Comma Usage in Business Writing


Comma Usage

The comma, remarkably, is misused far too often – and with the advent of “texting,” punctuation itself seems to have become obsolete.

The period can be referred to as a “full-stop.”  The comma is a short pause where you can take a breath if you are reading the text out loud.

Punctuation exists for a purpose – to make written messages easy to understand.  The comma, as mentioned above, requires the reader to pause – and the pause can be the reason that the message is understood or misunderstood.

Understanding the use of the marks of punctuation, and the common errors, can help you to strive for good writing skills.  Writing practice will serve you well.




An anecdote about comma usage

A comma usage anecdote

I have always known and been pedantic about punctuation. But a few years ago, I volunteered to read articles to be recorded for those who were without sight.  I

had the choice of practicing the reading first – and then recording – or just reading through from the first sight.  To do the reading cold, of course, would take far less time – and was it really necessary to read through the material first?

Because I am a good reader, I opted for what appeared to be the method requiring the least time.  Ooops...

I learned first-hand with that exercise how important the comma is!

The comma, when placed correctly

  • allows the reader to read with meaning
  • allows the sentence to be easily understood
  • allows the reader to pause at the appropriate points in the sentence

Without that pause, the reader could go forward and add the next word too soon – and then the meaning of the sentence is not clear. 

When I made a mistake in the recording because there was no comma to guide me, I had to stop the recording, rewind, and start recording again.  hat was a bit of a nuisance. - and, of course, time-consuming!

Though I had known this for a long time, here was a tangible example presented to me of just how important the comma is!

  • Effective business communication must demonstrate accuracy and clarity. 
  • Learning punctuation rules can help to eliminate common communication barriers.

A second anecdote - comma usage

A second anecdote

What is the meaning of the following sentence:?

A woman without her man is nothing.

You can look at the sentence above in two totally different ways - and the meaning is totally and clearly dependent upon the use of the comma. 

Actually, without the comma, the sentence can be rather insulting to the fair sex. 

A woman is nothing without her man. 

We all know, however, that the sentence above is not accurate!  However, that is the meaning of the words as they appear in the sentence above!

We can change that - by adding commas appropriately.

A woman, without her, man is nothing.  

The sentence above is a little closer to the truth. 

It means that man is nothing without a woman - a meaning totally opposite to the meaning of the first sentence.

Probably a better punctuation would be to substitute the first comma with a dash:

A woman - without her, man is nothing. 

You should be able to see, however, how important comma usage is - and, indeed, punctuation - when trying to put forth a clear and unambiguous meaning!



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Comma Usage

Commas generally should be placed in the following ways in a sentence:

  • After the introductory word, phrase, or clause
  • After the words in a series
  • Between two sentences if you add a conjunction like “and” or “but”
  • Inside the double quotation marks  (That’s a rather curious point.  It does not always seem to make logical sense, but it’s the rule – and I use it.)


Note the examples below:

Introductory word
However, learning the comma rules can be an easy task.

Introductory phrase
In a nutshell, the rules for punctuation are rather comprehensive.

Introductory clause
When you next visit this website, I hope you’ll have a good idea of how you can improve your writing.

Words in a series
John, Susan, Bill, Ralph, and Genevieve are all going to the concert.

Between two sentences with the conjunction.
John is driving to the concert, but Genevieve is travelling by bus.






Error - The Comma Splice

A common error.  You need a period at the end of a sentence.  If you join two sentences with no other words in between, you really do need a period (or perhaps a semicolon) at the end of the first sentence.

John is driving to the concert.  Genevieve is travelling by bus. (correct)

If you switch to the comma in the sentence above, you have a rather common error:

John is driving to the concert,  Genevieve is travelling by bus. (incorrect)

The error is called a comma splice or a run-on sentence.  You need more than a comma to join two sentences.


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Special Link - Comma Splice

Click here to read more about this common error - the comma splice.

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Summary

Punctuation is important to provide the proper meaning for English writing.  Without punctuation, meanings can easily become misunderstood.  Your goal is to write clearly.

I hope you can see how important comma usage is!

Now that you know the difference, you can avoid the error and you can write correctly!

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You can definitely master effective writing techniques. 

Reviewing this guide to grammar and writing, improving your sentence structure, and paying attention to styles of writing will all help you to improve your business writing skills. 


Funny meanings resulting comma misuse

  • Let's eat Grandpa!

OR

  • Let's eat, Grandpa! 

Which do you think is the correct meaning? 

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Special Link - Comma Rules -

Click this link for more information on Comma Rules.

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LINK - Click this link to locate an excellent course in business writing.

LINK - Return to Professional Business Writing from Comma Usage.