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Use commas to enclose nonrestrictive clauses or phrases, which are not essential to the sentence's meaning.

Examples

  • Incorrect: The bus driver with her ears tuned to the roar decided to take the grumbling bus on a detour across the football field.

  • Correct: The bus driver, her ears tuned to the roar, decided to take the grumbling bus on a detour across the football field.

  • Incorrect: My window as dirty as it is reveals the beauty of nature on a snowy morning.

  • Correct: My window, as dirty as it is, reveals the beauty of nature on a snowy morning.

  • Incorrect: King and Lucille, his customized black Gibson have electrified audiences all over the world.

  • Correct: King and Lucille, his customized black Gibson, have electrified audiences all over the world.

    References

    More information about this rule is available from the following sources.

    Online Resources:
  • The Elements of Style: rule 3

Printed Resources: (see Books on Writing section)

  • Strunk and White: 1-3
  • Hacker: P1-e

Do not use commas to bracket phrases that are essential to a sentence's meaning.

Examples

  • Incorrect: The man, who has too many ties, has too few necks.

  • Correct: The man who has too many ties has too few necks.

  • Incorrect: The cats, with six toes, are a unique attraction of the tour of Hemingway's house.

  • Correct: The cats with six toes are a unique attraction of the tour of Hemingway's house.

    References

    More information about this rule is available from the following sources.

    Online Resources:
  • The Elements of Style: rule 3

Printed Resources: (see Books on Writing section)

  • Strunk and White: 1-3
  • Hacker: P1-e

To indicate possession, end a singular noun with an apostrophe followed by an "s". Otherwise, the noun's form seems plural.

Examples

  • Incorrect: Though the lobsters claws were bound, the creature made a threatening gesture as they dropped it in the pot.

  • Correct: Though the lobster's claws were bound, the creature made a threatening gesture as they dropped it in the pot.

  • Incorrect: In a democracy, anyones vote counts as much as mine.

  • Correct: In a democracy, anyone's vote counts as much as mine.

  • Incorrect: There is a vast age difference between Victors mother and father.

  • Correct: There is a vast age difference between Victor's mother and father.

    References

    More information about this rule is available from the following sources.

    Online Resources:
  • The Elements of Style: rule 1

Printed Resources: (see Books on Writing section)

  • Strunk and White: 1-1
  • Hacker: P5-a

When beginning a sentence with an introductory phrase or an introductory (dependent) clause, include a comma.

Examples

  • Incorrect: After buying the five pound jar of marshmallow spread he set off in search of a bulk portion of peanut butter.

  • Correct: After buying the five pound jar of marshmallow spread, he set off in search of a bulk portion of peanut butter.

  • Incorrect: With this he bestows the responsibility of his own happiness on his mother and father.

  • Correct: With this, he bestows the responsibility of his own happiness on his mother and father.

  • Incorrect: As she begins to gain independence it is natural for Grete to regard the idea of dependency as repugnant.

  • Correct: As she begins to gain independence, it is natural for Grete to regard the idea of dependency as repugnant.

    References

    More information about this rule is available from the following sources.

    Printed Resources: (see Books on Writing section)
  • Hacker: P1-b

Use proper punctuation to integrate a quotation into a sentence. If the introductory material is an independent clause, add the quotation after a colon. If the introductory material ends in "thinks," "saying," or some other verb indicating expression, use a comma.

Examples

  • Incorrect: Tumbling down the hill, Jack yelled: "Gosh, I'm sick of this."

  • Correct: Tumbling down the hill, Jack yelled, "Gosh, I'm sick of this."

  • Incorrect: Her letter spoke to him in harsh tones, "You never fail to repulse me."

  • Correct: Her letter spoke to him in harsh tones: "You never fail to repulse me."

  • Incorrect: He views the problem as a slight delay or a sickness that will eventually disappear, "I will go back to sleep for a few minutes and forget all this nonsense."

  • Correct: He views the problem as a slight delay or a sickness that will eventually disappear: "I will go back to sleep for a few minutes and forget all this nonsense."

    References

    More information about this rule is available from the following sources.

    Printed Resources: (see Books on Writing section)
  • Hacker: P6-f