The comma is a versatile punctuation mark in the English Language. It accounts for over 60% of the punctuation marks we use in English. See the post on Comma: Definitions, Functions, Uses with Examples. However, there are some instances where people misuse commas and that is what we address in this post. Being one of the most used punctuation marks, many just insert it where they deem fit and this results into errors.
Let us consider some of the instances where people use commas wrongly. Make sure you avoid using the comma indiscriminately as this can affect the quality of your writing.
Inserting Commas Between Main Sentence Elements
Many people insert commas between sentence elements that usually go together for instance between the subject and the predicator (verb), between the predicator and complement or between the preposition and the object as we have in these examples:
Subject and Predicator
• *The bus driver, found a forgotten luggage in the vehicle.
• *The couple, have left the auditorium.
Predicator and Complement
• *The lady saw, a beautiful gown.
• *He bought, a nice watch.
Predicator and Preposition
• *We must not cry, over spilt milk.
• *He was unsure, of the outcome of the meeting.
Commas After the last item in a Series
We do not need to insert comma between the last adjective in a series and the noun it modifies. For instance, the sentence below is incorrect:
• *He possesses a calm, pacific, liberal, helpful, demeanour.
In addition, we do not put a comma after the last item in a series. For instance,
• *She wanted the black, green, and blue dress.
But as noted earlier, the issue of Oxford or serial comma also has to be taken into consideration. Insertion or non-insertion of comma before the last item in a series is a matter of choice. You can read more about the Oxford Comma.
Commas Between Main Clauses Without a Connective
When there are two main clauses, a comma alone is not enough to separate them. If the clauses are not joined by a coordinating conjunction, they must be separated by a semicolon. You can see more examples of this in the post Compound Sentence Separated by Semicolon. It would be incorrect to say:
• *Man proposes, God disposes.
But it will be appropriate to say:
• Man proposes; God disposes.
Commas Between Two Words or Phrases Joined by AND
When there are two words or phrases which any of the coordinating conjunction joins to form a compound subject or verb, such should not be separated by commas. For instance:
• *The man, and his wife must cooperate to build the family.
• *We have prepared, and packaged the materials.
The appropriate way to put the above sentences would be:
• The man, and his wife must cooperate to build the family.
• We have prepared and packaged the materials.
Remove Comma with Conjunction
• *The dog went to the park, and learned how to play fetch.
• * The carton had burned up before he could fetch, and pour the water.
• *He got a call while waiting, and eating his breakfast.
• The dog went to the park and learned how to play fetch.
• The carton had burned up before he could fetch and pour the water.
• He got a call while waiting and eating his breakfast.
How to Properly Use Commas
In order to avoid repetition of posts on the proper use of comma, you can check out the extensive post I have put together on the punctuation mark which accounts from over 60% of the punctuation marks we use in English, the comma. You can read in the post, how to properly use commas.