I received the feedback from my first college paper with the phrase “excessive comma usage” written at the end. The feedback raced through my head over and over again. How could a professor deduct so many points for such a small reason? That was just his opinion. Punctuation is subjective and decided by the author. I flipped back to the first page and began reading it out loud to myself. Surely, if I could prove to him that every comma was necessary, then he would consider raising my grade for the paper. I was quickly humbled as I stumbled over phrases, sentence after sentence. I realized just how distracting those commas were. There was a comma in almost every sentence, and I was clearly in the wrong.
Those commas taught me this valuable lesson about writing: the content of a paper shows the audience that the author cares about the topic, but grammar usage shows the audience how much the author cares about them and their reading experience. My professor could not appreciate how much work I had put into the content because I had not taken the time to read through the paper to see if my pauses made sense and had a purpose. It looked careless and sloppy on the page, which translated into his opinion of my entire work. The commas were simply too distracting. While there are many ways to utilize punctuation, writers do not have absolute freedom to use them however they want. There are wrong ways to utilize the comma. Many of those erroneous uses are listed in the handout attached below. If you struggle with commas, don’t worry, you’re in the right place!
If you click on the link above the handout, it will take you to our home site, where you can check out other resources to improve your writing skills and prepare you for academic, professional, and civic writing.