Tuesday Afternoon Punctuation: Commas, Part XV—Absolutely

Mots Justes is nearing the end of its ongoing series on commas. Just a few more posts on this multitasking punctuation mark, and we’ll move on to the elegant semicolon, I promise!

Always use a comma to set off an absolute phrase. An absolute phrase consists of a noun followed by a participle or participial phrase and modifies the whole sentence. It can appear at the beginning or end of a sentence, but in either case, use a comma:

Another heat wave threatening Southern California this week, I am seeking refuge during the day at Jeff’s office.

I dread early autumn in Los Angeles, September being the hottest month of the year here.

Don’t, however, use a comma to separate the noun from the participle in an absolute phrase—i.e., in the above examples, there should be no comma between heat wave and threatening or September and being.

Do you have a question about the comma? Let me know, and I’ll include it in a future installment of Mots Justes’ ongoing series.

The Mots Justes Series on Commas

Part I—To Serialize or Not to Serialize

Part II—Independent Thinking

Part III—Co-dependents

Part IV—Making Introductions

Part V—Interjections

Part VI—Parentheticals

Part VII—It’s All Relative

Part VIII—Adjectives

Part IX—Contrast

Part X—Adjectival Phrases and Appositives

Part XI—In Other Words

Part XII—Making the Transition

Part XIII—Confusion Busting

Part XIV—On One Condition


Hacker, Diana, The Bedford Handbook for Writers, 3rd ed. Boston: St. Martin’s Press: 1991.


1 Comment

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One response to “Tuesday Afternoon Punctuation: Commas, Part XV—Absolutely

  1. Pingback: lunch hour links for writers – 9/23/09 « helluo librorum

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