Commas That Are, Indeed, Useful

More on commas—are you getting tired of them yet? Commas—sometimes paired with semicolons—are traditionally used to set off adverbs such as however, therefore, and indeed. When the adverb is essential to the meaning of the clause, or if no pause is intended or desired, commas are not needed.

  •  A truly efficient gasoline-powered engine remains, however, a pipe dream.
  • Indeed, not one test subject accurately predicted the amount of soup in the bowl.

but

  • If you cheat and are therefore disqualified, you may also risk losing your scholarship.
  • That was indeed the outcome of the study.

If you, also, use the word also or too, you, too, should offset those words in the middle of a sentence. Just FYI, Chicago style prefers not using a comma with too at the end of a sentence. I like that rule too. (I just gave examples of all these rules in these sentences, in case you might have missed them. And if you were sharp, you probably noticed that when you refer to a word specifically in its function as a word, you italicize it. Like: I use the word too way too many times in my writing.)

 

11 Responses to “Commas That Are, Indeed, Useful”

  1. Beth Havey February 1, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Great reminders. I also prefer not to use a comma when too is at the end of a sentence. Beth

  2. KM Logan @lessonsfromivy February 1, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    My husband always gives me a hard time about my overuse of commas. He also is firmly convinced my sentences are far too long. I’ve enjoyed these posts.

    • Rhan April 15, 2020 at 9:37 am #

      Regarding long sentences – I have just finished reading Don Quixote and am amazed by the extremely long sentences used therein. They are works of art. No longer shall I be temped to dumb down my expression to satisfy the short attention span of others. (Darn, I wanted to make these longer sentences.)

  3. Rebecca Mealey February 1, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Very cool. I have never heard of Chicago style. I am about to ask Mr. Google on that one. This was a short and sweet comma lesson. Those pesky commas!

  4. Edward Curley February 1, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    In your example with the sentence about cheating you use the word “May.” I know it is considered correct to use “may and “might interchangeably. But, I feel the word “may” should be used when asking permission. I avoid using the word “may” if not asking for permission: Instead of saying, I “may’ go to the party, I will write I “might” go to the party.

    The “too” thing has always confused me. However, in dialog, in books and especially in closed captions, one sees it all the time. Many people speak a line and then tack on, too. ?

    What do you think about that? I do read your e-mails each day and appreciate your thoughts and advice.

    Ed.

    • cslakin February 1, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

      One of the definitions for “may” is “be able to” but the past tense according to Merriam-Websters is “might.” Another meaning is to “indicate possibility or probability.” You may risk getting in trouble if you cheat–that is a correct usage for “may.” And it also says it’s often used interchangeably with “might.” So it’s fairly loose on the issue.

      I prefer CMOS’s preference for “too” as I mentioned above. I don’t use a comma before “too” at the end of a sentence.

  5. Stephen Newton May 10, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

    Why do we say “I will indeed”

    but not “I’ll indeed”

    • cslakin May 11, 2017 at 11:49 am #

      I’ll indeed think about it …

      • Stephen Newton May 11, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

        Let me know if you find anything.

        I will indeed. Not: I’ll indeed.

        Why?

  6. Patty Plecenik July 6, 2017 at 8:14 am #

    In your last paragraph, you write, “If you, also, use the word…” Why are there commas around “also?” I wouldn’t pause at that point when speaking the sentence so I don’t understand the reasoning. Also, in Mr. Curley’s post, in his second paragraph, second sentence, he didn’t put a comma after the word “books.” I have to admit, I am a huge proponent of the Oxford comma!!

    • cslakin July 8, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

      I think with the first example there, the choice of those commas is one of personal style. Many grammar books suggest this, but CMOS folks prefer to keep commas around “also” or “too” in the middle of a sentence but omitted at the end: He went home too.

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