In English language, comma is one of the most useful forms of punctuation as it effectively separates various elements within a sentence according to the writer’s need. Commas are used to break between the ideas in a sentence and make writing easier to read and helps in accurately conveying the meaning of a sentence.
Several rules are followed while using comma like commas are used for separating two or more words, clauses or phrases presented serially or as a list. For e.g.- I ate fruits, toast and eggs. Also, they are used in mid-sentence to present additional information which are not essential to the meaning of a sentence, unduly without disrupting the flow of the sentence. Some of these rules are relatively clear and easier to apply while others could be difficult to understand. For instance, commas are expected to be used by writers, wherever necessary to prevent possible misreading or confusion. Such type of instructions could lead to its inevitable misuse and could be confusing, like adding incorrect placement or unnecessary syntax within a sentence. While using commas in the research paper, unfortunately researchers are too susceptible to committing errors. The key to submitting a manuscript with zero punctuation errors and to avoid such errors is to be aware of them.
There is a great infographics presented which list the top six common errors made by writers while preparing their manuscript.
- Comma Splice- A comma splice occurs when two complete sentences are joined with only one comma.
- The interrupter rule or parenthetical comma- Any clause, word or phrase that appears in the mid-sentence and which is not essential to the meaning of the sentence must be set off between a pair of commas. One should always remember to use one comma before the word or clause to mark the beginning of the pause and one at the end for indicating the end of the pause.
- Serial Comma- It is also known as the Oxford comma. This serial comma is used optionally before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list or a series of phrase or words. When the items in the list are not single words, it helps to clearly convey the meaning of a sentence.
- Interchangeable adjectives- Two or more coordinate or interchangeable adjectives that describe the same noun must be separated using commas in a research paper. This type of adjectives equally describe the noun and the sentence would make sense even if the order of the adjectives was reversed or by the word ‘and’ if the adjectives were separated. In the below example, the adjectives ‘quantitative’ and ‘reliable’ equally describe the noun ‘method’.
Example: A quantitative and reliable method for estimating disease incidence is required.
Cumulative adjectives – Unlike coordinate adjectives, two or more non-coordinate or cumulative adjectives do not describe the noun equally. Therefore, they must never be separated by a comma.
- Introductory phrases or words: These introductory words or phrases are incomplete clauses that contextualize the main action within a sentence. Such types of words or phrases are appearing before the main clause of a sentence and that must be followed by a comma.
- Dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence – In this case, with a dependent clause, if a sentence begins then this clause must be followed by a comma. A dependent clause is one that does not make any sense and cannot stand by itself unless it is supported by an independent main clause.
The top six commas related mistakes that are likely to be committed by most of the researchers while preparing the manuscript.
In a research paper, comma helps the reader to figure out which words are used together in a sentence and which parts of the sentences are most important. Incorrect use of commas may confuse the reader, signal ignorance of writing rules or indicate carelessness.