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The Comma (,) would know why the duck scared your friend.

Clauses that begin

a. The comma is useful in a sentence when the writer wishes to: with "that" are usually essential to the sentence and do not require
pause before proceeding commas.
add a phrase that does not contain any new subject 4. Use commas to separate items in a series.
separate items on a list For example, "I saw a duck, a magician, and a liquor store when I
went running."
use more than one adjective (a describing word, like
That last comma, known as the serial comma, Oxford comma, or
Harvard comma, causes serious controversy. Although many
For example, in the following sentence the phrase or clause
consider it unnecessary, others, including Business Insider, insist on
between the commas gives us more information behind the actions
its use to reduce ambiguity.
of the boy, the subject of the sentence:
There's an Internet meme that demonstrates its necessity perfectly.
The boy, who knew that his mother was about to arrive, ran quickly
The sentence, "We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin," means the
towards the opening door.
speaker sent three separate invitations: one to some strippers, one
Note that if the phrase or clause were to be removed, the sentence
to JFK, and one to Stalin. The version without the Oxford comma,
would still make sense although there would be a loss of
however, takes on an entirely different meaning, potentially
information. Alternatively, two sentences could be used:
suggesting that only one invitation was sent to two strippers
The boy ran quickly towards the opening door. He knew that his
named JFK and Stalin. Witness: "We invited the strippers, JFK and
mother was about to arrive.
5. Use a comma after introductory adverbs.
B. Commas are also used to separate items in a list.
"Finally, I went running."
For example:
"Unsurprisingly, I saw a duck when I went running."
The shopping trolley was loaded high with bottles of beer, fruit,
Many adverbs end in "ly" and answer the question "how?" How did
vegetables, toilet rolls, cereals and cartons of milk.
someone do something? How did something happen? Adverbs that
Note that in a list, the final two items are linked by the word and
don't end in "ly," such as "when" or "while," usually introduce a
rather than by a comma.
dependent clause, which rule number two in this post already
Commas are used to separate adjectives.
For example:
Also insert a comma when "however" starts a sentence, too. Phrases
The boy was happy, eager and full of anticipation at the start of his
like "on the other hand" and "furthermore" also fall into this
summer holiday.
As commas represent a pause, it is good practice to read your
Starting a sentence with "however," however, is discouraged by
writing out loud and listen to where you make natural pauses as you
many careful writers. A better method would be to use "however"
read it. More often than not, you will indicate where a comma
within a sentence after the phrase you want to negate, as in the
should be placed by a natural pause. Although, the rules of where a
previous sentence.
comma needs to be placed should also be followed.
6. Use a comma when attributing quotes.
For example:
The rule for where the comma goes, however, depends on where
However, it has been suggested that some bees prefer tree pollen.
attribution comes.
If attribution comes before the quote, place the comma outside the
1. Use a comma before any coordinating conjunction (and, but, for,
quotations marks. The runner said, "I saw a duck."
or, nor, so, yet) that links two independent clauses.
If attribution comes after the quote, put the comma inside the
Example: "I went running, and I saw a duck."
quotation marks. "I saw a duck," said the runner.
You may need to learn a few grammatical terms to understand this
7. Use a comma to separate each element in an address. Also use a
comma after a city-state combination within a sentence.
An independent clause is a unit of grammatical organization that
"I work at 257 Park Ave. South, New York, N.Y. 10010."
includes both a subject and verb and can stand on its own as a
"Cleveland, Ohio, is a great city."
sentence. In the previous example, "I went running" and "I saw a
8. Also use a comma to separate the elements in a full date
duck" are both independent clauses, and "and" is the coordinating
(weekday, month and day, and year). Also separate a combination
conjunction that connects them. Consequently, we insert a comma.
of those elements from the rest of the sentence with commas.
If we were to eliminate the second "I" from that example, the
"March 15, 2013, was a strange day." Even if you add a weekday,
second clause would lack a subject, making it not a clause at all. In
keep the comma after "2013."
that case, it would no longer need a comma: "I went running and
"Friday, March 15, 2013, was a strange day."
saw a duck."
"Friday, March 15, was a strange day."
2. Use a comma after a dependent clause that starts a sentence.
You don't need to add a comma when the sentence mentions only
Example: "When I went running, I saw a duck."
the month and year. "March 2013 was a strange month."
A dependent clause is a grammatical unit that contains both subject
9. Use a comma when the first word of the sentence is
and verb but cannot stand on its own, like "When I went running ..."
freestanding "yes" or "no."
Commas always follow these clauses at the start of a sentence. If a
"Yes, I saw a duck when I went running."
dependent clause ends the sentence, however, it no longer requires
"No, the duck didn't bite me."
a comma. Only use a comma to separate a dependent clause at the
10. Use a comma when directly addressing someone or something
end of a sentence for added emphasis, usually when negation
in a sentence.
My editor often asks, "Christina, is that article up yet?"
3. Use commas to offset appositives from the rest of the sentence.
Another clever meme shows the problem with incorrect placement
Appositives act as synonyms for a juxtaposed word or phrase. For
of this comma. "Stop clubbing baby seals" reads like an order to
example, "While running, I saw a mallard, a kind of duck." "A kind of
desist harming infant mammals of the seal variety. The version with
duck" is the appositive, which gives more information about "a
a comma, however, instructs them to stop attending hip dance
clubs. "Stop clubbing, baby seals."
If the appositive occurs in the middle of the sentence, both sides of
11. Use a comma between two adjectives that modify the same
the phrase need a comma. As in, "A mallard, a kind of duck, attacked
For example: "I saw the big, mean duck when I went running."
Don't let the length of an appositive scare you. As long as the phrase
Only coordinate adjectives require a comma between them. Two
somehow gives more information about its predecessor, you usually
adjectives are coordinate if you can answer yes to both of these
need a comma.
questions: 1. Does the sentence still make sense if you reverse the
"A mallard, the kind of duck I saw when I went running, attacked
order of the words? 2. Does the sentence still make sense if you
insert "and" between the words?
There's one exception to this rule. Don't offset a phrase that gives
Since "I saw the mean, big duck " and "I saw the big and mean duck"
necessary information to the sentence. Usually, commas surround a
both sound fine, you need the comma.
non-essential clause or phrase. For example, "The duck that
Sentences with non-coordinate adjectives, however, don't require a
attacked me scared my friend" doesn't require any commas. Even
comma. For example, "I lay under the powerful summer sun."
though the phrase "that attacked me" describes "the duck," it
"Powerful" describes "summer sun" as a whole phrase. This often
provides essential information to the sentence. Otherwise, no one
occurs with adjunct nouns, a phrase where a noun acts as an What's going on here? The conjunctive adverb however signals a
adjective describing another noun like "chicken soup" or "dance connection between two independent clauses, and commas
club." should not be used to connect independent clauses if there is
12. Use a comma to offset negation in a sentence. no coordinating conjunction.
For example: "I saw a duck, not a baby seal, when I went running." Incorrect: I like cows: they give us milk, which tastes good, they give
In this case, you still need the comma if the negation occurs at the us beef, which also tastes good, and they give us leather, which is
end of the sentence. "I saw a baby seal, not a duck." used for shoes and coats.
Also use commas when any distinct shift occurs in the sentence or Correct: I like cows: they give us milk, which tastes good; they give
thought process. "The cloud looked like an animal, perhaps a baby us beef, which also tastes good; and they give us leather, which is
seal." used for shoes and coats.
13. Use commas before every sequence of three numbers when What's going on here? It's unclear what the three list items are,
writing a number larger than 999. (Two exceptions are writing since the items are separated by commas.
years and house numbers.) Incorrect: Cows, though their bovine majesty has been on the wane
For example, 10,000 or 1,304,687. in recent millenia, are still one of the great species of this planet,
domesticated, yet proud, they ruminate silently as we humans pass
tumultuously by.
Using Semicolons Correct: Cows, though their bovine majesty has been on the wane in
Semicolons help you connect closely related ideas when a style recent millenia, are still one of the great species of this
mark stronger than a comma is needed. By using semicolons planet; domesticated, yet proud, they ruminate silently as we
effectively, you can make your writing sound more sophisticated. humans pass tumultuously by.
Connect closely related ideas What's going on here? It's unclear where the first independent
Link two independent clauses to connect closely related clause ends and the second independent clause begins.
ideas Avoid using a semicolon when a comma is needed:
Some people write with a word processor; others write with a pen Incorrect: Because cows smell; they offend me.
or pencil. Correct: Because cows smell, they offend me.
Link clauses connected by conjunctive
adverbs or transitional phrases to connect closely related Colon
ideas A colon introduces an element or series of elements that illustrates
But however they choose to write, people are allowed to make their or amplifies the information that preceded the colon. While a
own decisions; as a result, many people swear by their writing semicolon normally joins two independent clauses to signal a close
methods. connection between them, a colon does the job of directing you to
Link lists where the items contain commas to avoid the information following it.
confusion between list items Many people are confused about using colons, but their function is
There are basically two ways to write: with a pen or pencil, which is actually quite straightforward. Think of it as a flashing arrow that
inexpensive and easily accessible; or by computer and printer, which points to the information following it. When a colon appears in a
is more expensive but quick and neat. sentence, it usually gives the silent impression of as follows,
which is/are, or thus.
Link lengthy clauses or clauses with commas to avoid
There are three types of muscle in the body: cardiac, smooth, and
confusion between clauses
Some people write with a word processor, typewriter, or a
The colon in this sentence signals that you are about to learn the
computer; but others, for different reasons, choose to write with a
names of the three types of muscles the sentence already
pen or pencil.
mentioned. We might silently read the sentence this way.
Rules for Using Semicolons
There are three types of muscle in the body (and they are): cardiac,
A semicolon is most commonly used to link (in a single smooth, and skeletal.
sentence) twoindependent clauses that are closely related Colons are often used with lists, as in the example above. They can
in thought. also be used to signal further clarification.
When a semicolon is used to join two or more ideas (parts) in a We have two options here: stay and fight, or run like the wind.
sentence, those ideas are then given equal position or rank. One might silently read this as:
Some people write with a word processor; others write with a pen We have two options here (and they are as follows): stay and fight,
or pencil. or run like the wind.
Use a semicolon between two independent clauses that Colons can also introduce a quotation:
are connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional He ended with the immortal words of Neil Young: Rock and Roll can
phrases. never die.
But however they choose to write, people are allowed to make their Colons Separating Independent Clauses
own decisions; as a result, many people swear by their writing A colon can be used to separate two independent clauses when a)
methods. the second clause is directly related to the first clause (not just
Use a semicolon between items in a list or series if any of vaguely related) and b) when the emphasis is on the second clause.
the items contain commas. While you can also use a semicolon or a period between two
There are basically two ways to write: with a pen or pencil, which is independent-yet-related clauses, the colon is a little softer than the
inexpensive and easily accessible; or by computer and printer, which period, but a little harder than the semicolon.
is more expensive but quick and neat. A dolphin is not fish: it is a warm-blooded mammal.
Use a semicolon between independent clauses joined by The research is conclusive: climate change is a reality.
a coordinating conjunction if the clauses are already In British English, the word following a colon is not capitalized unless
punctuated with commas or if the clauses are lengthy. it is a proper noun or an acronym. In American English, styles differ,
Some people write with a word processor, typewriter, or a but it is best to capitalize the first word after a colon if what follows
computer; but others, for different reasons, choose to write with a forms two or more complete sentences.
pen or pencil. I have several plans for my immediate future: First, Im going to win
Avoid using a comma when a semicolon is needed: the lottery. Second, Im going to buy a unicorn. Third, I will marry
Incorrect: The cow is brown, it is also old. Brad Pitt.
Correct: The cow is brown; it is also old. Misuse of Colons
What's going on here? Both parts of the sentence are independent A colon should not separate a noun from its verb, a verb from its
clauses, and commas should not be used to connect independent object or subject complement, a preposition from its object, or a
clauses if there is no coordinating conjunction. This mistake is subject from its predicate.
known as a comma splice. To illustrate, here is one of our sentences from above rewritten
The three types of muscle in the body are: cardiac, smooth, and
Incorrect: I like cows, however, I hate the way they smell. skeletal.
Correct: I like cows; however, I hate the way they smell.
Putting the colon here separates the verb are from its subject
complements (cardiac, smooth, and skeletal). Indirect quotations are not exact wordings but rather rephrasings or
When I graduate, I want to go to: Rome, Israel, and Egypt. summaries of another person's words. In this case, it is not
The colon should be removed from this sentence because it necessary to use quotation marks. However, indirect quotations still
separates the preposition to from its objects (Rome, Israel, and require proper citations, and you will be commiting plagiarism if you
Egypt). To write this sentence correctly, the colon should be fail to do so.
When I graduate, I want to go to Rome, Israel, and Egypt. Mr. Johnson, a local farmer, reported last night that he saw an alien
spaceship on his own property.
Many writers struggle with when to use direct quotations versus
indirect quotations. Use the following tips to guide you in your
How to Use Quotation Marks choice.
A rundown of the general rules of when and where to use quotation Use direct quotations when the source material uses language that
marks. is particularly striking or notable. Do not rob such language of its
Contributors:Sean M. Conrey, Mark Pepper, Allen Brizee power by altering it.
Last Edited: 2013-04-18 08:14:53
Using Quotation Marks Martin Luther King Jr. believed that the end of slavery was important
and of great hope to millions of slaves done horribly wrong.
The primary function of quotation marks is to set off and represent The above should never stand in for:
exact language (either spoken or written) that has come from
somebody else. The quotation mark is also used to designate speech Martin Luther King Jr. said of the Emancipation Proclamation, "This
acts in fiction and sometimes poetry. Since you will most often use momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions
them when working with outside sources, successful use of of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering
quotation marks is a practical defense against accidental plagiarism injustice."
and an excellent practice in academic honesty. The following rules of Use an indirect quotation (or paraphrase) when you merely need to
quotation mark use are the standard in the United States, although summarize key incidents or details of the text.
it may be of interest that usage rules for this punctuation do vary in
other countries. Use direct quotations when the author you are quoting has coined a
term unique to her or his research and relevant within your own
The following covers the basic use of quotation marks. For details paper.
and exceptions consult the separate sections of this guide.
When to use direct quotes versus indirect quotes is ultimately a
Direct Quotations choice you'll learn a feeling for with experience. However, always try
to have a sense for why you've chosen your quote. In other words,
Direct quotations involve incorporating another person's exact never put quotes in your paper simply because your teacher says,
words into your own writing. "You must use quotes."

1. Quotation marks always come in pairs. Do not open a quotation

and fail to close it at the end of the quoted material.

2. Capitalize the first letter of a direct quote when the quoted

material is a complete sentence.

Mr. Johnson, who was working in his field that morning, said, "The
alien spaceship appeared right before my own two eyes."
3. Do not use a capital letter when the quoted material is a fragment
or only a piece of the original material's complete sentence.

Although Mr. Johnson has seen odd happenings on the farm, he

stated that the spaceship "certainly takes the cake" when it comes
to unexplainable activity.
4. If a direct quotation is interrupted mid-sentence, do not capitalize
the second part of the quotation.

"I didn't see an actual alien being," Mr. Johnson said, "but I sure
wish I had."
5. In all the examples above, note how the period or comma
punctuation always comes before the final quotation mark. It is
important to realize also that when you are using MLA or some
other form of documentation, this punctuation rule may change.

When quoting text with a spelling or grammar error, you should

transcribe the error exactly in your own text. However, also insert
the term sic in italics directly after the mistake, and enclose it in
brackets. Sic is from the Latin, and translates to "thus," "so," or "just
as that." The word tells the reader that your quote is an exact
reproduction of what you found, and the error is not your own.

Mr. Johnson says of the experience, "It's made me reconsider the

existence of extraterestials [sic]."
6. Quotations are most effective if you use them sparingly and keep
them relatively short. Too many quotations in a research paper will
get you accused of not producing original thought or material (they
may also bore a reader who wants to know primarily what YOU have
to say on the subject).

Indirect Quotations