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Old 11-13-2012, 09:39 PM   #1
maxitoutwriter
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How do you spot introductory commas?

I'm on a quest to master the comma once and for all. However, I oftentimes miss introductory phrases.

Any hints/tips for mastering the introductory comma?
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Old 11-13-2012, 09:48 PM   #2
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The way I was taught was: the introductory element can usually be shifted around.

After the boy saw the girl, he ran away.
The boy ran away after he saw a girl.

So it gets a comma in the first example because it's shifted from its usual position at the end. (or 'Because it's shifted from it's usual position, it gets a comma in the first example)

Common introductory phrases start with:

1 prepositions: in the beginning, after she made it home, before...
2 -ing participals: walking down the street, skipping, shifting...

Some style manuals see the comma as optional in intro phrases if there's less than two words, but style differs.
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:23 PM   #3
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In the simplest form, look for dependant clauses. That is, can it stand alone as a complete sentence or is it dependant upon the rest of the sentence to make sense.

Now, obviously, there are exceptions. Two of which you see here. "That is", technically, is a complete sentence. It has a subject and a verb. The proviso here is that we really don't know what "that" is unless we take in the rest of the sentence. The second instance is the interjection. Not like an "OH!" or "Alas" that you might see or hear. This is more of a construction matter. "Obviously" is not part of the body of the sentence and would not make any sense just hanging out there by itself. It is solely dependant upon some other comment to support it.
Quote:
"That VW is not big enough for all six of us," he says as the group tries to squeeze into the little Jetta.
She favors him with a withering glance and says, "Obviously."
Obviously what? Obviously, the Jetta is not big enough to hold six people. Her comment is a complete (though contracted) statement but we would have no idea what she was talking about without his previous comment.

Now, as to that 'introductory comma' you wondered about.

When you find a dependant clause at the opening of a sentence or, if you find the beginning and the end go together but there is a dependant clause dividing the main sentence, that is where you are going to find your commas.

Now, another conundrum you may encounter is the compound sentence. Something like, "Instead of brussels sprouts, which Kaylie declared she hated, Mom cooked broccoli." [Note that the inclusion of the word "which" makes the dependant clause dependant upon the main sentence, "Mom cooked broccoli." Ahead of all of that, however, is the clarifier, "Instead of brussels sprouts," (also a dependant clause).

Totally confused yet? I'll try to simplify. If it can't stand alone, it's going to need a comma.
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Old 11-14-2012, 04:02 AM   #4
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Thanks guys, I figured out another trick to it while studying earlier.

My comma usage improved almost instantly because I took a couple quizzes and did way better.

Pretty helpful, so I figure I will share it for anyone who struggles with commas like myself.


Here's the test: Always use a comma if you can take that clause/phrase out and the sentence still makes sense.

E.g.

Walking back from the store Timmy had bought a machine gun and two machetes.

If you can take out the first part and it still makes sense, then you need a comma there.

Timmy had bought a machine gun and two machetes.

It makes sense, so you need a comma between store and Timmy.
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Old 11-14-2012, 04:13 AM   #5
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I will die a slow painful death due to the use and misuse of the humble comma. I loathe them and generally my daily editing involves removing about 100 of them that I really didnt need to put in in the first place! To add a question to this post, does anyone know a good reference for the rules of commas?
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Old 11-14-2012, 04:46 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Kimmy84 View Post
I will die a slow painful death due to the use and misuse of the humble comma. I loathe them and generally my daily editing involves removing about 100 of them that I really didnt need to put in in the first place! To add a question to this post, does anyone know a good reference for the rules of commas?
Haha, I have the exact same problem. We should start a comma trauma support group.

That is why I'm studying them like a madman (two hours a day, every day) until I have fully beaten the mischievous little devils to a pulp. Sitting idly by hoping to understand them is never going to work.

What I have heard some writers tell me is to study just ONE rule at a time, until you fully understand it. That is why this thread is focused on just introductory commas.

What I do for studying rules is I exhaust everything on the rule. I go all-out when I study a rule.

For example, not only have I written posts on this forum(Among other writing forums), I have went down the list of resources on Google(All the way to page 3), I have watched tons of videos on Youtube about the topic AND when it is all said and done, I take a quiz at the end of each study.

If I learned just one new thing about the rule, then it was time well spent because it means I improved.

I'll elaborate further later, I have to go somewhere.
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:11 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fallen View Post
The way I was taught was: the introductory element can usually be shifted around.

After the boy saw the girl, he ran away.
The boy ran away after he saw a girl.

So it gets a comma in the first example because it's shifted from its usual position at the end. (or 'Because it's shifted from it's usual position, it gets a comma in the first example)

Common introductory phrases start with:

1 prepositions: in the beginning, after she made it home, before...
2 -ing participals: walking down the street, skipping, shifting...

Some style manuals see the comma as optional in intro phrases if there's less than two words, but style differs.
What's a "participal"? Is that something like, when in school, where a bad boy or bad girl gets sent to?
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheWordsmith View Post
In the simplest form, look for dependant clauses. That is, can it stand alone as a complete sentence or is it dependant upon the rest of the sentence to make sense.

Now, obviously, there are exceptions. Two of which you see here. "That is", technically, is a complete sentence. It has a subject and a verb. The proviso here is that we really don't know what "that" is unless we take in the rest of the sentence. The second instance is the interjection. Not like an "OH!" or "Alas" that you might see or hear. This is more of a construction matter. "Obviously" is not part of the body of the sentence and would not make any sense just hanging out there by itself. It is solely dependant upon some other comment to support it.
Quote:
"That VW is not big enough for all six of us," he says as the group tries to squeeze into the little Jetta.
She favors him with a withering glance and says, "Obviously."
Obviously what? Obviously, the Jetta is not big enough to hold six people. Her comment is a complete (though contracted) statement but we would have no idea what she was talking about without his previous comment.

Now, as to that 'introductory comma' you wondered about.

When you find a dependant clause at the opening of a sentence or, if you find the beginning and the end go together but there is a dependant clause dividing the main sentence, that is where you are going to find your commas.

Now, another conundrum you may encounter is the compound sentence. Something like, "Instead of brussels sprouts, which Kaylie declared she hated, Mom cooked broccoli." [Note that the inclusion of the word "which" makes the dependant clause dependant upon the main sentence, "Mom cooked broccoli." Ahead of all of that, however, is the clarifier, "Instead of brussels sprouts," (also a dependant clause).

Totally confused yet? I'll try to simplify. If it can't stand alone, it's going to need a comma.
I'm confused.
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:21 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by maxitoutwriter View Post
Thanks guys, I figured out another trick to it while studying earlier.

My comma usage improved almost instantly because I took a couple quizzes and did way better.

Pretty helpful, so I figure I will share it for anyone who struggles with commas like myself.

Here's the test: Always use a comma if you can take that clause/phrase out and the sentence still makes sense.
E.g.
Walking back from the store Timmy had bought a machine gun and two machetes.
If you can take out the first part and it still makes sense, then you need a comma there.
Timmy had bought a machine gun and two machetes.
It makes sense, so you need a comma between store and Timmy.
Quote:
Originally Posted by maxitoutwriter View Post
Haha, I have the exact same problem. We should start a comma trauma support group.

That is why I'm studying them like a madman (two hours a day, every day) until I have fully beaten the mischievous little devils to a pulp. Sitting idly by hoping to understand them is never going to work.

What I have heard some writers tell me is to study just ONE rule at a time, until you fully understand it. That is why this thread is focused on just introductory commas.

What I do for studying rules is I exhaust everything on the rule. I go all-out when I study a rule.

For example, not only have I written posts on this forum(Among other writing forums), I have went down the list of resources on Google(All the way to page 3), I have watched tons of videos on Youtube about the topic AND when it is all said and done, I take a quiz at the end of each study.

If I learned just one new thing about the rule, then it was time well spent because it means I improved.

I'll elaborate further later, I have to go somewhere.
What comma quizzes? And where are they to be found, if someone wanted to find them?

Two hours per day studying, just on commas?! How many days has it been?

Where are these "rules" to be found?

Er, where is everybody????? (Is everyone making popcorn?)

Last edited by F.E.; 11-14-2012 at 05:34 AM.
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:25 AM   #10
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Hey, can we start talking about passive voice?

Where's Bufty?

Okay, okay, I'll go back and do some editing ...

Last edited by F.E.; 11-14-2012 at 05:33 AM.
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Old 11-14-2012, 08:24 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F.E. View Post
What comma quizzes? And where are they to be found, if someone wanted to find them?
Google 'comma quiz,' they're easy to find.

Quote:
Originally Posted by F.E. View Post

Two hours per day studying, just on commas?! How many days has it been?
It's been three days so far, and yeah, I'm only studying commas. My goal is to fully understand commas, and then move onto another area of my writing and improve.

Quote:
Originally Posted by F.E. View Post
Where are these "rules" to be found?
This can get you started in learning the rules, but I would study each individual rule from a variety of different sources. It is easier to find it explained in terms that are understandable when you study from different sources. Sooner or later, someone says something that clicks in your head.

Comma rules:

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/607/02/
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Old 11-14-2012, 11:45 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by F.E. View Post
What's a "participal"? Is that something like, when in school, where a bad boy or bad girl gets sent to?
I missed an 'i'. Bite me, F.E.
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Old 11-14-2012, 11:49 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by F.E. View Post
Hey, can we start talking about passive voice?

Where's Bufty? .
We will bite you or is it, F.E., you will be bitten...

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Old 11-14-2012, 12:16 PM   #14
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A good, short overview of comma rules can be found here: http://oxforddictionaries.com/words/comma
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Old 11-14-2012, 12:40 PM   #15
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I missed an 'i'. Bite me, F.E.
As long as you don't call the cops.
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Old 11-14-2012, 12:53 PM   #16
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Er, yeah. Those comma sources, well ...

Hey, is there supposed to be a comma in the below example sentence?
  • It was Sue who the cops were questioning in the parking lot.
If not, why not?

Is that a relative clause in the above example? And if so, would it be considered to be non-restrictive? And aren't there supposed to be a comma before a non-restrictive relative clause? What do those comma sources say?

Should that "who" in the above example actually be a "whom"?
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Old 11-14-2012, 01:06 PM   #17
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It's restrictive. Take it out and the crucial information of that sentence is lost: It was Sue in the parking lot.

Also, it's a bad sentence. Rewrite it to be active instead of passive, with the cops as the subject, and you're rid of the whole problem.
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Old 11-14-2012, 01:21 PM   #18
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It's restrictive. Take it out and the crucial information of that sentence is lost: It was Sue in the parking lot.

Also, it's a bad sentence. Rewrite it to be active instead of passive, with the cops as the subject, and you're rid of the whole problem.
But how can it be restrictive? ... There is only one "Sue".
.
.
So you don't like passive? Then how about this example:
  • It was Sue who chased the cops away.

(And I think that my previous example was a fine sentence. Especially since I was the one that thought it up. )

Procrastination, procrastination ...
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Old 11-14-2012, 01:36 PM   #19
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Hey, we successfully made this thread, which had started out as a thread on commas, into a thread on passives.

Where's Bufty? Where's Fallen? Bring out the wine!
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Old 11-14-2012, 01:40 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F.E. View Post
Procrastination, procrastination ...
Tell me about it. So here's me procrastinating some more:

Quoting my source linked to above:
Quote:
Basically, a restrictive relative clause contains information that's essential to the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
And:
Quote:
If you aren't sure whether you've used a pair of commas correctly, try replacing them with brackets or removing the information enclosed by the commas altogether, and then see if the sentence is still understandable, or if it still conveys the meaning you intended.
(Italics mine)

So - if you remove 'who the cops were questioning' from your (lovely passive ) example sentence, the sentence is not rendered gibberish - but it has been changed to mean something else than the original sentence.

It doesn't matter if we have one or two Sues around - what matters is whether the information about Sue in the relative clause is essential to the overall meaning of the sentence. In your example the information about the cops is essential - it's the whole point of the sentence.
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Old 11-14-2012, 01:55 PM   #21
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Bufty opens door, pokes head in and glances quickly down a baffling thread from someone with too much time on their hands about introducing commas to each other or something then quietly backs out, closes door, and tiptoes away down the corridor.
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Old 11-14-2012, 02:06 PM   #22
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It doesn't matter if we have one or two Sues around - what matters is whether the information about Sue in the relative clause is essential to the overall meaning of the sentence. In your example the information about the cops is essential - it's the whole point of the sentence.
Not necessarily. ... It was interesting that the page there in your grammar source didn't mention that they consider a "restrictive relative clause" as one where the relative clause "restricts" the meaning of the previous "noun"--which was the definition that I was expecting. And so, I went to see how they define a "restrictive relative clause". And on page
Oxford Dictionary: Clauses: (bolding mine)
A restrictive relative clause (also known as a defining relative clause) gives essential information about a noun that comes before it: without this clause the sentence wouldn’t make much sense.
And so, by that definition, which is ("closer" to) the usual meaning for that term "restrictive relative clause", my last two examples would not be considered to be restrictive relative clauses. That is, the relative clause in my examples is not used to define the subset of "Sue's" that the sentence is talking about.

Though, the description on the first page that you referenced is actually a more useful description, but it's actually a description of "integrated relative clause". I am kinda suspecting that the editor(s) who had edited that first page was trying to somehow merge in the more modern meaning of "integrated relative clause", but was trying to do it without actually having to change the formal name of the term "restrictive relative clause" itself.
.
.
Hey, does your Oxford Dictionaries say anything about it-clefts?

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Old 11-14-2012, 02:11 PM   #23
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Bufty opens door, pokes head in and glances quickly down a baffling thread from someone with too much time on their hands about introducing commas to each other or something then quietly backs out, closes door, and tiptoes away down the corridor.
I thought it was going to be an introductory comma-offer, you know, buy one comma, get two free.

I'm quite disappointed.
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Old 11-14-2012, 02:21 PM   #24
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Like, the typical meaning of "restrictive relative clause" often uses examples like the below:
1. The teacher scolded the boys who had behaved badly. [restrictive relative clause]
2. The teacher scolded the boys, who had behaved badly. [non-restrictive relative clause]
In #1, the teacher scolded only the boys that had behaved badly; she left alone the boys who had behaved properly. In #2, the teacher scolded all the boys; all the boys had behaved poorly, and none had behaved properly.

But it seems that Oxford Dictionaries is, er, trying to expand their definition of "restrictive relative clause" so that it is becoming somewhat cloudy, and could, maybe, possibly be confused as being somewhat the same as the term "integrated relative clause". imo.

(It is way, way late for me; past the wee hours of the morning.)
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Old 11-14-2012, 02:48 PM   #25
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Just wanted to put my two cents in - although this thread seems to have derailed somewhat.

You might try looking for subordinate conjunctions (which join a dependent and independent clause, what TheWordsmith was talking about) and shift the dependent clause to the beginning of the sentence so the subordinate conjunction comes first. So:

I'm going to mop the floor after washing the dishes.

becomes

After washing the dishes, I'm going to mop the floor.


And that's all I have to say about that.

I'm not going to jump into the passive voice debate, nor the restrictive relative clauses.

I am, however, going to link a funny little cartoon about oxford commas, because it might be relevant:

http://thegloss.com/beauty/why-the-o...are-about-392/

Aaaaand just for the sake of a balanced argument, I'm going to link another little cartoon debunking the cartoon above.

http://languagehippie.blogspot.com.a...ord-comma.html

I could have linked just one, I know, but I think it's clearer the way I did it.
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