Monday, October 11, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: Introductory Commas

Commas are often used after introductory phrases or words, especially to indicate pause. This can be very useful to help develop the way your piece reads and flows. Use of the comma is frequently a matter of preference and good judgement. However, there are certain instances with introductory phrases and words where a comma is specifically necessary. We'll just run through how the comma can (and sometimes should) be used here.

i. Introductory Phrase with Comma
A comma is used to indicate slight pause following an introductory phrase at the beginning of a sentence, with the exception of very short introductory phrases. In this case, the comma is also useful to prevent misreading of the sentence, so be sure you are not muddling a sentence by omitting a comma.
Examples: On the other hand, her favorite dinner wasn't exactly easy to prepare.
On Tuesday he tried to see the optometrist.

ii. Introductory Phrase without Comma
If the introductory phrase immediately precedes the verb it modifies, a comma is not used.
Example: Running along behind the car was her neighbor's new dog.

iii. Direct Address
Use a comma following names or words used in direct address and correspondence.
Examples: Friends, I will be selling my car soon.
Mr. Fry, please report back to me as soon as possible.

iv. "Yes," "no," etc.
Use a comma following yes, no, well then, and the like, at the beginning of a sentence when a slight pause is desired.
Examples: Yes, I admit he defeated me.
Well then, we should look into the matter.

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