Quick Tip #1

Source: Unsplash

Before we start…

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be posting quick writing tips on punctuation and grammar. (P&G)

So often I read posts that stylistically sound great; strong tone, interesting ideas, overall engaging stories. However, so many of those same posts lack the necessary punctuation and grammar! I know I’m harping over technicalities here but these things matter.

P&G adds to your credibility as a writer; it makes your work more convincing because it shows you care. When a post is full of mistakes, it distracts from what’s actually being said. People are less likely to share an article that’s full of technical error.

With proper P&G, readers have an easier time following and understanding your message. It takes the quality to a new level. It increases your chances of getting accepted into publications, too. I could go on and on here.

The point is your attention to detail will set you apart.

I’m doing this to help others and in the process, it’s good for me. I’m no writing guru. I make mistakes all the time. This is a benefit to everyone.

Okay, here we go.

Today’s tip: Commas in introductions

Comma-use can be the most tricky. Although dozens of rules for commas exist, I’m going to cover just one at a time.

Today let’s talk about when to use commas at the beginning of a sentence:

  • If you start a sentence with a dependent clause, use a comma after it.

The bullet point above is an example.

Ex: Since I joined Medium a year ago, I’ve substantially improved my writing.

Dependent clauses do not stand on their own. Since we have a dependent clause before an independent, we offset it with a comma.

  • Use a comma after an introductory phrase.

An introductory phrase (essentially a dependent clause) does not have it’s own subject and verb. It sets the stage for the main part of the sentence.

Ex: While walking down the street to his car, John noticed he’s running late for his meeting.

Ex: Deep under the murky water, I see a school of fish.

It’s good to think of these as “scene setting” words. If you are describing surrounding information to the main point of the sentence, use a comma.

  • The comma is optional if the introductory phrase is brief (less than four words).

Ex: When in town[x] we go shopping at the mall.

Since this is a short introductory phrase and doesn’t cause any confusion in the sentence, you may leave the comma out.

Good enough

I’m trying to ease into this. That should be enough for now. Look for ways to incorporate these pointers in your writing today!

- AZ

Bored, uneducated, homeless — em dashes are my specialty. I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.

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Alec Zaffiro

Alec Zaffiro

Bored, uneducated, homeless — em dashes are my specialty. I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.

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