Commas with Introductory Phrases
A common technique that writers use to add detail to their writing is to begin some sentences with introductory phrasesA group of words that comes at the beginning of a sentence to provide additional information about the main part of the sentence..
An introductory phrase is any group of words that precedes the subjectIn grammar, a part of speech that refers to the “doer” in the sentence (who or what). A subject is usually a person, place or thing. in a sentenceA group of words, phrases, or clauses that expresses a complete thought. A complete sentence has these characteristics: a capitalized first word, a subject and a predicate, and end punctuation, such as a period (.), question mark (?), or exclamation mark (!).. There are many types of introductory word groups and phrasesA set of words that express an idea. A phrase may or may not form a complete sentence., but the most common are prepositional phrasesA group of words that starts with a preposition and ends with a noun. For example, in the prepositional phrase, At the desk, At is the preposition and the desk is the noun. and dependent clausesPart of a sentence that contains a subject and a verb but is unable to stand on its own because it is incomplete in some way. Example of a dependent clause: Because it was a freshly picked apple, the boy ate it with delight. In this sentence, Because it was a freshly picked apple is a dependent clause. It has a subject (it) and a verb (was), but it cannot stand on its own without the second part of the sentence.. Even though it is not critical to be able to identify each of these types of introductory word groups by name, it is crucial to know how to punctuateTo use punctuation marks in a text. them. They are all punctuated in the same way, following two steps.
First, identify the subject in the sentence. Remember that this is the "who" or "what" being talked about in the sentence. Don't be fooled by subject pretendersA noun or pronoun in a phrase or clause that is not the subject of the sentence. It is referred to as a "pretender" because it can often be confused as the subject of the sentence. Example: While eating my mom's banana cream pie, I felt relieved to be home. In this sentence, mom could be seen as a subject pretender because I is the actual subject of the sentence, not mom.; not every nounA part of speech that refers to a person, place, or thing. Examples include: swimmer, lake, sunscreen. or pronounA part of speech that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. Examples include: I, he, you, they. is the subject.
Second, see if there are any phrases or clausesA group of words in a sentence that contains a subject and a predicate. that come before the subject. If so, follow the phrase or clause with a comma(,) A punctuation mark used to group and separate information in sentences.. If there are two or more phrases and/or clauses before the subject, only put a comma after the last one.
For example, read the following sentence and notice the introductory phrase that comes before the subject, which is she. The introductory phrase is correctly followed by a comma:
Correct: When Gina registered for five classes in the spring, she had no idea that they would consume so much of her time.
Now, look at how the sentence appears without the correct punctuation:
Incorrect: When Gina registered for five classes in the spring she had no idea that they would consume so much of her time.
Without the comma, the reader is left wondering what in the spring refers to: the time when Gina registered for classes or when she didn't realize they would consume so much of her time.
Next, look at another way that the sentence could have been punctuated incorrectly:
Incorrect: When Gina registered, for five classes, in the spring, she had no idea that they would consume so much of her time.
Remember that the subject of the sentence is she. It is preceded by a subordinating clauseA type of dependent clause that begins with a subordinating conjunction. Example: After the game. The subject: the game, is modified by the subordinating conjunction: After., When Gina registered, and two prepositional phrases, for five classes and in the spring. Because there are two or more phrases and/or clauses before the subject, the comma is placed after the last one. Remember, do not put a comma between each clause or phrase.+ PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Have you ever been to an auction? Auctioneers generally speak so quickly that it seems as if they don't pause to take any breaths at all. If you are not paying attention, you could miss out on an item or even bid on an item that you didn't intend to at a much higher price than you would like to pay. When you use introductory phrases without the proper punctuation, readers will read your writing at the same speed as the fast-talking auctioneer because you have not given them any punctuation to indicate they should pause and "take a breath." This confuses readers, who will have difficulty identifying the subject of the sentence without rereading it at least once, if not more. Whether you are writing a paper or a business report, you do not want your professor, boss, or client to have to reread it multiple times to understand what you mean; using the appropriate punctuation is one step to ensure that people will clearly understand what you have written.
Notice how the commas are placed after the introductory phrases in the following sentences.
Correct: When you think of a library, you might first think of the library on your campus or in your community.
Correct: However, the first libraries originated in ancient Iraq and looked much different than libraries today.
Correct: Mainly consisting of inventories and other business transactions, these archives of clay tablets are the first records of history.
Correct: When scholars looked at the libraries of Ancient Egyptians where the ancient people first began to use paper, they saw documentation of correspondence and myths.
Correct: While libraries still catalogue correspondence and other reference materials, today's libraries contain less paper than ever and provide information digitally.
Add commas after the introductory phrases in the following sentences.
During the Roman Empire around 30 B.C., the first public libraries were created by a supporter of Julius Caesar.
Until that point, the only libraries were private.
Despite being nearly illiterate and poorly educated, many wealthy homeowners had large libraries in their homes as status symbols.
To demonstrate their wealth, they showed off their scrolls in tall bookcases made of precious wood and ivory.
Surprisingly, this practice has not changed much today.
In design magazines and blogs, there are stories of people who buy up loads of old books that they do not intend to ever read to fill up empty library or office bookshelves.
Why does it matter whether you add a comma after an introductory phrase?
Using a comma after an introductory phrase helps the reader identify the subject of the sentence, as well as letting the reader know how the sentence would sound if spoken aloud.
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