@TheCraftBlog (aka Jamie) queried via Twitter:
@madincrafts “I made these little tags, which you are welcome to download and use.” what’s wrong?
@madincrafts or this “I think he’ll like it, and most importantly use it!”
Hooray! My first question via Twitter! Boo! I have to explain comma errors!
Have you ever had a feeling that a sentence needed a comma, but you just CAN’T figure out where it is supposed to go? You suddenly flashback to being assigned a fourth grade English worksheet. You see your teacher, smiling sadistically, red pen poised, just waiting for you to put that little curved line in the wrong place.
Sheesh. No wonder people hate grammar.
Commas are hard, friends. The two phrases that Jamie provided are good examples of that.
#1) “I made these little tags, which you are welcome to download and use.”
There are actually two errors within this sentence that both stem from the same problem. The words “which you are welcome to download and use” are necessary for the meaning of the sentence. Jamie is trying to convey that the tags are free for the use of her readers. Because the clause is necessary to make sense of the sentence, it is called a restrictive clause.
Grammar Girl has a good article about restrictive clauses. Restrictive clauses are never set off with commas. Non-restrictive clauses (ones that can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence) are set off with commas.
“Football players that have Super Bowl rings have won a Super Bowl game.” (Restrictive)
“Super Bowl rings, which are very gaudy, are worn by Super Bowl winners.” (Non-restrictive)
Notice that the non-restrictive clause starts with “which,” and the restrictive clause starts with “that.” Traditionally, only non-restrictive clauses begin with the word “which.” Grammar Girl’s handy trick for telling the two apart: “A quick and dirty tip (with apologies to Wiccans and Hermione Granger) is to remember that you can throw out the “whiches” and no harm will be done.”
This is the second error of the original example. Now that we have identified the words “which you are welcome to download and use” as a restrictive clause, we need to remove the comma and change the “which” to a “that.”
CORRECTED SENTENCE: “I made these little tags that you are welcome to download and use.”
#2) “I think he’ll like it, and most importantly use it!”
Ooh, commas are naughty! This sentence has two comma errors too. As I wrote about in my Mad Writing Skills post on grammar, sentences with compound subjects or verbs don’t need commas. This sentence has a compound verb. The “he” in question will both like AND use something. Even though your brain wants to separate these two verbs with a comma, grammar rules say no.
However, this sentence does need commas. The words “most importantly” need to be set off from the sentence in order for it to make proper sense. Unless Jamie meant that “he” is using “it” in a very important manner, the words should be set off with commas.
CORRECTED SENTENCE: “I think he’ll like it and, most importantly, use it!”
NOTE: There is more than one way to skin a cat. If you can’t figure out exactly how to properly use commas, you can always rewrite the sentence to avoid them altogether.
“You are welcome to download and use my little tags.”
“I think he will both like and use it. That is what is most important.”
Do you have any blog writing questions?
Comment here or on my facebook page, tweet me or send me an email with any and all questions you have. I will answer as best as I can, and, if I don’t know it myself, I will do the research for you!
thank you! i posted this on C.R.A.F.T. facebook 🙂 http://www.facebook.com/craftblog
It's me, back to disagree! Well actually I don't disagree, but must point out that when you are talking about restrictive clauses and that/which, this is pure US grammar. In British English we call them definitive and non-definitive clauses. That's just a question of vocabulary. BUT it is perfectly fine to use "which" with a definitive clause. Having said that, it would of course need to be "who" in your example as football players are people, not objects. My mother lives in the house which has the blue door.My mother lives in the house that has the blue door.Both fine.
Good review, as all of these postings are, which I've just found. (I hope I used my commas correctly.) There was something that jumped out at me that you may want to address. In one of your examples, you wrote: “Football players that have Super Bowl rings have won a Super Bowl game.” My question is whether it should be "Football players WHO…." To me, "that" indicates a thing; "who" indicates a person. Since a football player is a person, wouldn't "who" be correct? Please correct me if I'm wrong. It would mean one less thing to make me cringe, though I will admit I will likely stick to my that/who differentiation.