When and How to Use the Comma (,) in Texts

When and How  to Use the Comma (,) in Texts
Punctuation marks are symbols or signals that are used in sentence to make it easy for us to understand whatever we are reading. They are also signals which help to show how written words are intended to be spoken.
Punctuation marks are very powerful tools in English as they have the ability to retain or change the actual meaning of a text. Let's see some examples:

Speaker A: Let's eat, mum.

Speaker B: Let's eat mum.

The sentences above have the same structure, and are very correct but the placement of the punctuation mark, comma, gives them different meanings. Speaker A who is calling his mum to join him in eating his meal makes his message very clear by placing the comma (,) after the verb, "eat." However, speaker B who has the same intention with speaker A, ends up calling other culprits to eat his mum because he fails to place the punctuation mark (,) after the verb, "eat." His failure to use the comma has made him a murderer and a carnivore.

Note: Don't undermine the power of punctuation marks.

This tutorial aims at showing you "when" and "how" to use the comma when composing a text in order not to be like speaker B who derives pleasure in eating his mum.
The comma is used within the sentence. It indicates short pauses. It cannot be used at the end of sentences as it's an internal punctuation mark that enables us break the sentence into manageable units of thoughts to enhance understanding.

1. The comma is used to mark off separate words or items in a list. e.g. Tammy bought ice cream, fried rice, indomie, eggs and yam.
2. To set off nouns or pronouns in apposition. e.g. Our online English tutor, Tammy Reuben, is a handsome gentleman.
3. To show salutation and complementary close in all forms of letter.  e.g. "Dear sir,"  "Yours faithfully," respectively.
4. It is also used to replace conjunction in some expressions. e.g. Man proposes, God disposes. 
The comma after "proposes" would have been the coordinating conjunction, "but" but it is replaced with the comma (,).
5. It is used to separate parts of an address. e.g. Tammy's English House, 120 Abuloma road, Port Harcourt, is a home for all second learners of English.
6. To separate words spoken as direct speech from the rest of an utterance. e.g. The lady said, "It has been a fine day."
7. To break a sentence into convenient units of thoughts as to enhance understanding.
8. To separate phrases or clauses or transitional markers. e.g. When I was a boy, I used to be very shy. However, today, the reverse is the case.
9. To set off nouns in direct address, that is, a vocative from the rest of the sentence.

  • Tammy, I am talking to you.
  • Listen, Tammy, you were right.
  • My mum has been looking for you, Tammy.
10. Used before and after a clause that gives additional but not an essential information about the noun it follows. e.g. The houses, which are very useful to workers, are built in Port Harcourt.
11. Used between two clauses in a compound sentence. e.g. Tammy will be online today, but will not post any of his lessons.

Read about compound sentences HERE

From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that a wrong placement of the comma in a sentence can lead to a change in the actual meaning of the sentence. Therefore, your use of the comma should (at all times) be in accordance with any of the aforementioned uses.

Tamuno Reuben

Those who seek knowledge seek power because the pen is mightier than the sword.

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