Introductory Commas: it’s all in the name.
These commas are placed after an introductory element that starts a sentence, hence the name. Very often, these commas are optional, especially in British English, but they come in handy because, without them, sentences can often be very confusing. This is especially true if the sentences are wordy.
Sometimes it’s easier to think of these commas as much needed punctuation in complex sentences rather than as commas after introductory elements.
Tip: A complex sentence is made up of a main clause and a subordinate phrase or clause.
Examples often speak volumes, so here goes:
- Having been there before, Sydney could point out many of the building’s interesting features.
- Once inside the house and out of the rain, I started to shiver.
- Although our team won, the game had not been very exciting.
Introductory elements are easiest spotted by looking out for the following elements:
- Gerunds that start sentences [e.g., looking, being, adding, verb type words ending in “ing”]
- Subordinate conjunctions that start sentences [e.g. because, once, in, about, when, while, and so forth]
There are also certain words that act as introductory elements:
- Names [when the person is addressed]:
Elaine, we would like to visit you.
- Interjections [words that express emotions]:
Oh, that was a surprise!
- Common introductory words:
However, Well, Yes, No, and so forth.
These lists are quite extensive, so it would be best to revise them. Use a good resource and keep reading till it all makes sense. My favorite online source is Purdue University’s Language Lab. There are many good books. Some favored in the US: The Little, Brown Compact Handbook, A Writer’s Reference, The Gregg Reference Manual.
Some examples in the next post to test your introductory comma muscles.
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