College Commentary · Literary · Personal

Tricky Commas! Grammar is For Everyone!


The return of a recent essay has prompted me to really study and try to understand the comma. It’s a tricky little thing, and has so many uses that it is hard to know when to use them and when not to. I suffer from this chronically. For the past few years, I’ve really begun to just place commas where ever I feel like they belong; rather than where they actually belong. I’m proud to say that regardless of my poor use of the comma, I received a ‘B’ on my essay.

However, it was very embarrassing getting it back with so many comments about my comma usage. I mean, it happened so much that my professor just started writing, “another sp,” over and over. So to help myself and possibly a few of you I have researched the rules for using the tricky comma. These are not the only rules, but these are the ones that I seem to have the most trouble with.

  • The comma is used when two adjectives that can be interchanged are used right next to each other. For Example: “That girl has big, strong muscles.”
  • The comma comes BEFORE the words; but, and, or… NOT after.
  • The comma is used twice to close off phrases that interrupt the flow of the sentence. For Example: “She is, by the way, incredibly happy.”
  • Commas are used to enclose degrees and/or titles. For Example: “Minny Vonn M.D., is a very kind, strong person.”
  • Commas are used to enclose words that are not essential to the sentence. For Example: “The book, on the shelf, was very old.”

Interesting fact, the comma that closes off a phrase is called the “Appositive Comma”. I had no idea it had a name!

Hopefully this helped someone, and hopefully it helped me. It is my goal that by the time I graduate college I will know how to use the comma and to have one paper come back with no comments, or marks about my comma usage. 🙂



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