Comma Get a Handle on Commas

Those dreaded commas. I think commas cause more confusion than any other bit of punctuation. Writers either overuse them or don’t use them enough or properly. So I will be going over numerous comma rules over the weeks to help you get a handle on those slippery things.

Material quoted in the form of dialogue or from text is traditionally introduced with a comma. If a quotation is introduced by thatwhether, or a similar conjunction, no comma is needed.

  • It was Thoreau who wrote, “One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.”
  • She replied, “I hope you aren’t referring to us.”
  • Was it your mother who used to say that “a penny saved is a penny earned”?
  • You are now wondering whether “to speak now or forever hold your peace.”

Last year I posted about speaker tags and using commas to separate the speaker from the speech, but as a reminder, you cannot “sigh,” “cough,” “frown,” or “nod” speech. It is incorrect to write: “I’m tired,” she sighed. You can write: “I’m tired,” she said with a sigh” or “I’m tired.” She sighed.

8 Responses to “Comma Get a Handle on Commas”

  1. Scott Hunter January 18, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Hmmmm. I think you *can* say: “I’m tired,” she sighed. Try it; just say, “I’m tired” with a simultaneous exhalation. There you have it. A spoken sigh.

  2. Vicki M. Taylor January 18, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    Good choice of topic. Commas do trip me up at times.

  3. Adam Blumer January 18, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Just a suggestion. I’d love to see share icons at the end of your articles for easier sharing at Twitter and others. Great stuff as always. Thank you. I would tend to agree with Scott, however, that you can sigh speech, but you can’t nod it.

  4. Susannah MacDonald January 18, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Good reminders!

  5. Su Williams January 18, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    Oh yay! Those pesky commas are like the skeeters of my literary world. Thanks for the info. Very clear and concise. So appreciated. Also, as Adam said, I like the idea of easy share icons with each post. I’ve been learning a lot from Derek Halpern, Social Triggers. He has several posts about increasing blog traffic…
    Thanks, CS (Oh, now I’m paranoid that I put that comma in the wrong place!)

  6. Robert "Sharky" Pruneda January 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    I look forward to this series. Commas are something that I can struggle with and see misused often. I was careful not to attempt to use any commas in this post. 🙂

  7. Zakgirl January 19, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    I disagree with Scott and Adam I don’t think you can say a sigh. You could definitely breath a sigh. Some may say it but I’m sure you cannot sigh it.

    And, I did try it.


    Oh, and I have been known to be wrong.


  8. Daphnée Kwong Waye January 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Commas… They can be tricky for some indeed, but fortunately I got a good base of its use when I was little at school. Great post!

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