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Clauses, and We Don’t Mean Santa

Using commas correctly can be tricky, and one of the most common errors stems from conditional clauses. So what is a conditional clause?

Using commas correctly can be tricky, and one of the most common errors stems from conditional clauses. So what is a conditional clause?

A conditional clause expresses a condition and an outcome.

"If you are approached by an armored tiger, you should not invoke the power of Grayskull."

Being approached by an armored tiger is the condition. If this condition does not occur, neither will the potential consequence. However, if you are approached by an armored tiger, invoking the power of Grayskull is not recommended.

"If you pick up an article, remember that knowing is half the battle."

The condition here is that you are writing an article. Remembering that knowing is half the battle may be sound advice, but you're only being cautioned to follow it under the previous condition.

One thing you may notice here is that the outcome is always a complete sentence. This makes our comma trick an easy one.

First, look for the trigger word "if." Next, look for the complete sentence.

"|If| you follow this advice, |your comma will be in the right place.|"

"|If| you can break a sentence into units, |this becomes an easy process.|"

We can take this concept further into adverbial clauses as a whole.

An adverbial clause gives us more information about the main clause by explaining when, how, why, how much and to what extent something took place.

"When faced with the terrible scent of durian, Alex found his will to eat it shrinking."

"Alex found his will to eat it shrinking" is a complete sentence, but it fails to express everything we need to know about the situation. With the first part, we know that "it" refers to "durian" and that the situation occurred when he smelled it.

Like the previous rule, look for the trigger word followed by the complete sentence.

"|Because| of volcanic activity, |several flights have been canceled.|"

"Several flights have been canceled" is a complete sentence, and the reason for their cancellation is indicated in the part prior to it.

A list of adverbial triggers can be found here:

It's important to note that you should only use a comma when these clauses are in the front of the sentence.

"His lip dribbled with glistening strands of sorrow when he first tasted durian."

"He wondered if people who enjoyed its taste acted out of some Darwinian survival effort when consuming it."

"However, Alex offered no apology for his derision if durian appealed to them."

"In fact, Alex felt a bit worried for those poor souls because he was certain that durian equated to culinary death."

Please remember that this is a basic guide to comma usage, designed to cut through the technical explanations of many other guides. There's no "one ring to rule them all" when it comes to grammar, but these tips will help you recognize instances where a comma may be present.

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302861 23. June 2014 - 3:53


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343181 25. June 2014 - 18:18

This article is fantastic. Thank you so much.


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