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Using Commas

Some students may think that there is not much to punctuating a sentence-use a couple of commas and some end punctuation, and you are done! Read the following sentences to see whether or not careful use of commas really does matter.

Cora claimed Frank lost the car keys.
Cora, claimed Frank, lost the car keys.

Who lost the car keys? In the first sentence, it appears that Frank did. In the second, it was Cora. Commas really do make a difference!

The comma serves many different purposes and is the most widely used of all punctuation marks. Because of its varied and distinct uses, it is often most troublesome-as well as misused and overused.

Questions on Part I of the Language Arts Writing Test will assess the use of commas in the following categories:

  • in a series
    Example: Phillip was busy addressing the needs of the students, the parents, and the administrators of his school.
  • between independent clauses joined by a conjunction
    Example: Mel wanted to eat at the local Mexican restaurant, but Janice preferred to fix dinner at home.
  • with introductory elements
    Example: In his essay on technology, John identified three reasons for its use in the classroom.
  • to set off appositives
    Example: Marla, the head of security, was responsible for the entire complex.