You might actually learn to love them, or already do! Let’s jump right into commas with these 7 fun examples.
1. Check out this sentence…
Sentence: “Lucy, it’s Emma. Is this a good time to talk? I just got your email message asking me to call.”
Does this sentence need a comma?
A comma after message, perhaps?
No, because the message, the word just before the word asking, is the word that is performing the action of the –ing verb. The message is asking. This one might be a tad tricky, but I think we can safely omit the comma here.
Although, do emails ask questions? Ah, bah, forget it!
2. Next up…
Sentence: “I know she was disappointed losing to the other team.”
Where’s the comma go?
None needed, at least not necessarily. This one is borderline, and I try not to overdue the use of commas. But you could also try something like what follows. Sometimes rewording the sentence for clarity is the best way.
“I know she was disappointed, about losing to the other team, that is.”
“Emma was disappointed, as losing to another team was completely new to her.”
“Emma was disappointed. She lost to the other team.”
3. Next one.
Jake said, “She’ll be working primarily with… yes, a clown.”
“A clown, that really goofy one we saw yesterday, right?” Lucy replied giggling. “No, please, say it isn’t so!”
Can you find it? Where’s the missing comma?
It goes after replied. Here’s the fixed example: Lucy replied, giggling.
Here are some other correct examples…
Lucy said, still giggling.
Lucy said, not showing her disdain for that ugly clown.
Lucy said, and then she did an about-face and marched away.
Lucy jumped, trying to reach the shoes hanging from the clothesline.
And finally, just a few more…
“Why am I not surprised?” Glenn said, laughing.
“What?” Joe blurted, shocked.
“Why?” Joe asked, pondering just why, why, why in the freakin’, hootin’ tarnation!
4. Another example…
Sentence: “Lucy darling, come here and meet Richard.”
Need a comma anywhere?
Can you spot it?
Well, the comma goes after Lucy, because her name isn’t Lucy Darling.
This is the corrected example: “Lucy, darling, come here and meet Richard.”
Here are some other correct examples…
“Lucy, you overblown airbag, come here and meet your new attitude coach, Richard.”
“Lucy, what in the world? Why did you let Richard treat you like that?”
“Did you hear me, Lucy? Did you hear what I said?”
And super simply, even…
“Yes, Mother, dear…”
“Oh, hey, Martha! What’s up?”
“Ah, not much. Just writer’s block again…”
5. Yet another…
Sentence: “Of course,” I said, with a smile.
Does it need the comma after said, this time?
Nope. Not necessarily, but…
Pay attention to the flow of your story, the attitude, every detail as you feel it. Do you need emphasis, speed, or less emphasis on something.
For emphasis, you may want to use the comma, such as in this fixed-up example…
“Why don’t you serve us a drink, Nancy, then bring your cute self over here and join us.” Rob winked after he said it, with that same sinister look in his eyes.
“Of course,” I said, with a smile—this time. But under my breath I cursed the day I met that asshole!
6. One more…
Sentence: “Hey, love birds, there is phone service in South America you know.”
Where’s the comma go?
Well, it goes after South America, like this…
“Hey, love birds, there is phone service in South America, you know.”
Other correct examples…
“Hey, wouldn’t you like to know, dumb ass?”
“I need to get going, by the way?”
“It looks a little undercooked, if you ask me.”
“If you would like to see what’s under there, I can show you. But beware, you can never take back this sight!”
7. Okay, now this is the last one! (Clauses, the best for last!)
Sentence: He shined his flashlight around the room illuminating everything he looked at.
Where does the comma go?
And yes, it really needs one!
The comma goes after room, because the room is not doing the illuminating.
Tip: if the -ing verb is not performing the action for the noun directly before it, then use a comma to separate the clauses.
The first clause contains the flashlight, and the -ing word does not directly follow flashlight. So, imagine drawing an arrow all the way from flashlight, to its action-performing -ing verb. Whenever you need to draw an arrow, use a comma.
I hope that explains clauses and commas in a simple, layman’s-term kind of way.
The corrected sentence is as follows…
He shined his flashlight around the room, illuminating everything he looked at.
And here are some more corrected examples…
Wrong. It was sending out pulses of energy rippling across the ocean surface.
Fixed. It was sending out pulses of energy, rippling across the ocean surface.
Why? Because it was rippling across the ocean, not the energy. Notice, you have to draw an arrow from it, to the -ing word.
Wrong. Bolts of lightning were erupting in the clouds electrifying for everything for miles.
Fixed. Bolts of lightning were erupting in the clouds, electrifying for everything for miles.
Why? Because the bolts were electrifying things, not the clouds. Arrow needed.
Last one, and notice the difference, as you’ll see this a lot…
Wrong. With waves crashing all around us, we dove into the cave barely escaping the water’s destructive forces.
Fixed. With waves crashing all around us, we dove into the cave, barely escaping the water’s destructive forces.
Why? Because the cave didn’t escape the the chaotic water, we did. Notice the word barely. You’ll see this with words such as still, even, almost, etc. So, be on the look out. Soon your brain will separate clauses without even thinking. And reading, absorbing the words and their meaning, will become just that much more clear.
Final tip. Read. Read a lot. Become hyper aware of commas, and clauses. And, if you have the money, consider hiring a proofreader. You’ll learn boatloads, for it’s not just about the proofreading of your work, it’s about your future, a way to continue your learning! And perhaps, it’ll be a fast-track for your learning!
Now, I’m not affiliated, but if you are looking for a proofreader, I would recommend heading over to wordrefiner.com. Check out Mark Schultz, “the man,” and the wonderful services he has to offer. Mark is a blast to work with!
Thanks for reading. I hope this has helped your understanding of commas.
But, there’s more, much more. As I continue to read I’ll pluck out more random examples concerning the use of commas, and then make another blog post in the future. Feel free to subscribe below if you’d like to get an email when I create something new here.