The rules of commas are confusing, arcane, nonsensical, and require fifteen minutes of dedicated study. Who has the time? Fortunately, I’ll summarize them for you here.
Most people use more commas than necessary. Some people don’t use commas at all. Everyone talks about income inequality, but no one is talking about this.
You’ve probably used too many commas. In fact, I would go so far as to say you definitely have. As the last stage in your editing process, delete half of them. It doesn’t matter which ones.
You’re going to misuse a comma sometimes. It’s a rite of passage. All writers mess up their comma usage from time to time. They also don’t really know how to pay taxes. (In their defense, it’s complicated.)
Commas should go in between items in a long list of things. If you don’t have a long list of things, stick the commas in between cushions on your couch. Someplace where they’ll be easy to find later.
No one will care if you forget to use a comma unless you’re a woman with a Twitter account.
Little-known fact: most people aren’t sensitive to consuming too much salt, but enough are that the FDA has decided the safest option is to recommend everyone limit their salt intake. The same is true of commas. Most people don’t care if you use commas, as, much, as, you, want, but a small fraction of the population spent $120,000 on an MFA. And they’re the ones we must think of.
Statistically speaking, every sixteen seconds, a comma gets deleted by a frustrated editor who laments, “I can’t believe we gave this TikTok star a book deal.”
Contrary to popular opinion, commas don’t need to precede the word “because.” They can if they want to, though, and sometimes a rogue comma will infiltrate a sentence. To keep the peace, it’s best to let it stay.
Commas come after clauses. But Santa Claus isn’t real. Neither are commas. Nor is writing, really. It’s just words on a page.
A wise man once said, “Sure.” (The point of this parable is to demonstrate that you ought to use a comma before a quotation—did the message sink in?)
If you don’t understand commas, pay a writer to explain them to you. Actually, pay a writer for anything. Writers don’t make a lot of money.
Your writing is a little bit comma-happy. On a personal level, though, you are depressed. Likely because of the state of the publishing industry.
Use a comma anywhere in your writing you’d want the reader to pause. Also, use one after the word “phone,” because your reader will want to check their phone, so it’s nice to give them permission. They’ll check it whether or not you let them, though. You have no power.
Women don’t need to use commas when they’re menstruating. They’re going through enough already.
Always remember: there’s a reason “comma” rhymes with “llama.”
Commas should separate independent clauses. Dependent clauses should be freed—it’s the twenty-first century. And most of what you just wrote should be deleted. Drink another cup of coffee.
A comma is really just an apostrophe that wanted to take a nap. Who doesn’t need a nap from time to time? Surely your readers do. Or at least, they will.
Commas are like children. Your oldest never calls. Neither does your youngest.
Put a comma at the beginning and end of whatever you’ve written. Then delete everything in between the commas. This is the only rule of commas that matters.
Forget everything I just said. There is no wrong way to use a comma. If it feels right, it is.