Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Comma Usage Part 2

Are you ready for another dose of Comma Usage rules???

Let's dive right in! Here goes...

1) Commas can be used with parenthetical (supplementary/non-essential) elements for slight breaks. Use an em-dash for a stronger break.
She bought the thigh-high boots, even though she'd never wear them in public.
Romance heroes are handsome and muscular, for the most part.
The trip wasn't cancelled, in spite of the nasty weather.

2) Use commas with non-restrictive phrases. If a descriptive phrase isn't essential to the sentence's meaning, it's non-restrictive.
The boy, with the helmet perched sideways on his head, turned toward the rumbling Harley.
The doe, trailed by her trio of fawns, grazed her way across the yard.

3) Always use commas with dependent clauses that begin sentences, including participial and adverbial phrases.
If he saw one more tear, he'd break down and forgive her. (dependent clause)
Without any money, they couldn't rent a room for the night. (dependent clause)
Exhausted from the chase, she ducked into the tangle of briars to catch her breath. (participial phrase)
After hours of waiting, he no longer had any patience. (adverbial phrase)

4) Use commas to separate a listing of two or more adjectives before a noun when they can be connected by "and" and adding commas won't affect the meaning. The order of the adjectives can be reversed and still make sense. Repeated adjectives also need commas.
He shoved his fingers into the sticky, gooey dough.
The forecast is calling for a cold, rainy, overcast day.
Many, many people have phobias.

5) Direct addresses require commas. Remember "Let's eat Grandma." vs. "Let's eat, Grandma."???
When did you arrive, Aunt Millie?
Miss, please close the door.
You, Mr. Drake, aren't welcome here.

6) Use a comma after an introductory "yes" or "no."
Yes, you may sit there.
No, I wasn't expecting you.

In case you missed my other comma-related posts, check out Comma Usage Part 1, Comma Splices and Punctuation for Dialogue.

Next week, I'll tackle more ways to use commas. No, I don't expect you to remember them all!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!


  1. Excellent, more useful info. You realise I print them all off for reference! As to this post, 5) and 6) I have no problems remembering, but the rest is going to require some serious thinking as my brain is hurting!

    1. Hooray for cheat sheets!!! Sometimes they're easier to use than a reference guide. :)