2 Minute Approval Tips: Place Commas Correctly

Episode 11 marks the return of the “2 Minute Approval Tips” video series. We’ll make this quick!

This video series is meant to give you tips for getting your articles approved on the first submission every time. We looked back at submission records to find common reasons why articles aren’t approved initially. Then, we compressed that information into individual 2-minute videos to save you time.

This episode focuses on proper comma usage. Commas can make or break the meaning of your writing. If they’re used in the right way, they’ll help you get your point across. If not, they could cause your message to get lost in translation.

In this video, I share a two-part tip for the proper use of commas.

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A Quick Recap of the 11th “2 Minute Approval Tip”

There are two parts to today’s tip: using commas to separate items in a list and using commas to separate adjectives of equal rank.

  1. List Items
     

    First, when listing a series of adjectives or nouns, use commas to separate individual elements. For example, in the sentence:

    “In college, I learned how to speak German, French and Spanish.”

    … you put a comma between the words “German” and “French” to show that they are individual elements. It’s a matter of preference whether you put a comma between the last two list items. The current accepted style by the Associated Press stylebook is to leave it out.

  2. Separating Adjectives
     

    Another rule that we see causing problems is the use of commas to separate adjectives of equal rank. Many people think that if you have two adjectives next to each other in a sentence, you always separate them with a comma. This isn’t always the case. You only apply this rule when both adjectives describe, or modify, the same noun. Take these sentences, for example:

    DOESN’T Modify Same Noun

    • He is a fantastic mystery writer.
    • We drove by the old-fashioned colonial house.
    • That’s how you become a fast cross-country runner.

    Modifies Same Noun

    • I’m going to submit more high-quality, original articles to EzineArticles.
    • The long, arduous journey took ten days.
    • Expect to be greeted by knowledgeable, considerate residents.

    Notice, there aren’t any commas in the first set of sentences, but they are present in the second set. In the second set, each adjective describes the noun of the sentence separately. When deciding whether to use a comma in these situations, use the “and” trick. Substitute the word “and” where the comma would go. If that changes the sentence meaning, you don’t need the comma. If it still makes sense, you need the comma.

    An alternate test is to flip the order of the two adjectives. If the meaning is still the same, you need the comma.

Also, watch comma usage when separating clauses, adding non-essential information and when you’re writing out dates, geographical names and numbers greater than 1,000.

To check out the entire “2 Minute Approval Tips” series, click here. Put this and all the other “2 Minute Approval Tips” to good use by writing your next set of high-quality, original articles for more traffic back to your website or blog. Also, leave a comment to share your own spelling and grammar tips.

39 Comments »


1
J Chase writes:

Good tip on using the “and” word to determine if a comma is needed. Thank you.

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 10:25 AM

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2
Nick writes:

Great tips Marc. Very useful.

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 10:52 AM

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3
Jim Schakenbach writes:

Great piece, Marc! I’d like to add that incorrect use of commas can lead to unintentionally wrong meaning in a sentence, with far greater consequences than a puzzling modifier. Here’s an example from my Ten Tips to Improve Your Writing article:

“My partner arrived dead, last to the meeting.”

“My partner arrived dead last to the meeting.”

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/3538130

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 11:55 AM

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4
Katherine writes:

So in this sentence, is the use of commas correct.

“a spontaneous, momentary
communication of love.”

Many thanks,
Katherine

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM

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Katherine, you are correct in that example. :-)

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Katherine writes:

Many thanks. A big help.

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5
Dave Cleinman writes:

Great, simple tips, Marc I find on my own directory that most of the writers from foreign countries rarely use commas at all and, when they do, they are usually in the wrong spot.

Since I know that many of them also are members of EzineArticles, I am looking forward to them watching this tutorial!

Best,

Dave Cleinman

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 12:35 PM

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6

Thanks, Marc… an excellent article. It’s good to know that the Queen’s English is still not quite dead! Have you noticed, though, the worrying increase in the use of greengrocers apostrophe’s [!!] in print and vehicle signwriting? Perhaps an article on this might be useful, too. :)

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 12:59 PM

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7
Edward Hansen writes:

I have a question about the serial comma tip. Do you have to follow AP style and omit the comma before the and or will an article be approved if one follows the Chicago Manual of Style and put them in.

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 1:38 PM

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Edward – Your article will be approved whether you place the comma or not. Both styles are acceptable.

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8
Susette Horspool writes:

Since I’m fairly new to EzineArticles, I haven’t seen any of the other ten 2-minute tips. Where can I find them?

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 3:40 PM

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Susette – You can find those all right here: http://ezinearticles.com/videos/categories/2-minute-approval-tips/

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9
david allen writes:

With all what is going on the world and you people are worried about commas. Grow up EzineArticles.

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 5:04 PM

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Tom Grimshaw writes:

David,

If we were each of us dedicated to doing right everything we did, then all that is going on in the world would not be.

You would be better of attacking someone doing the wrong thing rather than criticising someone helping raise standards.

And if you are so concerned with all that is going on, how come you have time to watch this and comment?

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10

Hi Marc,
Thanks very much! This is great info. Sometimes the simple basics are the easiest to confuse.
The one I often confuse is the semicolon. If you ever write something on the proper use of semicolons I would surely read it!
Thanks again!
Troyann

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 5:53 PM

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11

Marc,

My husband is my first reader and editor and we frequently talk about comma usage. It absolutely makes an enormous difference in how a sentence reads.

As you have always recommended, it helps to read our article out loud before submitting.

Thanks for helping us here at EzineArticles.

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 7:06 PM

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12

To David, For comas, some times life is lost. eg: hang him not, leave or hang him,not leave.

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 7:08 PM

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13
David Moore writes:

Thanks Marc,

The “and” trick will be very useful.

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 7:50 PM

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14
Glynis Jolly writes:

Mark, you did an excellent job with this one. Putting ‘and’ to see if the comma fits is good. My rule is if I take a breath, or even half a breath, a comma probably goes there.

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 7:58 PM

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15
Kenneth Stein writes:

Thanks for the tip and its brief, succinct explanation. (I hope I got that comma correct.)

But on another note, one of the closing sentences says:

“Also, watch comma usage when separating clauses, adding non-essential information and when you’re writing out dates, geographical names and numbers greater than 1,000.”

I thought it should be: “Also, watch comma usage when separating clauses, when adding non-essential information and when you’re writing out dates, geographical names and numbers greater than 1,000.”

This would maintain a strict parallel structure. I can still hear my old English teacher’s voice in my head.

Please give us a tip about that.

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 9:56 PM

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Kenneth – Your English teacher was right. That would have been the technically correct way to write that sentence. Thanks for pointing out the error.

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16
Hugo writes:

This is really great guys, keep up the good work. Finally a great video talking about the proper use of commas.

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 10:15 PM

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17
Ivan Kukard writes:

Thank-you for the great tips on the use of commas. They can also be used to break up a long sentence where the author is making a point and does not want to break it up, thus giving the reader a chance to take a breath

Commas can also be used to to add an aside, for example, that can be used to flesh out what it is the author is trying to get across

I love EzineArticles

Comment provided March 30, 2011 at 11:18 PM

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18
Karen writes:

What about long sentences-does the “and” rule still applies? For example: sentence 1, means that sentence 2. Do you need a comma before ‘means’?

Comment provided March 31, 2011 at 12:34 AM

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Karen – Based on your brief example I would have to say that no comma is necessary in that case.

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19
SEO Bedford writes:

Great tips Marc, but if you are writer and don’t know to properly use comas I suggest you find another business. To succeed in Article marketing the use of comas is the basics of the basics.

Comment provided March 31, 2011 at 5:47 AM

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SEO – Sometimes what’s basic for one person may not be basic for another. For example, the correct spelling of the word commas. ;-)

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20
Tina writes:

My English teacher in college always said that the comma is overused. They are the one part of writing that I constantly have to think about and study up on, so any help with commas is a good thing!

Thanks Marc!

Comment provided March 31, 2011 at 9:50 AM

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21
Elena writes:

Who can explain, why there is a coma after “In college” in item #1. Thanks!

Comment provided March 31, 2011 at 10:26 AM

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Elena – That’s one of those “optional” commas that tend to confuse everybody. It’s acceptable to put it there to indicate a pause in the sentence, but technically it’s unnecessary.

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22
Mike Bryan writes:

Thanks for the info on comma usage. Could you also provide an article explaining word differences. I am referring to words like then and than; effect and affect; there, their and they’re; to, too and two; your and you’re; and lie and lay. Some other problems I see frequently are the use of the word “of” in place of the contraction for “have,” as in “would of” instead of “would’ve,” and the constant misspelling of “definitely” as “definately.” Thanks, again for all that you do for us.

Comment provided March 31, 2011 at 11:21 PM

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23

Great stuff. I knew there were some peculiarities around using commas when listing items and then when listing qualifying adjectives.

Comment provided April 1, 2011 at 3:10 AM

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24
Max Eames writes:

Hi Marc

One of the things that might surprise you is that in Great Britain, where I have lived for some 20 years, commas are much less often used. I grew up in the USA, and Brits are unfailingly sniffy about the American ‘over-use’ of commas. As the years have gone by, I have begun to see their point. So sometimes it’s a fine line between over-use and obscuring the actual intent of what it being said.

Comment provided April 3, 2011 at 1:15 PM

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Max – Agreed. The comma is often overused and misused more than any other form of punctuation. We have a joke around here about being a “Comma-Kaze” if you put in too many commas … I rarely get accused of that anymore but it’s a tough habit for many Americans to break.

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25
Chuck Bluestein writes:

Thanks for explaining the use of commas in a simple and easy way. It looks like I had known just from doing a lot of reading, but did know the actual rules.

Comment provided April 4, 2011 at 2:39 AM

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26
leon Noone writes:

G’Day Marc,
I really enjoy these little “tutes” on grammar, punctuation and similar stuff.

Are you familiar with the book, “Eats, Shoots And Leaves?” It contains excellent and amusing explanations of the same sort of thing.

It also contains the most cogent and lucid explanation I’ve ever read about the use of the apostrophe.

Best Wishes.

Leon

Comment provided April 7, 2011 at 12:42 AM

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SpiritHeals writes:

It really is a superb book…So readable.

And the title is a punctuation joke.

Katherine

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G’Day Leon – That happens to be one of my favorite books of all time! Not only is it educational, it’s entertaining as well. We even referenced it in this Blog post from last year: http://blog.EzineArticles.com/2010/04/from-my-desk-to-yours-11th-edition.html I highly recommend it for every writer out there.

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27

Awesome Tips! Really great information, the videos are very informative and helpful, they certainly can help us improve our writing in many ways. By the way I really Loved your FaceBook Page guys!

Comment provided May 1, 2011 at 7:35 PM

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