With the recent request that I give more advice on the proper use of commas, I decided to do the occasional Comma Challenge since I see so many errors in my day-to-day life. Here’s the first.

How does it work? I’m glad you asked! Below you’ll see seven sentences with comma errors. Your job? Find the mistake. Then check with the answers below, where I’ve made the correction and given the reason for it. Have fun!

The Comma Errors

  • Seriously, this project is really fun and easy, you should try it.
  • If you’ve been thinking of trying a light wood working project this wooden soap dish is an excellent place to start.
  • Woodpeckers charm and amaze with their boldly colored feathers, interesting nesting habits, and of course, their ability to carve through wood with no tools but their beak!
  • We recommend for Super Bowl Sunday that you arrive by 2:00 to have a table, if not we cannot guarantee your reservation.
  • The dining room, featuring a restaurant-style dining is a gathering place for pleasant conversation and delicious home-cooked meals.
  • So many walk through this life trying to fit in. The truth is Darling, you were always meant to stand out.
  • “I have prayed for a guide during Lent and I have found it. Thank you Hallow!”

The Comma Corrections

  • Seriously, this project is really fun and easy. You should try it.
    Reason: These are two independent clauses meaning neither needs the other. They can both stand alone. Therefore, a comma is wrong. A period is correct, but a semicolon would also work.

 

  • If you’ve been thinking of trying a light wood working project, this wooden soap dish is an excellent place to start.
    Reason: Unlike the example above, this sentence does have a dependent clause which is the first part of the sentence. Therefore, it needs a comma to separate it from the independent part of the sentence. In other words, the first part of the sentence makes no sense on its own as If you’ve been thinking of trying a light wood working project. Here’s an easy way to know if you need a comma: Read the sentence out loud and if you pause, insert a comma.)

 

  • Woodpeckers charm and amaze with their boldly colored feathers, interesting nesting habits, and, of course, their ability to carve through wood with no tools but their beak!
    Reason: Speaking of a pause, read this sentence out loud and you’ll hear a pause between and and of course. That means we need a comma. Also, you know you do because you could remove the words of course and not change the sentence. But you can’t remove the words and of course without making the sentence grammatically incorrect.

 

  • We recommend for Super Bowl Sunday that you arrive by 2:00 to have a table. If not, we cannot guarantee your reservation.
    Reason: This sentence has two comma errors. As with our first example, these two clauses are independent, meaning each can stand alone. Therefore, we need a period or a semicolon between them. Then, for the opposite reason, we need a comma after the word not because If not is dependent on the words that follow. If you look at what I just did with a comma after the words Therefore and Then, you’ll see the same rule being applied.

 

  • The dining room, featuring a restaurant-style dining, is a gathering place for pleasant conversation and delicious home-cooked meals.
    Reason: The writer of this sentence got it half right by including a comma after the word featuring, but they forgot to add another comma after the word dining. Why do I say that? Because featuring restaurant-style dining can be lifted out of the sentence without changing the sentence. Therefore, it is a dependent clause and needs commas before and after.

 

  • So many walk through this life trying to fit in. The truth is, Darling, you were always meant to stand out.
    Reason: We use a comma when addressing someone. Another example might be: We told you, Sharon, we wanted to learn more about commas.

 

  • “I have prayed for a guide during Lent and I have found it. Thank you, Hallow!”
    Reason: You just saw the reason for this, so you know the reason here, right?

I hope that helped! For more practice in correct comma usage, pay closer attention to the world around you. I gathered these seven examples in a few days without any effort as they simply appeared as I went about my life.

For more help with commas, and other punctuation, download the free guide to punctuation.

Thank you for taking our first Comma Challenge. And if you have any other comma questions, just ask!

Sharon Ernst is a retired freelance copywriter now on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes.