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The Comma – tough to master and easy to mess up

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The Comma – tough to master and easy to mess up

We’re dropping commas more than ever because much of our daily writing now consists of quick text messages and hastily typed emails.


Understanding when and when not to use commas can be very confusing. However, using commas correctly can take your writing to a higher level. And give it clarity.


Comma myths

  • Long sentences need a comma — a long sentence may be perfectly fine without commas. The length of a sentence doesn’t determine whether you need a comma.
  • You should add a comma wherever you pause — different readers pause or breathe in different places. Where you pause or breathe doesn’t reliably indicate where a comma belongs.
  • They’re impossible to figure out where they belong — most of the time, commas belong in predictable places. These rules will help you identify them.


When to use the comma

These six comma rules cover the ones you’re most likely to need in your everyday writing.

There are many rules for comma usage, but if you remember just these six rules, you should be on your way becoming a master of the comma:


1. To separate words in a list or series — separating items in a list helps clarify things:

The largest banks in South Africa are Standard Bank, FirstRand Bank, Nedbank and Absa.

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James Hurford

James Hurford

James Hurford
James Hurford | Corporate Trainer | Author of ‘How to write well’ and ‘How to speak well’
James specialises in training people in organisations ‘How to write well’ and ‘How to speak well’. With over 25 years of experience working for top international companies, he brings a vast amount of knowledge and expertise to every organisation he works with.


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