If In Doubt, Include the Comma (College Grammar Tip)

Posted by on Jan 6, 2012 in Writing | No Comments
If In Doubt, Include the Comma (College Grammar Tip)

Admissions committees review hundreds or thousands of application essays. Yours may not be a Hollywood screenplay, but you can spice up things by varying your sentences.

Break out of the usual “I worked in finance” format. Add a few introductory phrases to your sentences: “After completing my undergraduate degree, I volunteered for several months at a non-profit agency in Philadelphia.”

A common mistake with introductory words and phrases is forgetting to include a comma before the main part of the sentence. Without it, the parts may run together.

Rule: Include a comma after introductory elements. Some grammar guides suggest omitting the comma after very short phrases.

  • Long phrase: “While working in corporate finance, I learned many useful skills that prepared me for graduate school.”
  • Short phrase: “Last year I volunteered at a non-profit,” instead of “Last year, I volunteered at a non-profit.”

How short is “very short?” Use your best judgement. Read your essay out loud. If it feels like there should be a pause after the introductory part, then add a comma. If in doubt, include the comma. You can’t go wrong with that.

More on commas.

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Photo by Angry Asian Librarian (Some rights reserved)

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