I would like to think the comma is my friend. However, when I read through my critiques I find that I either am not using them enough or incorrectly. The question really becomes this- which is right? In all honesty I believe it is a fair mix. I always love finding new resources as a writer and if you have never perused the Online English Degree Resources I say stick a pin in it. There is a wealth of information there. Some merely reminders of what you were taught in school. Here is what they had to say about the comma:
The comma is perpetually misused. Although it’s one of the most important punctuation marks, its seeming insignificance on the page makes it a regularly subject to neglect and abuse.
The most common use of the comma is in coordination with a conjunction to connect two independent clauses (I went to the beach, but David stayed at home). With short sentences like that, the comma isn’t always necessary. Sometimes the conjunction alone will do just fine. But in academic prose, the comma is still advisable.
The comma is also used to separate three or more elements in a series (She went skiing with Noam, Henry, Nathan, and Catherine). That last comma between the second-to-last element and the “and” is something of a point of contention. It’s called an Oxford comma, and it’s often left out of periodical publications. Frankly, it’s up to you whether or not to use it. We just think it looks classy.
A comma can also be used to separate an introductory element from the rest of a sentence (Writing my book, I discovered how little I missed my old job). Again, it might be acceptable under some circumstances to eliminate the comma if the sentence seems to flow better without it. But if in doubt, keep the comma.
Parenthetical elements can be set off by a pair of commas. These can be appositives (Chances were slim that Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, would face serious challenges) or they can contain linking words to the rest of the sentence (Songkhlanakarin University, which is also known as Prince of Songkhla University or Mor Or, is the largest university in Southern Thailand). Absolute phrases are also treated as parenthetical (My old life behind me, I tried to assimilate in New York as quickly as possible) as are interjections (Keep in mind, of course, that casino gambling is designed for the house to come out on top). On a related note, commas can express contrast (Contrary to popular belief, the North Korean juche state is best thought of as a unique construct, not Stalinist, not Confucian).
When one is using multiple coordinate adjectives, commas can be used to separate them (He’s an ugly, mean-spirited kind of guy). However, they aren’t always used (I have an old French bicycle).
A comma is also a great way to introduce quotes. One comma is needed to introduce a quote (As Polonius said, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”). If the quote is being split in two, then two commas are necessary (“I don’t know,” said Lauren, “if the problem is you or me). For longer quotes, however, it’s better to use a colon.
Perhaps the most common comma error is the comma splice. This occurs when a comma is used in lieu of a semicolon, period, or conjunction to separate two independent clauses as in “I went to the beach yesterday, it was OK.” While this is often cited as a common punctuation error, it’s better thought of as indicative of a larger error. Commas in general are overused, and one is better-advised to be sparing with them.
Like I said, a wealth of information. Now you can go on to be a master of comma usage! Have a great day peeps!