Oh, sorry; didn’t mean to scare you; I meant:
Floyd Hyatt – Stops
See how important punctuation is?
Today, Mr. Hyatt is talking about colons and comas. I mean commas. Including — TA DAAA! — the serial comma! ~fist pump~
Types of Stops
a post by Floyd Hyatt
There are several slight variations as to how these should be used, but the simplest guide is below:
A few reminders referencing Lynch’s Guide to Grammar and Style
A colon marks a pause to make an explanatory point, expansion, enumeration, or to prefix an elaboration, or set of elaborations. You can also use a colon to indicate a following list: thing one, thing two, and thing three. Use it to pause and explain: this sentence makes the point. Use it to give an example: this, for instance. As you can see, most of the uses are really just to indicate some sort of instances of a case follow after.
A complete guide to comma usage is beyond the scope of an article like this, but here are a few tips. Some amateur writers, for instance, seem to think sprinkling commas every few words is a good idea but it makes for difficult reading.
A few places commas should be avoided:
After the conjunctions and, but, and or, unless the comma sets off a phrase that can’t stand alone as a sentence. It’s wrong to write “But, she did get it done on time.” Use the comma only if there’s such a phrase, as in, “But, to be fair, she did get it done on time.”
Between a month and year in a date: not November, 1990, but November 1990. The comma stops two sets of numerals from running into one another, as in November 20, 1990.
Some style guides call for omitting the comma after very short prepositional phrases at the beginning of a sentence: not “On Saturday, the office is closed,” but “On Saturday the office is closed.” However, do use a comma after long prepositional phrases or dependent clauses: “Because the entire epic is concerned with justifying the ways of God to man, Milton must present free will in a positive light.” (How many words do you need before “short” turns into “long”? — trust your judgment, and think always about clarity.)
Finally, the thorniest comma-related question, whether or not to include the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma or Harvard comma from its inclusion in their house style guides). In most the comma is preferred before the last item in a list: “the first, second, and third chapters.” Leaving it out — “the first, second and third chapters” — is a habit picked up from journalism. While it saves a teensy bit of space and effort, omitting the final comma runs the risk of suggesting the last two items (in the example above, the second and third chapters) are some sort of special pair. A famous (and perhaps apocryphal?) dedication makes the danger clear: “To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.”
The Comma Splice.
A comma splice is probably the most widespread variety of run-on sentence: it’s where two independent clauses are stuck together with just a comma. You usually need some better way to separate them one from the another: use a period or a semicolon in place of the comma; use a coordinating conjunction like and or or; or use a subordinating conjunction like because or although. Personally, I like to use as where I can.
~singing~ serial comma, serial comma, serial comma, hey-hey-hey-hey ~/singing~
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Two writers come to blows over punctuation.