Punctuation: Commas

A comma is most commonly used for separating three or more words, clauses, or phrases. For example: “I need to go buy bread, milk, and eggs.” Notice how the three items are separated by commas and and is used right before the last item.

Another way a comma can be used is in between adjectives. Another example: “I loved the way her long, dark, brown hair looked today.” The comma replaces the word “or” and “and”, making it a condensed sentence.

A comma is used when addressing someone or when one answers with a yes or a no. For example: “Lisa, would you please take out the trash?” or “Yes, I can take out the trash.” “Do you think you will watch the game, Todd?” or “No, not unless the Colts are playing .”

If a phrase or clause breaks up a sentence or interrupts it you should place a comma there. Example: “I, after much consideration, have decided to retire early.” or ” Thomas, although hesitant, has gone over to his sister’s.”

A comma should be placed anytime a coordinating conjunction is in place. (Coordinating conjunctions are “and”, “or”, and “but”. An example of this would be “Jamie may work, but someone must pay the bills.” “Aaron has gone to the store, and is now low on gasoline.”

Use commas as a tool with embellishing phrases or clauses that add to the main idea of the sentence. “I live in Indiana, the Hoosier state” or ” I am trying not to travel very much, as gasoline prices are higher than normal.”

Don’t forget that commas should be used in dates and for addresses. “August 8, 1985 is when I left” or ” He is located at 1955 Wander Rd., Prospect Heights, Illinois 60070″

You should not have a problem writing if you stick to these basic comma rules. If you are not sure why you are placing a comma in the sentence you probably do not need it.


Adjectives and adverbs are very similar, except an adverb can modify everything that is not a noun or a pronoun, while adjectives only modify or explain nouns and pronouns. An adverb can modify or explain a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. They can modify clauses, phrases, and some modify whole sentences.

An adverb usually answers a question such as how? or when? or where? They can describe how much or in what way something happened. A list of adverbs quickly reveals that an adverb usually ends in “ly,” as in “quickly,” “audibly,” or “calmly.” Adverbs examples also include words like “behind,” “beside,” “before” and “between.”

An adverb can be classified by type. The manner adverb describes how something is done. An adverb of degree, explains how much. An adverb of time explains when something is done. A manner, time or degree adverb can be found after the verb or at the end of a sentence. The frequency adverb explains how often, and can be found before the main verb. An adverb of comment is always found at the very beginning of a sentence. This kind of adverb expresses an opinion or comment about the situation described in the sentence.

The use of an adverb in a certain way, to modify a verb, creates special adverbs known as intensifiers. Intensifiers increase, decrease or otherwise define the level of importance of the verb. Intensifiers can be used to manipulate human emotion. Imagine the sentence, “You are slightly infected with swine flu.” Swine flu is scary but ‘slightly’ makes it sound a lot better. “He is extremely contagious,” has a much stronger negative impact.

Knowing adverbs from adjectives is simple. Adjectives describe nouns, and pronouns, while an adverb describes almost everything else. An adverb usually ends in “ly.” In fact most of the time an adverb is just an adjective with an ly ending. For example: slow, in the phrase “a slow train” is an adjective describing train. Slowly is an adverb. In the sentence, “The train moved slowly.” slowly modifies the verb “moves,” and that causes it to be an adverb.

Adjectives: Definition and Degrees

An adjective is a word used to describe or modify a noun or pronoun. It is used to explain or describe the subject or object of a sentence. For example the sentence “Mary has hair” sounds strange, but by using adjectives the sentence can look like this. “Beautiful Mary has long, golden hair.” These kinds of words are a major key to good creative writing skills.

There are so many of these lovely descriptive words, because they describe the colors, sizes, shapes, textures, and other various attributes of nouns and pronouns. Examples are words like tiny, gigantic, glossy, sharp, easy, purple, smart, beautiful, compassionate, leafy and etc.

Adjectives and adverbs are very similar, but not the same. An adverb can be used to modify everything except nouns and pronouns. They usually modify verbs, but they can also be used to modify an adjective or adverb.

Comparing adjectives compare one thing to another. Comparing adjectives have a comparative form and a superlative form. Comparative adjectives compare two nouns or pronouns and usually end in “er” while Superlative adjectives compare more than two things or all things of that type, and usually end in “est” Some verbs have a specific and unique form just for their superlative and comparative form. For example: “good, better, best.” Two syllable and three syllable adjectives such as beautiful use a two word comparison such as “more beautiful, and the superlative is “most beautiful.” This is true unless the two syllable adjective ends in “er,” “le” or “ow.”
Here are some examples:

Adjective Comparative adjective Superlative adjective
small smaller smallest
dark darker darkest
good better best
bad worse worst
interesting most interesting most interesting
fruitful more fruitful most fruitful
gentle gentler gentlest

Many writers find a list of adjectives helpful. Being able to think of just the right adjective at any given time is an art, but even artists sometimes need tools to help them. A list of adjectives can be found on line, and a thesaurus can also be helpful in searching for just the right synonym for a word used too often in a sentence.

Confusing Word Pairs: Adopt and Adapt, Aide and Aid

Four of the most confusable words in English are adopt vs adapt and aide vs aid.

Aide vs. Aid

These two words have essentially the same meaning, which is assistance, yet their applications differ. ‘Aide’ always refers to a person who assists. ‘Aid,’ on the other hand, refers to anything not human that assists or is assistance. It can be a noun or a verb. In the following example, ‘aid’ is a noun: “Financial aid is provided to students.” Here, it is a verb: “The nurse aids the doctors in patient care.” Yet, if we change the word to describe who the nurse is rather than what she does, we get the following: “The nurse is an aide to the doctor.”

Adopt vs. Adapt

To adopt means to take in or acquire. It indicates that one has something he did not have before. To adapt means to alter according to circumstances or environment. You can’t adapt what you don’t have, and can’t adopt what you already have.

A simple trick to differentiating between these two similar words is to think of a phrase in which one is commonly used. “Adopted child,” for example, is a very well-known usage of the words ‘adopt.’ When one adopts a child, he takes the child into his family. The word ‘adapt’ is often used in discussions of biological evolution. Species that quickly adapt to their environment survive. If one keeps these common uses in mind, it will help in selecting the proper word.