Confounded Comma Clarification
The purpose of commas, like that of all forms of punctuation, is to help the reader – essentially removing all confusing. The correct placement of commas removes all confusion in sentences like, “While we were eating Joseph came to the house.” Sure, the intended meaning can be eventually reached without one, but it takes the reader just a little more time to arrive at it. But too many omissions of this punctuation mark will obfuscate the reader and drive him/her away from your blog.
The Bedford Handbook for Writers provides straightforward, no nonsense approach to the appropriate use of commas in chapter 32 of the third edition. I’m sure that there are more up-to-date versions at your favorite bookstores, but comma use has not changed that much in the past two decades.
Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction joining independent clauses.
When a coordinating conjunction connects two or more independent clauses – word groups that might have been punctuated as separate sentences – a comma must precede it.
In the English language, there are seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or nor, for, so, and yet. For example, the sentences “I went to the store,” and “It was out of OREOs,” could each stand alone; they both make perfectly good sense. However, if you have an aversion to writing overly-simplistic sentences in succession, you could write, “I went to the store, butit was out of OREOs.”
A tip I have given when I didn’t have my BHW in front of me was this: If you’re unsure about whether you need a comma, look for a subject and a verbon BOTH sides of the conjunction, then you need a comma before the conjunction. If you only have a subject on one side of the conjunction, then you don’t need a comma: “We went to the store and found the OREOs.”
In that example, “We went to the store” is an independent clause, but “found the OREOs” is not. It is a dependent clause because the subject, “we,” is understood. “Found the OREOs” relies on the previous clause to provide the subject.
How ’bout it?
What do you call one of Santa’s helpers?
A Dependent Claus!