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  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde
 

 
Using the Comma
 

Learning to use different punctuation allows you to gain variety in your writing. This will certainly increase your test marks! Each student below wrote a sentence featuring the use of commas. Teacher comments are in italics. We also discussed the colon ( : ) as an alternative to a comma in some cases.

Student One:

I like the rain, colorful leaves and clear mountains.

The sentence uses the comma for elements of a list. In this list are three things: “rain,” “leaves” and “mountains.”

My daughter likes to go to the park because there are many flowers, trees, and small plants.

Many people say “there’s many people coming to my party.” “There’s means “there is” but should say “There are.”

Student Two:

I like fall, the comfortable season not cool and not hot. The sentence is a simple one with an object noun, “fall.” After the noun comes a comma and then an “adjective phrase” that tells us more about the fall.

In the fall, many people travel to farms (orchards) to pick apples. The sentences uses an “introductory element” (In the fall) and these must have a comma after. We changed the word “anywhere” to “everywhere” and then to “farms.” The specific word is usually better than the general. We also changed “fruit” to “apples” as this fruit is typical of fall.

Fall is beautiful: the leaves turn to red and yellow. The first part is a simple sentence ending with the adjective, “beautiful.” We cannot use the adjective phrase but we can use a colon (:). A colon says to us what follows explains what is before.

Student Three:

I like the Canadian autumn and the color of the leaves: red, orange, yellow and a little bit green. Here is another use of the colon: a list follows.

In China, I lived in Shenzhen, a southeast city of the country. The student had omitted the comma after “In China” and, in this case, I would agree that the sentence “reads better” without it. Commas work like music and sometimes we need to use our ears rather than only our grammar books.

In China I lived in Shenzhen, a southeast city of the country.

Student Four:

The autumn season in British Columbia, Canada is full of traditional celebrations such as: Thanksgiving, Halloween and Remembrance Day. When you use “such as” to introduce a list, you may not use a colon, too. But, why not use a colon as above since it looks much fancier to the teacher who is marking your work!

 

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