Writing Hack: Essential Rules about Comma

Photo credit:    Leo Reynolds    via    Visual hunt    /    CC BY-NC-SA

One little comma can sometimes mean big trouble when you’re writing. Take this example: “Let’s eat Mom.” Without a comma, you just transformed an innocent invitation to something awful.

Watch how clever the little comma is in the video below, a Ted-Ed original lesson, which focuses on two basic rules involving conjunctions and subordinates.


 Conjunctions are “small” words that connect words and phrases. To remember the different conjunctions, think of the acronym FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.

They sometimes require the help of the comma. For example: Barthelem was accepted into the University of Chicago, and he is on the waitlist for Stanford University.


Subordinates are the heavyweights of sentences. They connect two unequal things: dependent and independent clauses. They include although, because, before, however, unless, and even though.

Subordinates sometimes need the comma. For example: “Even though Bartheleme loves to sing, he never sings in front of others.”

Don’t stumble on the little comma. View “The Comma Story” by Terisa Folaron and Brett Underhill.

Note: This post was originally published on my old blog on Dec. 21, 2016. The original version didn’t make it when I moved my blog to Squarespace.