by Laura Brown
Originally Published Aug 26, 2013
In last week’s post, Demystifying the Comma, part 1, we looked at the most basic rules for comma usage. Today we’ll delve a little deeper into the mystery of the comma, and you’ll emerge fully confident in your command of the comma!
Use a comma after an introductory adverb that modifies the entire sentence.
Unfortunately, the guacamole was gone when they arrived.
Alternatively, we could take the train into the city.
On the other hand, it might be better to work on the taxes in the morning.
Use a comma to set off a nonrestrictive modifier or appositive.
(A nonrestrictive element is not essential to the meaning of a sentence. If it’s deleted, the sentence still makes sense and retains its meaning.)
The car, a black Lexus, was parked in the underground garage.
The sweater, which was too small anyway, shrank in the wash.
Use a comma to set off sentence modifiers and sentence elements out of normal word order.
The new software, unfortunately, is even harder to use than the old version.
Urban living, I think, will become the norm soon.
Although it’s tempting to insert a comma wherever you might pause in speech, you’re far safer to follow the rules than to punctuate “by ear.”
Don’t expect yourself to memorize all these rules right off the bat: the best way to remember grammar and punctuation rules is through using them. You can bookmark these posts and refer to them whenever you have a comma-related question.