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  • Dr. V

Confused about the Comma?

Since the comma has numerous uses, a writer can easily misuse it. While some writers are “comma happy” and tend to use too many commas, other writers do not include enough commas. See the sample sentence below for one example of comma usage.


Sentence: Since the researcher could not travel due to COVID-19 study participants were interviewed through video conference software instead of in person.


Edited Sentence: Since the researcher could not travel due to COVID-19, study participants were interviewed through video conference software instead of in person.


Explanation: The sentence above is a complex sentence, which means it has a dependent clause (since the researcher could not travel due to COVID-19) and an independent clause (study participants were interviewed through video conference software instead of in person).


Grammar rules dictate that a comma should be placed between the dependent clause (a group of words that has a subject and verb but cannot stand alone) and an independent clause (a group of words that has a subject and verb and can stand alone) WHEN the sentence begins with the dependent clause. Therefore, a comma was added after “COVID-19” in the edited sentence.


However, grammar rules dictate that a comma is NOT needed when a complex sentence begins with an independent clause and ends with a dependent clause. So, the same sentence reversed would not need a comma: Study participants were interviewed through video conference software instead of in person since the researcher could not travel due to COVID-19.


Knowing this simple use of the comma can help you use the comma properly when writing complex sentences. However, you have several more rules to learn about the comma!


Until next week, happy writing!!!


Dr. V



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