JS Tip 170: From the Writing Workshops: Reviewing the Lowly Comma, Part III

We’ve been reviewing commas. So far, we’ve talked about commas in a series (the “Harvard” comma) and the comma separating two complete thoughts.

We’ll end our discussion with three more principles:

Use a comma to separate introductory passages from the main part of the sentence.

Three days after we started the project, storms wiped out the access road.

After you sign and date the agreement, we’ll prepare the documents.

Some say you should drop the comma with short introductory passages. We say it provides consistency and prevents confusion:

First, we should assess needs.

To Acme, Smith-Brown represented serious competition.

(Try that without the comma.)

Use commas to separate nice-to-know (as opposed to need-to-know) information.

We’ll hire the managers, which we desperately need, after we’ve reviewed the applications.

She plans to meet Dubois, the CFO, in Montréal.

Use commas to separate items in locations and dates.

Your first stop will be Springfield, Oregon.

Return the forms to me by Friday, July 13th, 2012.

Don’t use a comma if you’re referring only to the month and year.

We’ll be done by March 2013.

If you have questions, suggestions, or arguments, let us know. We love this stuff.

Next week: Some guidelines for using speaker phones. Or not.