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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

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

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

Make the subject and verb agree with each other, not with a word that comes between them.

Examples

  • Incorrect: The Thanksgiving dinner, right down to the beautiful centerpiece, were devoured by the escaped grizzly.

  • Correct: The Thanksgiving dinner, right down to the beautiful centerpiece, was devoured by the escaped grizzly.

  • Incorrect: The cart, as well as its contents, were gone.

  • Correct: The cart, as well as its contents, was gone.

  • Incorrect: The girl, along with her classmates, like the new teacher.

  • Correct: The girl, along with her classmates, likes the new teacher.

    References

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

    Printed Resources: (see Books on Writing section)
  • Strunk and White: 1-9
  • Hacker: G1, especially a