Monday, December 28, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: Introducing...

Some sentences, like people, need no introduction. Others get by with a little help from introductory words or phrases. Whether they are direct addresses, transitions, or words and phrases describing context, there is a correct way to make introductions.

Adverbial and particpial phrases at the beginning of a sentence are generally followed by the use of a comma. After reading the note, Allison turned pale. These commas are especially placed after introductory clauses when a natural pause occurs. Single words or very short introductory phrases only need to be followed by a comma to avoid misunderstanding when reading. One particular rule is to not use a comma if the introductory phrase is less than five words. Also, a comma should not be used if the phrase immediately precedes the verb it modifies. For example, Out of the Mercedes stepped the woman we were looking for.

A comma also follows the introductory names or words in a direct address or in informal correspondence. Mrs. Jones, will you please take a seat. Or, Dad, this is my new boyfriend. Or the infamous Dear John,...

Similarly, a comma should always follow yes, no, well, and other words like these. Yes, I did empty the garbage can.

As explained in last week's tip, exclamatory phrases and interjections are often used as introductions; "oh" is very commonly used for this purpose and should be followed by a comma if a slight pause is intended.

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