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Part II: Some Basics of Style > Exercise #5—The Comma

Chapter 8. Exercise #5—The Comma

To use a comma or not to use a comma, that is the question. The comma is a signal indicating a needed pause within a sentence. Add needed commas to the sentences below. Strike out or change punctuation that is unnecessary or incorrect.

1: The reason is, we weren’t sure about the meeting date, when I called.
A: The reason is we weren’t sure about the meeting date when I called.

Rule: Don’t overuse commas. “When in doubt, leave it out.”

2: Section Chief, Bill Jones, will meet with us Friday.
A: Section Chief Bill Jones will meet with us Friday.

Rule: Same as above.

3: Next year’s conference will be in Denver, I hope to see you there.
A: Next year’s conference will be in Denver; I hope to see you there.

Rule: Don’t link complete sentences with a comma; use a semicolon instead. NOTE: A COMMA IS A SIGNAL MEANING “PAUSE.” A SEMICOLON, LIKE A PERIOD, MEANS “STOP.”

4: The accountants gave us the good news and then they sent us their bill.
A: The accountants gave us the good news, and then they sent us their bill.

Rule: Use a comma before linking words (coordinating conjunctions) such as and, but, or, for, yet, so.

5: I have not completed my report so I cannot answer your question.
A: I have not completed my report, so I cannot answer your question.

Rule: Same as above.

6: The boss likes scotch bourbon and beer.
A: The boss likes scotch, bourbon, and beer.

Rule: Separate items in a series with commas. NOTE: ADD THE “SERIAL COMMA” (THE LAST ONE) TO AVOID CONFUSION.

7: He is a clever efficient manager.
A: He is a clever, efficient manager.

Rule: Place a comma between adjectives of equal importance.

8: Mr. Johnson, who gave the incorrect figure to the IRS will lead us in a moment of silent prayer.
A: Mr. Johnson, who gave the incorrect figure to the IRS, will lead us in a moment of silent prayer.

Rule: Do not omit the second comma from comma pairs.

9: The error, that Mr. Fleegle discovered, was not a serious one.
A: The error that Mr. Fleegle discovered was not a serious one.

Rule: Use a comma before “which,” not before “that.” NOTE: CHANGING WHICH TO THAT CHANGES THE MEANING OF THE SENTENCE.

10: “We are going to meet our deadline” the manager said.
A: “We are going to meet our deadline,” the manager said.

Rule: Use a comma to separate a direct quotation from explanatory words.




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