Right. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you by saying that the rules of commas are simple and easy to understand. They’re not.
One area where a comma can cause a lot of confusion is with the word “though”. Should you be putting a comma before that word.
Some people will miss out the comma when it should be there whereas others will put it in what it doesn’t need to be.
You should be using the comma before “though”, when “though” could be replaced with “however”. But not when it could be replaced by “despite the fact”.
I walked to work. My wife took the train, though.
I walked home though it was raining.
The word “however” is used to say that one event is different from another event. In our example, we have a man who took the train, and a woman (his wife) who decided to walk instead.
If we remove the comma from “My wife took the train, though”, we’ll have an incomplete sentence. We could respond with “though what? Though it was raining?”.
If we instead were to say “I walked to work. My wife took the train however” it would have the same meaning.
Despite the fact
When you’re using “though” as a conjunctive, you’re joining two clauses into one sentence.
In our example, the first clause is talking about walking home, and the second is about the fact it’s raining. The “though” brings the clauses together but in a way that suggests one is an obstacle to the other.
The rain is a barrier between you and walking home, but you manage to overcome that barrier.
I walked home though it was raining” could be rephrased as “I walked home despite the fact it was raining”. And it would keep the same meaning.
If that all sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry, it is. For most of us, we might not need to know the exact rules about commas, but knowing the basics can allow us to understand our own language better.
In a list, a comma can be used to separate the items.
“I went to the shop and I bought cheese, bacon, eggs, and flour.”
When you’re describing something using two adjectives that could be swapped around, you can use a comma to separate the adjectives.
“He was a healthy, strong man”.
“He was a strong, healthy man”.
When joining two separate clauses which are not bound by connective, a common can take the place of said connective.
“I don’t eat eggs, I’m allergic”.
The comma can also be used to avoid confusion. For example, let’s say you walk into a room, see someone reading, and then you fart.
“I walked in, saw her reading and farted”
In this example, it sounds like the girl was the one who farted, but it wasn’t. It was you.
“I walked in, saw her reading, and farted”
That’s better as it lists what you did, not what she did.
These rules are just scratching the surface of when to use a comma.
The word “though” has been around for a long time. It’s the kind of word that it would be rather challenging to have a language without.
Before it became the modern “though”, it was the Old English” þeah”.
“þeah” comes from the Old Norse “þo” which comes from the Proto-Germanic “thaukh”.
From “though” we have got other words such as “although”. And we can add other words onto it to create common phrases such as “even though”.
It’s a more interesting word than many might think at first.
Where do these rules come from?
But enough with the trivia, back to talking about commas.
With so many rules about when to use a comma, you do need to ask yourself who decides these rules?
Is there some type of “high comma council”? Were they dictated by one of our Kings and we’ve not been able to change them.
I’m afraid it’s nothing that exciting. The thing with language is that it doesn’t work how your English teacher taught you.
You see, the rules are dictated to society, they are decided by society. The reason why we have these rules about commas is that they are how we have decided to use them.
That does, of course, beg the question “Why did we decide on these particular rules?”.
And for the most part, these rules were decided by when we would naturally take a breath when talking to another person.
Of course, sometimes when we’re talking a lot, we will break to have a breath. But when we’re not talking that much, we’ll still pause so that people can understand what we’re trying to say and the point we wish to get across.
But of course, nothing is to say the rules won’t change over time.
Why does it matter?
I’m sure there will be some of you who are wondering why this will even matter. But knowing how to use grammar correctly can enable you to get further.
When you’re writing an email, people will take you more seriously when you use grammar correctly. You’ll be looked upon as a person of high intelligence and worth listening to.
Also, if you ever write literature to be published, be that a blog, a book, something for a magazine, or anything else, you need to make sure that your use of grammar is perfect.
Sometimes “though” and commas go together. Other times, they don’t. A bit like myself and a 16″ meat feast pizza.
When “though” could be replaced with “however” you should put a comma before it.
But when “though” could be replaced with “despite the fact” the comma should stay away.
There are plenty of other rules about where to put a comma. I haven’t even mentioned dependent clauses, instead of brackets, single words, and even if I did, I would still only be scratching the surface.
The rules of the comma are dictated by how we use them, which generally is whenever we take a breath while talking.
I know it’s all a bit confusing, so don’t beat yourself up for not getting it.