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Common Writing Mistakes: Misplaced Commas

What’s wrong with these sentences?

1. In the post, “Writing a Draft,” Frank listed 11 tips for writing smartly.

2. Craig clearly explains some common mistakes in writing, such as faulty parallelism misplaced modifiers awkward sentences and missing transitions.

3. Running in the park Frank often comes up with new ideas for posts.

4. Frank likes writing posts fast yet he always revises and proofreads before publishing them.

5. Frank’s son moved to England on September 18 2006.


Each of the sentences incorrectly uses the “comma,” a punctuation mark that indicates a pause or separates ideas.

Some commas are necessary, while others are used at the option of the writer to add clarity. If not used properly, a comma can radically change the meaning of sentence. Take for example these two sentences.

  • Language learners say fans of Frank and Craig will love the new Business English HQ Guide to Writing.
  • Language learners, say fans of Frank and Craig, will love the new Business English HQ Guide to Writing.

In the first case, fans will like the book. In the second example, language learners will love it.

Let’s now point out the mistakes in the five sentences.

The first sentence should read: In the post “Writing a Draft,” Frank listed 11 tips for writing smartly.” There is no comma after the word post because “Writing a Draft” identifies the post and is essential to what is being said.
The second example lists of series of items, so there should be commas between each point: “. . .such as faulty parallelism, misplaced modifiers, awkward sentences, and missing transitions.
In the third sentence, there should be a comma after the introductory phrase: “Running in the park, Frank . . .” Commas are also used with parenthetical words, such as “of course,” incidentally,” and “nevertheless.”
Many writers use the comma incorrectly with coordinate clauses expressing a complete idea with a subject and verb. In the fourth sentence, there should be a comma before the conjunction “yet”: “Frank likes writing posts fast, yet . . .” Use commas before other conjunctions – and, or, nor, but or so.
In the fifth sentence you need to separate the day from the year: “. . . September 18, 2006.” You should also use commas when writing addresses. For example:
“Frank was born in New York Hospital in Manhattan, New York, New York.” Commas separate the borough, the city and the state.

Now you try it. Correct the comma mistake in each sentence.

1. Frank studied for two M.A. degrees and he earned a doctorate.
2. If I have trouble coming up with ideas I put the text aside for a few hours.
3. There are three rules in writing: have a purpose understand your readers and know what they want.
4. Frank’s daughter was born in Montreal Quebec Canada.
5. In an informative article “Build Content by Asking Questions” Frank described some interviewing techniques.

Answers:
1. Frank studied for two M.A. degrees, and he earned a doctorate.
2. If I have trouble coming up with ideas, I put the text aside for a few hours.
3. There are three rules in writing: have a purpose, understand your readers, and know what they want.
4. Frank’s daughter was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
5. In an informative article, “Build Content by Asking Questions,” Frank described some interviewing techniques.

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