Commas: when and when not to use them By: Kelsey Quaile
If you have trouble using commas…Just remember PELICAN! • Parenthetical elements • Elliptical constructions • Lists and series • Introductory elements • Compound sentences • Antithetical elements • Non-essential elements Nigel from Finding Nemo
Parenthetical elements • Give extra information/detail • Not needed for understanding sentence meaning • Should be surrounded by commas • Example: • Dory, the forgetful fish, can speak whale!
Elliptical constructions • “Sometimes commas are used to indicate omitted material in a sentence that can be understood from context” • From the Duke Writing Studio website • Example: • Goldfish only live for a few months; sea turtles, over 100 years!
Lists and series • Used in a series of three or more elements • Commas present between elements that aren’t already separated by conjunctions • Final comma in the list is optional • Example: • The main characters are Nemo, Marlin, and Dory • Or… • The main characters are Nemo, Marlin and Dory.
Introductory elements • Words/phrases/dependent clauses that start sentences • Need to be followed by a comma • Also applies to exclamations and direct address • Examples: • After the shark encounter, the ship exploded! • Watch out, the seagulls are coming! • I’ve missed you, Dad!
Compound sentences • Linking independent clauses by using a coordinating conjunction • FANBOYS • For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So • Comma placed before FANBOYS • Example: • Nemo has a wimpy fin, so he has a hard time swimming.
Antithetical elements • Used to express contrast • Phrases that refer to the same thing or have the same function • Example: • Nemo’s mother was eaten by a barracuda, not a shark.
Non-essential elements • Essential vs. Non-essential • AKA: Restrictive vs. Non-restrictive • Typically “that” vs. “which” • Commas are not used with essential “that” • Commas are used with non-essential “which” • Examples: • The address that Dory remembered was written on the scuba-diver’s goggles. • The address, which Dory remembered, was written on the scuba-diver’s goggles.
There are, of course, other times to use commas… • …but they didn’t fit into the PELICAN acronym! • Quotations • Comma usually placed before quote • Interrupters • Commas usually placed around interrupters • Conjunctive adverbs • However, although, nevertheless, whereas, etc. • When linking to independent clauses, a semi-colon is placed before and a comma is placed after a conjunctive adverb.
Quick Review! • Where should commas be placed in the following sentences? Which rules are being used? • Marlin with the help of Dory searched for Nemo throughout the film. • In the end they find Nemo and they have made many friends along the way. • Marlin and Dory face sharks whales jellyfish crabs and sea turtles during their journey. • Unbelievable the fish escape from the dentist’s office! • The goggles gave Marlin and Dory the directions that lead them to Sydney.
Comma usage handouts • http://twp.duke.edu/uploads/media_items/commas.original.pdf • https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/owlprint/607/