How to prevent evil random Commas (with a guest appearance by the Semi Colon)<br />What’s the difference between “eats shoots and leaves” or “eats, shoots and leaves”?<br />
Rule #1<br />Use a comma to separate items in a list of three or more things.<br />He is taking English, Physics, and Japanese.<br />NOTE: the final comma is the mysterious “Oxford Comma” – (see Vampire Weekend), but is recommended in Canadian style guides.<br />
Rule #2<br />Use commas to separate words or phrases NOT ESSENTIAL to the main idea of the sentence.<br />My teacher, Debbie, is a Buffy fan.<br />Notice the difference from<br />Writing a letter in Japanese is a challenge.<br />
Rule #2 1/2<br />Rule 2 relates to the mysterious question of that and which – use “which” with commas and “that” without. “That” makes a distinction between two things, “which” describes one.<br />My dog, which has a loud bark, scares off intruders.<br />The dog that has the loudest bark wins.<br />
More examples of Rule #2 and 2 ½(with a guest appearance by rule #4)<br />All students who plagiarize will be shot at dawn.<br />All students, who plagiarize, will be shot at dawn.<br />On Tatouine, the sun that rises in the morning wakes me up.<br />On Earth, the sun, which shines in the window in the morning, wakes me up.<br />
Rule #3 (the FANBOYS rule)<br />Use a comma between independent clauses (sentences) joined with but, and, yet, or, so<br />(also for, when it means because, and nor)<br />I like teaching, but I’d rather be watching Buffy.<br />Note the difference:<br />I like teaching and watching Buffy.<br />
Rule #4<br />Put a comma after a word or phrase that comes at the beginning of a sentence<br />No matter how hard I try, I can’t break my gin habit.<br />Although it is delicious, gin isn’t really good for you.<br />
Rule #5<br />Do NOT separate a subject and its verb with a single comma.<br />The fact that I like pizza and gin, is irrelevant to my skill as a cook.<br />No comma!<br />
Despite some excellent action sequences the movie was a failure.<br />Pierre and I are good friends but we often disagree.<br />The sun shining in my window woke me up.<br />Inside the band was playing at full blast.<br />Letitia despite her reputation as an air head is really very bright.<br />Goldfish and gerbils make the best pets.<br />John prefers dogs cats and tarantulas.<br />
And now… The Semi Colon<br />You can ONLY use a semi colon when you could also use a period. <br />That’s right; that’s the only time you can use it.<br />Oh, just one exception: use a semi colon to separate items in a list already separated by commas.<br />I have lived in Toronto, Ontario; Guildford, Surrey, England; Tianjin, China; and Nanaimo, BC as well as Victoria.<br />
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