Misuse or lack of punctuations
1. Missing Commas after Introductory Elements:
There are arguments around whether to punctuate after introductory elements. Traditional English writing requires you to place a comma after introductory elements.
Some writers though prefer punctuating after introductory elements only when it causes confusion without one, or when the introductory element is over six words, or when the introductory element is a subordinate clause.
(1) Error: After watching the nighttime news we went to bed.
Correction: After watching the nighttime news, we went to bed.
(2) Error: Nevertheless I am not without fault. <Some users think that a comma is not necessary in this case>
Correction: Nevertheless, I am not without fault.
2. Error usage of Comma in a Compound Sentence:
Traditional English writing requires you to place a comma before a coordinator, such as for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so (FANBOYS) when linking two independent clauses.
(1) Correct: I love playing basketball and jumping ropes.
(2) Correct: He has proved his loyalty to the King and has demonstrated his love for the Princess.
< For (1) and (2), the coordinator “and” links verb together not independent clauses, so a comma is not necessary here>
(3) Correct: He has already boarded the plane, so it is too late to stop him from going to Paris.
< The coordinator “so” links two independent clauses together, so a comma is needed here.>
(4) Error: I cannot understand a word he said as I have never learnt Spanish before.
(5) Error: I have never seen a phenomenon like this and this just proves that how little I know.
< For (4) and (5), the coordinators “as” and “and” link two independent clauses, so a comma is needed here>
(6) Error: Mary has come to terms with John about fighting over child custody, and to stop all the legal battles for inheritance.
** has come to terms about fighting and has come to terms to stop legal battles.
<What the coordinator “and” links are not independent clauses, so a comma is not needed here>
** Sometimes, people have argued that the comma is optional in very short and easily understood sentences. However, to err on the safe side, it would be better to use one.
3. Misuse of Commas/dashes with Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Elements
If it is a nonrestrictive clause, commas/dashes are required; otherwise, it will turn into a restrictive clause and the meaning of the sentence will be different.
(1) Children who don’t listen should be spank. (restrictive)
=> Meaning: Only the children who don’t listen should be spank
(2) Children, who don’t listen, should be spank. (nonrestrictive)
=> Meaning: Children don’t listen and they should all be spank. <A restrictive clause without commas would sound more logical.>
(3) My brother-in-law, who was awarded with a Nobel Prize, is 19 years old. (I have only one brother-in-law and he is 19 years old. By the way, he got a Nobel Prize.)
(4) Reading books, which I often do, help to increase my knowledge.
(5) Employers who care for their employees have higher employee satisfaction. (restricted clause).
Adding commas will make it a non-restrictive clause which would mean “Employers have higher employee satisfaction”, and would sound rather awkward, as the element “who care for their employees” is considered essential to the basic meaning of the sentence, and should not be set off by commas.
4. The Comma Splice
When the comma is used to separate independent clauses, there must be a conjunction connecting them. If the conjunction is not there, we have a comma splice. Comma splice is a type of run-on sentence.
(1) Error: Mary laughed at the poor boy, nobody scolded her. (X: comma-splice error)
Correction: Mary laughed at the poor boy, but nobody scolded her.
5. Possessive Apostrophe Error
Error: Its alright.
Right: It’s alright.
6. Missing commas in a series
When three or more items appear in a series, they should be separated from one another with commas.
Ø Kevin and I started our 2 week vacation to Mount Rushmore, Rocky Mountains, and Grand Canyon.
Ø As an exchange for a trip to Legoland, our kids agreed to listen to our command, (to) show their best behaviors, and (to) do their own chores.
Ø I will help you if you stop smoking, if you exercise every day and if you promise not to drink anymore. <missing comma before “and”>
Ø Joanne has a most kind, sensitive and untamed heart. <missing comma before “and”>
Ø Timmy kicked Jack in the butt, punched him in the face, and threw him on the ground.
Ø He ran, jumped and shouted at the playground. <missing comma before “and”>
For the usage of commas, please refer to
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