Combatting Comma Chaos
Posted by Susan O'Connor on March 22, 2011
Breaking information into comprehensible chunks for readers is easy – just add commas, right? Not exactly. Comma-laden explanations have a way of expanding into wordy, complex sentences that baffle even the experts. While commas do a good job of separating or connecting ideas, it’s easy to include too many commas. This can create grammatical errors and slow down both the reading and comprehension of a document. Readers risk falling into a comma coma!
Here are three sensible ways to use a comma:
Indicate a transition.
- In addition to altering the schedule, our team is reconsidering the budget allocations.
- On the other hand, two of the clients prefer morning meetings.
- Moreover, the baseline cost was calculated incorrectly.
Join two independent clauses. (Remember to add a coordinating conjunction!)
- The shipment will arrive about 3 p.m., and it will be left at the main reception desk.
- Ali is interested in a job project management, but he also wants to travel.
- The company will refund a client’s money, or it will issue a credit note.
Enclose words that add information to a sentence.
- The new manager, Ken Ousman, is eager to meet his team members.
- The draft report, which is due March 1, is posted on our blog for comments.
- Our team, IT Support, assists more than 3,000 employees through our Help Centre.
Commas slow the reader down just long enough to pause, or to notice new information. Used with discretion, they add meaning and variety to your writing.