I've been a bit slow with the uptake on the blog, but I'm back. Those of you who know me know I can be pretty strict, and so I'm going to live up to my reputation by looking at the rules around using the comma.
The Oxford comma
The Oxford comma is the last comma placed in a list of things. For example:
Bring me a pen, pencil, and notepad.
The Oxford comma is placed right after pencil.
The Oxford comma is a matter of style and it is not required by several style guides. AP Style is used by newspapers and magazines and does not require its use. Written in AP Style the above sentence would look like this:
Bring me a pen, pencil and notepad.
The use of the Oxford comma is generally up to the writer, but should sometimes be included to avoid causing unnecessary confusion for the reader. For example:
I love my girlfriend, Beyonce and Humpty Dumpty.
Without an Oxford comma, the sentence could be perceived as stating that you love your parents, and that your parents are Beyonce and Humpty Dumpty. Below is the same sentence with an Oxford comma.
I love my parents, Beyonce, and Humpty Dumpty.
Names that are addressed directly are in the vocative case, and require a vocative comma to separate them from the rest of the sentence.
I’ll see you this afternoon, Darren.
Darren is being directly addressed, and must be separated from the rest of the sentence with a vocative comma.
It is not just people’s names that require a vocative comma when being directly addressed. Animals and objects also require a comma when addressed directly.
Fido, be a good dog and fetch the ball.
Fido is being addressed directly and is separated with a comma.
You are my favourite pasta, you taste so good.
Pasta is being directly and is separated from the rest of the sentence with a comma.
Unfortunately, sir, the room is double booked.
Sir is being addressed directly in the sentence and is separated with commas.
The comma splice is often overused and one of the most prominent mistake writers make when using a comma. A comma splice is used to connect two independent clauses of a sentence.
Below is an example of a sentence where the two clauses of the sentence make sense on their own, so do not require a comma to connect them.
David gets along with everybody, he is a very friendly person.
If the sentence has two independent clauses that need to be divided, you have several grammatical options.
You can divide the clauses into two separate sentences by using a full stop punctuation mark. This is the simplest solution, but may dilute an argument or break up the style of a sentence.
David gets along with everybody. He is a very friendly person.
A semicolon can be used. Semicolons are often overused, but can be a powerful tool to make a strong statement with their correct usage. The example below shows the use of a semicolon to signify a link between the two clauses without stating the link explicitly. The use of a semicolon can be a great tool for delivering a persuasive argument.
David gets along with everybody; he is a very friendly person.
A conjunction can be used to directly link the two clauses together. A conjunction makes the connection between the clauses more explicit to the reader.
David gets along with everybody because he is a very friendly person.
That's all for now, but I promise I won't leave it so long next time!