The Comma

The Comma : ( , )

The Comma represents the shortest pause. Its chief uses in a Simple sentence are the following.

(a) Between Nouns or Pronouns in Apposition

Alexander, the son of Philip, king of Macedon…..

But note that no comma is used if the appositional words are defining or restrictive.

Winston Churchill the statesman and Winston Churchill the novelist are two different people.

(b) Between three or more words of the same Part of Speech, when only the last two are connected by AND.

America, Russia, and England formed an alliance. (Nouns)

We should live soberly, prudently, and industriously at all times. (Adverbs)

Early to bed and early to rise Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. (Adjectives)

But note that no comma is used between adjectives if it would not be possible to insert AND.

1. Thus…. A tall, stout, red-faced person
2. But….A poor little black boy. (No Comma)

(c) Before and after the Vocative

1. Here is your book, father.
2. Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.

(d) After an Absolute Construction

The sun having set, we all went home.

(e) When words of the same class or rank go together in pairs, each pair is separated by a Comma.

By night or by day, at home or abroad, asleep or awake, he is a constant source of anxiety to his father.

(f) After an Adverbial Phrase at the commencement of a sentence (This, however, is a matter of taste and the tendency is to omit it.)

1. In fact, his poetry is no better than prose.
2. At last, he has gained his point.

(g) Before and after a Participial phrase, provided that the Participle might be expanded into a clause and is not used in a merely qualifying sense

Caesar, having defeated the Gauls, led his army into Britain. (Here 'having defeated' means 'after he had defeated.')

Convinced of the accuracy of his facts, he stuck to his opinion. (Here 'convinced' means 'because he was convinced.')

But when the Participle qualifies the Noun so as merely to restrict its meaning, as an Adjective would do, the Comma should not be used.

1. A dog lying asleep on a public road is likely to be run over.
2. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

Before certain Co-ordinating Conjunctions…

1. He is not a madman, but a knave.
2. He was not only accused, but also convicted.
3. He hoped, then, that he would be pardoned.

Before and after Gerundial Infinitives used in an explanatory or parenthetical sense…

1. I am, to tell you the truth, thoroughly sick of work.
2. To sum up, the man was convicted of three charges.

A Comma is usually used to introduce a sentence quoted in Direct Narration. The sentence so quoted must be commenced with a capital letter.

He said to us, 'Wait and watch.'

If the question is a long one it may be preceded by a colon instead of a comma.

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