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Commas, Comma-itis

posted Aug 24, 2012, 2:16 PM by David Burkhart   [ updated Aug 24, 2012, 2:19 PM ]
(8319) Everything anyone needs to know about commas can be found in every writing handbook. The same information can be read in a textbook, a writing handbook, or found online. Google "comma use" or "commas."

However, I have found that many students live in denial. They think if they don't use a comma the need will go away.

Compare this with being thirsty. You can't ignore it. It will not go away until you drink a glass of water.

Therefore, this gets to the point that many students write and don't know they need a comma. It finally hit me that most students think their professors are also their editors. Imagine the shock emitted from 100 students when they see I have counted off points for comma usage and lack of usage, as well as typographical errors.

I progress to this point every semester after three weeks of pointing out comma errors, marking commas on hard copy, and verbally telling students to use their writing handbooks.

Hey! (southern expression not to be used in technical writing) Dudes and Dudettes! (not gender stereotyping) use the writing handbook to learn all the parts of speech that you didn't learn in high school. Or, use online sources.

Start by opening the handbook and going straight through. Do ten pages a day until you've made it through. After that, you'll know what is there and you will be able to look up all usage. It cost at least $35.00. So, use it.

Big clue: If you are writing complex sentences, meaning you have ventured from simple sentences, you may need a comma.

True: If you are writing any form of technical communication you need fewer commas because your goal is to write concisely in standard English. If you write essays and non-fiction, you're writing fact. Therefore, you will use many simple sentences mixed with complex sentences. Watch your punctuation. If you are writing a novel, not all thoughts will be complete sentences. You will mix in all the punctuation you've ever known and then some.

The cure for comma-itis is to open the writing handbook to the section on comma usage. This can be accessed by finding the section via the index (which is in the back of the book in the part called "back matter").