Mastering Commas: Comma Rule 1

Comma Rule 1 is powerful. In addition to solving many punctuation problems, it can help you avoid run-on sentences and fragments.

Here’s the rule:

Use a comma when a sentence begins with an extra idea.

Some writers prefer to state the rule this way:

Use a comma when a sentence has an introduction.

Take your pick: “Extra idea” and “introduction” are two names for the same thing.

A Closer Look at Comma Rule 1

Here’s a paragraph for you to read. I’ve put periods at the ends of all the sentences, and I’ve put commas after all the extra ideas (introductions).

When I was in the fourth grade, I visited the Statue of Liberty for the first time. I hurried up the spiral staircase to the observation window in the Lady’s crown. It was an unforgettable moment. As a college student years later, I went back for another visit. The Statue of Liberty enchanted me all over again. I hope to go back for another visit some day. My next experience will be different. Because I’ve learned about its history, the Statue of Liberty will have more meaning for me this time.

What about “It”?

Sometimes students are puzzled by “it.” Don’t be! “It” is always a thing.

Think about these sentences:

It was on a shelf in the back of the closet.

It needs another minute in the microwave.

It has a matching belt.

It was a great place for a vacation.

In each one, “it” is a thing. These examples are all sentences.

Try It Yourself

Which of these are sentences, and which are extra ideas? Answers are posted at the end. (Hint: Look at the first word.)

Because I forgot my appointment

The dentist’s receptionist called me

After checking my calendar

I made another appointment

Although she usually charges for a missed appointment

My dentist let it go this time

It won’t happen again

When I made the new appointment

I set up an automatic reminder

The Answers

The extra ideas are written in red:

Because I forgot my appointment  EXTRA IDEA

The dentist’s receptionist called me

After checking my calendar   EXTRA IDEA

I made another appointment

Although she usually charges for a missed appointment   EXTRA IDEA

My dentist let it go this time

It won’t happen again

When I made the new appointment   EXTRA IDEA

I set up an automatic reminder

Putting It All Together

Extra ideas and sentences go together. When you put an extra idea (or introduction) in front of a sentence, use a comma.

Because I forgot my appointment, the dentist’s receptionist called me. After checking my calendar, I made another appointment. Although she usually charges for a missed appointment, my dentist let it go this time. It won’t happen again. When I made the new appointment, I set up an automatic reminder.

Congratulations!

You’ve just learned Comma Rule 1.

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