There are five key comma rules you must know to score well in ACT English.
1. Use a comma to separate main clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction. The common coordinating conjunctions are and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet. A main clause is one that has both a subject (s) and a verb (v).
EX: We went to the store, and we spent our money.
S/V, and S/V.
-Some memorize the conjunctions with the word FAN BOYS
2. Set off words, phrases, and clauses that are not needed (nonessential). Use commas around nonessential, transitional, or contrasting information. Non-restrictive elements function much like appositives.
3 Examples Below:
- Intense preparation, then, is known to produce higher test scores. (transitional)
- Robert Frost, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is known for his poem “Birches.” (nonessential)
- Robert Kurson, not Stephen King, is my favorite author. (contrasting)
3. Use a comma after an introductory phrase, clause, and adverb. Short introductory prepositional phrases do not require commas unless needed for clarity.
3 Examples Below:
- To be able to compete on the collegiate level, many high school athletes practice their sport all year.
- If you are counting on a college scholarship, pay attention to your grades, class rank, community service, and standardized test scores.
- Occasionally, the person actually responsible for the vandalism will be caught and pay the damage.
4. A series can be defined as three or more words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence that have the same grammatical rank.
EX: I am taking biology, calculus and history.
-The comma before the word _and _is optional.
5. Use commas to separate adjectives in a series that describe the same word.
EX: The old, blue shirt was worn today.
EX: The dark blue shirt was worn today. The second sentence does not have a comma between dark and blue because dark describes blue; whereas, in the first sentence old does not describe blue.
-Can you replace the comma with the word and?
-Can you reverse the words?
Pages 41-49 of Chad Cargill's ACT prep book provides these rules, examples, exercises, and model ACT questions.
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