Throughout this series, you have learned the various scenarios that require a comma. At the same time, the most glaring mistake is often not the omission of a comma, but the inclusion of one when it is not needed. This article will explain the most common scenarios where a comma should NOT be used.
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A comma is not a semicolon. When combining two independent clauses (or groups of words that can stand alone as sentences), do not just glue them together with a comma. Doing so would create a comma splice. The following are two examples of comma splices:
Working with my hands is not just a hobby, it’s a way of living. (incorrect)
Charlie believes in the overriding importance of honesty, he never stretches the truth, no matter what is at stake. (incorrect)
There are four main methods of fixing comma splices:
1. Replacing the comma with a semicolon
Working with my hands is not just a hobby; it’s a way of living.
2. Dividing the sentence into two smaller sentences
Working with my hands is not just a hobby. It’s a way of living.
3. Adding a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, or so) after the comma
Charlie believes in the overriding importance of honesty, so he never stretches the truth, no matter what is at stake.
4. Adding a subordinating conjunction to the first clause
Because Charlie believes in the overriding importance of honesty, he never stretches the truth, no matter what is at stake.
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Between Subject and Predicate
Never put a comma between the subject and the predicate of a sentence. Be especially careful about this rule when the subject is very long. For example: Understanding the difference between how various types of people choose their jobs, can be a complex process that requires intense investigation. This comma is unnecessary and interrupts the flow of the sentence.
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After Coordinating Conjunctions
A comma should never go after a coordinating conjunction. Many people feel compelled to add a comma after the word but rather than before it, but this is grammatically incorrect. For example:
I truly wanted to accompany her but, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it. (incorrect)
I truly wanted to accompany her, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it. (correct)
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Before or After a Series
Although a previous article discussed the use of a comma between items in a series, this comma should not be misused. A comma should not usually come before the first item in a series or after the last item in a series. For example:
I made sure to pack, three bottles of water, a few snacks, and several rolls of toilet paper. (incorrect)
Make sure to turn off all the lights, lock the door, and set the alarm, before you leave the house. (incorrect)