Monday, May 12, 2014

Clauses, Introductory Phrases, and Commas

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! Well, here we are! This is the start of a whole new week. Are you excited yet? I have some awesome things coming for you on the blog this week I just know you're gonna love. Tomorrow, another writing post like the one today. Wednesday, a book review for Reap by Casey L. Bond (you HAVE to check that one out). And Thursday, a post about N. L. Greene's new release Magic Unfolds (there may be a surprise review in that one, too, if I can get done reading it by then). Friday, I'll be bringing you some information about a book I have in the works. Sounds like a lot of fun coming your way, eh? Well, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get into clauses, introductory phrases, and commas!

Let's begin with the clause:
A clause is like a sentence within a sentence. It's something you can remove from the words around it and those words retain their meaning. A clause must be set off with a set (that's two) of commas. Example:

I went to the store, because we needed eggs and milk, and found myself wandering the aisles instead of shopping for what I went after.

Clause: because we needed eggs and milk
Sentence: I went to the store and found myself wandering the aisles instead of shopping for what I went after.

Now, we know it's a clause because we can remove it and the other words still make sense. Be sure you're checking this when you edit. If something can't be removed, you need to figure out if it's an introductory phrase rather than a clause. Comma appropriately.

Introductory Phrases are those that can be moved to the end of the sentence and still have it make sense. These are offset with a single comma, and they can come in handy when beginning too many sentences with the same word (like he, she, or I). Note: That last sentence I wrote didn't have an introductory phrase, it had two whole thoughts joined by a comma and the word and. Completely different things. Example:

To get a better view of the elephants, she walked up to the fence and stuck her face through the bars.

Introductory Phrase: To get a better view of the elephants.
Sentence: She walked up to the fence and stuck her face through the bars.

Why is it an introductory phrase and not two complete thoughts? Because one doesn't make sense without the other. How can you check? Split them up and rearrange them. Example:

She walked up to the fence and stuck her face through the bars to get a better view of the elephants.

Without the second part, we don't know why she walked up to the fence and stuck her face through the bars. These two segments also can't be separated because the introductory phrase isn't a complete sentence in and of itself; it needs the second half to make sense.

You cannot join two independent thoughts with a comma while leaving out the word and. That calls for a semicolon or a period and separation. Example:

I love to look at the elephants roaming around their enclosure, they're my favorite animals.

No, no, no. This must be written:

I love to look at the elephants roaming around their enclosure. They're my favorite animals.
OR
I love to look at the elephants roaming around their enclosure; they're my favorite animals.


Why? Because they're my favorite animals isn't a dependent clause; it's a whole thought/sentence.

Again, check it to be sure it can't be moved to the front and make sense like this:

They're my favorite animals I love to look at the elephants roaming around their enclosure.

You wouldn't stick a comma between those to join them this way. Right? Right. So, you can't do it the other way.

It's an easy thing to check if you're aware of how to check it.

If you want to know more about when to/not to use a comma, check out this post.

How about you? Were you aware of this little trick?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

2 comments:

  1. Great tips, Jo! I learned this in college, but had completely forgotten about this fun little trick. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Beth! I know when I'm editing it's one of the most common errors I find outside of pronoun misplacement :)

      Delete

Play nice and have fun. If you're a jerk, I won't publish your comment. My blog. My rules. Thanks for taking the time to chat at me!