however, and that is why there is no full stop. The information after the speech marks shows how it was said and the sentence finishes following this.

My daughter, having never done this type of work before, managed to identify the correct usage from ten examples out of ten, and apply them in another ten.

Go on, give it a go!



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