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.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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!)

  3. 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.


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