Friday, October 5, 2012

The Elusive Comma (Part 2 of 7)

(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

Let's look at some basic rules regarding commas:

Independent Clauses

Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause. (Independent clauses have a subject and a verb, and they can stand alone as a complete sentence.) In the two examples below, the clauses before and after the comma are independent.

* The situation looked hopeless, but there was one chance for success

* The situation looked hopeless, but I didn't believe it.

However, don't join independent clauses with a comma if they lack a conjunction. Join them with a semicolon, or cut them into separate sentences.

* The situation looked hopeless; there was one remaining chance for success.

* The situation looked hopeless. There was one remaining chance for success.

A common mistake made with the comma is to separate a dependent clause from an independent clause when they are joined with a conjunction.

* I was told the situation looked hopeless but didn't believe it.

Each clause must have a subject and a verb to need a comma before the conjunction.

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at,

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