Posted by: Jack Henry | February 13, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Commas, clauses, and nonessential elements.

Good morning!

Today’s comma rule and its examples are a little lengthy…but you can do it! Push through today and you will be rewarded with three things: Valentine’s Day candy if you are in the office, some love-song mondegreens to take you into the weekend, and three days off to relax and enjoy visions of presidents and sugarplums dancing in your heads. Today’s rule and examples are brought to you from the Purdue OWL.

Note: In case you are new to Editor’s Corner, I generally keep my comments and examples in blue text. If I “borrow” from elsewhere I may reformat the text, but I’ll provide the resource and put it in black font.

Do not use commas to set off essential elements of the sentence, such as clauses beginning with that (relative clauses). That clauses after nouns are always essential. That clauses following a verb expressing mental action are always essential.

That clauses after nouns:

The book that I borrowed from you is excellent.

The apples that fell out of the basket are bruised.

That clauses following a verb expressing mental action:

She believes that she will be able to earn an A.

He is dreaming that he can fly.

I contend that it was wrong to mislead her.

They wished that warm weather would finally arrive.

Examples of other essential elements (no commas):

Students who cheat only harm themselves.

The baby wearing a yellow jumpsuit is my niece.

The candidate who had the least money lost the election.

Examples of nonessential elements (set off by commas):

Fred, who often cheats, is just harming himself.

My niece, wearing a yellow jumpsuit, is playing in the living room.

The Green party candidate, who had the least money, lost the election.

Apples, which are my favorite fruit, are the main ingredient in this recipe.

Professor Benson, grinning from ear to ear, announced that the exam would be tomorrow.

Tom, the captain of the team, was injured in the game.

It is up to you, Jane, to finish.

She was, however, too tired to make the trip.

Two hundred dollars, I think, is sufficient.

Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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