The Importance of Breath Mints

This year, I am giving Certs to all of my students.  No, my students do not have bad breath!  I am giving them breath mints to remind them that commas= breaths.  Just as you can’t talk without breathing, you can’t write without commas.

Commas = Breaths

  • use commas to separate items in lists
  • use commas to separate adjectives describing the same noun
  • use commas to separate opening or closing clauses and phrases
  • use commas before conjunctions separating independent clauses
  • use commas to separate dependent clauses from phrases

So, what does a comma do? Well, quite simply, it allows your writing to breathe.  A comma is an invitation to your readers to pause – to take a breath. Try speaking without any pauses.  I bet you will be quite breathless by the end of the sentence!  Some sentences are so long that one could pass out if there were no commas to allow for a pause and a quick breath of fresh air!

You need to understand the comma rules so that you are not taking a breath after each word (can become tiresome quite quickly), but if you are not sure if a comma is placed correctly, speak the sentence aloud, pausing at the comma, and see if it is a natural place to take a breath and pause.

Read the above sentence aloud two ways: the first without pausing at the commas and the second with the pauses.   After sucking on the oxygen tank after the first read, I think you can see how having some breath mints on hand is a good reminder that your writing needs to breathe.

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