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Commas, man. These things are tricky.

Commas, in the world of punctuation, are the building blocks. They can make or break your sentence. A single comma in the wrong place can completely change the meaning of a sentence. For example, I'm sure a bunch of people have seen:

Let's eat, Grandpa!

Which would be someone telling their grandpa to join them for the meal. Then:

Let's eat Grandpa!

Which would mean... let's munch on our grandfather's bones and chew his flesh and begin the rise of cannibalism.

Here's another less well-known example:

Well done steak. - someone asking for their steak to be cooked well.

Well done, steak. - someone congratulating a piece of steak for, I dunno, winning a race or solving global warming or winning an acrobatics tournament.

Well, done steak. - someone admitting they have made love to a piece of steak.

See? Commas matter!

Now, a slightly horrifying fact about me is that... I've never had problems with commas.

I was reflecting on this today. We never really were taught grammar a lot in school, which I'm sure many students can also resonate with. For some reason, schools just don't really always break down specific laws of punctuation.

However, for some reason, all of my youngest childhood memories are of me learning grammar. For some strange reason, I was bored whenever we would learn about typing skills and creating graphs, but when my teachers would dedicate those special fifty minutes in a year to teaching us something about punctuation? I was switched on. I was focused.

I'm that weirdo who gets turned on by good grammar. Go figure.

Anyways! So, my classmates in university have often asked me to proofread their emails -- specifically to ensure that commas are in the correct places. One of them asked me today, "How do I know if I need a comma?"

Very stupidly, my answer was, "Oh. Well. Um. Just. If there is a pause in the sentence if you said it aloud, it probably requires a comma."

Which sounds like good advice, except... it's not. Because it doesn't take into account how long the pauses are. For example, if every pause required a comma, our stories would look like:

I will be going to prison soon, I'm out on bail, I didn't do anything bad, just check fraud, but it was for a lot, anyways, when I went back to my home country, I almost got killed by a penguin, I'm skinny with soft, boyish looks, and I can't fight, my lawyer pretty much told me that I would probably get stabbed some day, but yeah, I'm going to prison soon,

Can you see the problem? If every pause had a comma, we wouldn't be making sentences anymore.

So, when do we use commas? Let me try to break it down for you!

I'm trying to think of a theme for this chapter. How about we go with the murderous penguins?

When do I use a comma?

1. If you have two independent clauses linked together by a coordinating conjunction, use a comma.

What does this mean?

An independent clause is a clause that would work as a sentence by itself. Here are two independent clauses:

I went diving. I saw a penguin with a knife.

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