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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Dozen Uses for Commas, Part 2

Today is Part 2 in our series on properly using commas. Last week, we talked about using commas with conjunctions to join independent clauses. This week, we're going to talk about using commas to set of nonessential or parenthetical elements of a sentence.

The Online Writing Lab from Purdue University offers these three questions to help you decided whether a word, phrase or clause is essential or nonessential:

1. If the word/phrase/clause is left out, does the sentence still make sense?
2. Does the word/phrase/clause interrupt the flow of the sentence?
3. If you move the word/phrase/clause to different positions within the sentence, does it still make sense?

If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, then the element should be set off by commas like the examples below:

Mr. Magoo, who preferred chocolate to vanilla, declined the cake that the hostess offered him.

The audio seemed clear enough. When she started transcribing it, however, she had trouble making out what the speaker was saying.