Lesson 2: When you write, commas are your friends

Let’s begin Lesson 2 of our series on commas. If you missed Lesson 1, you can find it here.

Lesson 2 

When you want to introduce a sentence, commas are there to help you do it right!

A Few Definitions 

I know I said we weren’t going to focus on labels. But it will make this easier to follow.

You remember from grade school that

an adverb is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverbs (and other things, but we’ll worry about that if we have to). Basically, adverbs tell when, where, and how something happened.

Commas and Adverb Clauses 

Isn’t it cool that

a whole clause (subject and verb) can serve as an adverb?

That’s what we’re dealing with here. Clauses that are adverbs. They’re called, ironically, adverb clauses.

Introducing the Comma 

When an adverb clause begins (introduces) a sentence, and the second part of the sentence is a clause that can stand alone (independent clause), a comma comes after the adverb clause.

Just like the title of this article.

When you write, commas are your friends.”

Notice how the second part of the sentence is complete without the introductory adverb clause. That’s why we call it an independent clause. And notice how the introductory part tells us when commas are our friends.

The Exceptions 

There are exceptions, of course. That’s why commas are so tricky. It seems like every rule can be broken!

You don’t have to use a comma if the clause is short.

Put yourself in your readers’ shoes, though. If they might stumble or have to think too hard, you might want to go ahead and use the comma.

When deciding whether or not to monetize his brand new blog, he spent countless hours poring over dozens of other sites.”

Notice how unsightly it would be to omit the comma. Reading should be easy. Careful use of punctuation helps things move smoothly.

If you look inward you may find the answer is simple.”

Omitting the comma here is no problem, but you can add it after “If you look inward” if you feel like it.

Adverb Clauses at the End of the Sentence

Sometimes an adverb clause may conclude a sentence when you’re writing it.”

You don’t usually need a comma after the independent clause, though.

Just like in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Notice how “when” affects the meaning of “Sometimes an adverb clause may conclude a sentence.”


My daughter is growing up in uncertain times, when violence and global warming seem to increasingly worrisome.”

Here, the adverb clause doesn’t change the meaning of the first part. So a comma works (if you want it).

That’s the end of Lesson 2. Please let me know what you think so far! Many more to come.

6 Responses to “Lesson 2: When you write, commas are your friends”

  1. Manchild says:

    Hello Theda,

    As a sign of respect, I tip my hat to you for producing and publishing such informative, insightful posts.

    Thank you, for sharing with the rest of us.


  2. Natron says:

    Grammar has never been my strong point, one thing I think I will work on for the rest of my life.

  3. Blogging has really made me exercise my grammar muscles. What I’ve noticed is that they are very weak! =)
    Commas have really confused me. Thanks for the lesson

    Saph -Walk with Me’s last blog post..Starting An Organic Garden

  4. I found since blogging that I have very weak grammar skills.
    Thanks for the lesson!

    Saph -Walk with Me’s last blog post..Starting An Organic Garden

  5. Great post!

    I think we should all start a grammar appreciation website! 😉

    In today’s society, grammar seems to be overlooked. I’m not sure if schools are going into grammar as much as they should be!

    Sarah :: Using Commas’s last blog post..Commas Part Three – Using Commas with Introductions

  6. First I learn grammar I thought it’s difficult. But after that I found that it’s not too difficult.
    grammar quizz´s last blog post ..Grammar Quizzes- Pronoun 2

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