It is a form of punctuation that looks like this: ,
I could spend the entire month of April explaining how to use commas. Many of the comma rules require knowledge of other grammatical terms. Keep in mind that a comma is essentially a pause in a string of words. A few quick tips can help correct prevalent usage errors:
1) Use a comma when joining two independent, complete sentences with a conjunction. The most often used conjunctions are and, or, but. Others are yet, nor, so, for.
For example: Edwayne ate chicken livers for dinner, but he won't touch a gizzard with a gloved hand and a ten-foot pole.
2) Use a set of commas to set off non-essential words (words that could be taken out without changing the meaning) in a sentence.
For example: Cissy tromped through the parking lot, her flip-flops slapping asphalt, looking for her car.
3) Alert! Alert! DO NOT use a comma between a noun and the word that.
For example: The catfish that ate the dog food grew the biggest.
4) Use commas to separate lists of nouns, adjectives, phrases, verbs, phrases, clauses.
For example: A wicked, slick rattler slithered out of the woods across the path. The Middleton boys ran, jumped, skipped, and hopped. Their mama had always told them that if they came across a rattlesnake not to poke it with a stick, not to kick it with a foot, and absolutely not to stop and look at it.
5) Use a comma after an introductory word, phrase or clause.
For example: Nonetheless, the rapscallions contrived a plan to get a closer look. With their mother's warnings ringing in their ears, they tempted fate.
6) Use a comma between a speaker tag and a quote.
For example: Junior looked at his younger brothers and warned, "Don't neither one of you dare snitch to mama about this."
"Awe, Junior," spat PeteJoe, "we ain't gonna tell nobody."
Whatever you do, avoid the comma splice and the dreaded red editing pen. Do not join two complete sentences with a comma alone.
Throw me your comma questions. I'm not Grammar Girl, but I'll give it a shot.
Tomorrow: Defining Writing Conventions
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