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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Dozen Uses for Commas, Part 3

We've talked about using commas with conjunctions to join independent clauses and setting off nonessential or parenthetical elements in a sentence. Next, as part of our series on commas, we're going to look at using them after introductory clauses, phrases or words at the beginning of sentences.

There is a lot of detailed information in understanding the hows and whys of comma usage with introductory elements, so I'm going to try to simplify it for transcription purposes, but if I oversimplify it and you need more of an explanation, let me know. You can also visit Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL) for more details.

First, let's define those introductory elements.

An introductory clause begins with an adverb such as although, because, while, if, etc.

Although she was very tired, she knew that she had to get her work done.

Because he'd always wanted to work at home, he decided to pursue transcription.

An introductory phrase is different than a clause because it doesn't have a separate subject and verb (for example, if you take the adverb off the clauses in italics above, they are complete sentences, making them clauses rather than phrases). These phrases come in a variety of flavors. Without going into the nitty gritty details, the important part of the rule is to use a comma after an introductory phrase that is either five or more words long or is followed by an audible pause when spoken verbally.

Running as fast as she could, she was able to get the ball before it rolled out into the street.

In order to get my work done on time, I had to get up at 3:30 a.m.

Introductory words include "however," "still," "meanwhile," et cetera and provide continuity between sentences.

However, I do love being a WAHM.

Next week, we'll look when not to use a comma with introductory elements and pseudo-introductory elements. In the meantime, test your understanding with this quiz from Purdue's OWL.


margi said...

I just love your autobiographical example sentences. LOL!

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