Hello SErs! It’s Harmony again with part 2 on Commas and how to use them. If you missed Part 1, you can find it HERE. Last time, we looked at Listing (Standard or Oxford), Introductory, and Joining commas. Today, we cover the Gapping, Bracketing, and other comma uses.
The Gapping Comma
We use a gapping comma to show that we have left out one or more words when the missing words would simply repeat the words used earlier in the same sentence. See the following:
Some Norwegians wanted to base their national language on the speech of the capital city; others, on the speech of the rural countryside.
The gapping comma here shows that the words ‘wanted to base their national language’, which you might have repeated, have instead been omitted.
The following example contains both listing and gapping commas:
Italy is famous for her composers and musicians, France, for her chefs and philosophers, and Poland, for her mathematicians and logicians.
Gapping commas are not always strictly necessary: you can leave them out if the sentence remains perfectly clear without them:
Italy is famous for her composers and musicians, France for her chefs and philosophers, and Poland for her mathematicians and logicians.
Use your judgement: If a sentence seems clear without gapping commas, don’t use them; if you have doubts, put them in.
The Bracketing Comma
This comma is also known as an Isolating Comma, and it does a different job to the other types of comma. This type of comma is also one of the most frequently used and causes the most problems. Basically, we use a Bracketing Comma to mark off a weak interruption to a sentence (that is, an interruption that does not disturb the smooth flow). Such interruptions are known as non-restrictive clauses.
- These findings, we would suggest, cast doubt upon his hypothesis.
Schliemann, of course, did his digging before modern archaeology was invented.
Pratchett has, it would seem, abandoned Rincewind the wizard to the ravages of the Discworld.
4. Steven Strom, whose show you like, will host a party next week.
Here are the same examples with the interruptions removed:
- These findings cast doubt upon his hypothesis.
Schliemann did his digging before modern archaeology was invented.
Pratchett has abandoned Rincewind the wizard to the ravages of the Discworld.
4. Steven Strom will host a party next week.
This is always the case with bracketing commas, and it gives you a simple way of checking your punctuation.
We also use this comma to set off Appositives. Rule: An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that renames a nearby noun. Appositives offer nonessential information. Nonrestrictive appositives are set off with commas; restrictive appositives are not.
- Alexander Pope, the Restoration poet, is famous for his monologues. (appositive)
The poet Pope is famous for his monologues. (no appositive)
- The New York Jets, the underdogs, surprised everyone by winning the Super Bowl. (appositive)
Other Comma Uses
Use a comma for a direct address:
Rule: When a speaker in a sentence names the person to whom he is speaking, this addressing of his audience is called direct address. Direct address is indi
cated by the use of a comma or commas, depending upon its placement within the sentence.
- I think, John, you’re wrong.
John, I think you’re wrong.
I think you’re wrong, John.
Use a comma to set off direct quotes:
Rule: A dialogue is a conversation between two or more people. If the speaker in the conversation is identified, his name (or the noun or pronoun used to refer to the speaker), and the verb that refers to his speaking, get enclosed within commas.
- Mary said, ‘I dislike concerts because the music is too loud.’
‘I dislike concerts because the music is too loud,’ she said.
‘I dislike concerts,’ Mary said, ‘because the music is too loud.’
Finally, we also use commas for dates, numbers, addresses, and titles.
Rules for dates: In dates, the year is set off from the rest of the sentence with a pair of commas. For example: On December 12, 1890, orders were sent out for the arrest of Sitting Bull.
Rules for addresses: The elements of an address or place name are separated by commas. A zip code, however, is not preceded by a comma. For example: John Lennon was born in Liverpool, England, in 1940.
(And) Please send the letter to Greg Carvin at 708 Spring Street, Washington, IL 61571.
Rules for titles: If a title follows a name, separate the title from the rest of the sentence with a pair of commas. For example: Sandra Belinsky, MD, has been appointed to the board.
Rules for numbers: In numbers more than four digits long, use commas to separate the numbers into groups of three, starting from the right. In numbers four digits long, a comma is optional. For example: 3,500 [or 3500]
An excellent online resource is The Sussex University: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/informatics/punctuation/toc
And here is a fun video: https://www.facebook.com/mentalflossmagazine/videos/10155143023762365/
Okay, so that’s all folks! I hope you’ve found this two-part series useful 🙂