Life & Work Skills

Comma Mistakes You Might Be Making

Hello and welcome to Maddie’s Grammar Lessons™ , Volume III. (I’m fun, I swear!)

A little background: I’m The Everygirl’s copy editor (and an editorial assistant), which entails editing stories from our writers for style and grammar. Through this, I’ve found that most people make the same mistakes — whether they’re seasoned writers or not.

So far, I’ve talked about the most common writing mistakes I see and common words and phrases that people misuse, so now I’m ready to dive into the king of punctuation: the comma. (Still fun! I’m listening to Candy Shop as I write this!)

Commas have the power to make a sentence clear and readable, or cause it to make no sense at all. Some people overuse them, some people underuse them, but these mistakes happen all of the time. Keep these in your back pocket for the next time you have to send a follow-up email or have to write an email to the Big Boss.


Comma splices

A comma splice is when you use a comma to join two independent clauses (clauses that can stand on their own and make sense as a full sentence — they are complete thoughts.) These aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be used.


I might not go to work tomorrow, I feel really sick.

I went for a run, I slipped and fell.

How to fix it:

Instead of using a comma, you can add a conjunction, make two separate sentences, or turn the comma to a semicolon.


I might not come to work tomorrow because I feel really sick. 

I went for a run; I slipped and fell.


Run-on sentences (missing commas)

A run-on sentence is formed when two independent clauses are joined together without a word to connect them or punctuation to separate them. They need to be joined by a comma or semicolon, or separated by a period.


I’m sorry I love you

I went to Starbucks I got an iced americano.


I’m sorry, I love you.

I went to Starbucks, and I got an iced americano.


Missing commas (AKA not using a comma between two independent clauses that are connected by a coordinating conjunction)

Don’t tune out yet, I know this is a lot of grammar jargon, but it isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds. Independent clauses are clauses that can stand alone (see above); a coordinating conjunction joins two of them (and, but, or, etc.).


I went to Trader Joes, but I forgot to buy bananas.

(“I went to Trader Joes” and “I forgot to buy bananas” both can stand alone (independent clauses) and are joined by “but” (a coordinating conjunction.)


I went to Trader Joes but I forgot to buy bananas.

(Add a comma before the conjunction.)


Unnecessary commas

I have a theory that every human being on earth tends to either underuse or overuse commas (I’ve always leaned toward the latter). Some examples of overuse:


You can do it, too.


You can do it too.


You either love commas, or you don’t.


You either love commas or you don’t.