Chapter 8-2: Avoid Crafting Sentences that Use Commas
Commas are a killer. At certain course levels, I would say that an unbelievable 15% of errors relating to grammar stem from commas (,). The best advice that I can provide students on this topic is to reduce the number of commas that you need to use in sentences by making short sentences. Naturally, this produces a greater number of short sentences.
Following this advice will result in texts that are less artistic and less pleasing to read; however, since these are English as a second language courses, a lot of emphasis is placed on grammar. A typical evaluation places 40% of the grade on grammar and only 2% on "style." Which one would you rather lose out on?
In short, avoid crafting sentences that require commas unless you are absolutely required to use them. A table, below, distinguishes between unavoidable sentences where you must use commas (left-hand side) and sentences that you should not write in order to avoid using a comma (right-hand side):
* Please understand that the sentences that are flagged as “Avoid” are flagged that way because they require comma usage that often creates problems for students. These sentences are grammatically correct and can be safely used by students in advanced ESL classes.