Top Tips for IELTS

Punctuation error correction – mistakes with commas

I should say immediately that this is not intended to be a complete guide to the comma. Commas are very tricky to get right, not least because different people say different things about them. Rather my intention is to show you one way to help avoid some of the more obvious mistakes. I should also add:

punctuation does matter in IELTS writing

it can often help to correct punctuation by itself – focus your correction

Test yourself a little first – unwanted commas

One common problem with commas is that there are sometimes too many of them. Go through this exercise and each time you get to a comma. All the comma mistakes here happen because the comma breaks the flow of the writing: they stop the reader going on and make the writing harder to understand. This general piece of advice may help:

always have a reason to use a comma

Find the mistakes

There are some who say, that competitive sport has no place in public education. People tend to say this because it encourages children to work against each other and not with each other. Another argument often made, is that competitive sport makes children, who are not naturally gifted, feel inferior and this makes them feel less confident. For example, a girl who is not athletic, may never be selected for the school’s team in netball and could begin to feel that she is less good than her peers. This feeling, which is all too common, may then also influence her studies and lead to a general lack of self-esteem.

See how you did

The commas corrected

There are some who say, that competitive sport has no place in public education. People tend to say this because it encourages children to work against each other and not with each other. Another argument often made, is that competitive sport makes children, who are not naturally gifted, feel inferior and this makes them feel less confident. For example, a girl who is not athletic, may never be selected for the school’s team in netball and could begin to feel that she is less good than her peers. This feeling, which is all too common, may then also influence her studies and lead to a general lack of self-esteem.

 

Some basic ideas

The mistakes in the exercise happen because of one thing. The basic idea is that:

1. commas normally don’t come between

  • a subject and a verb
  • between a verb and that
  • after that

Why? They make us pause when we should be reading on. Look at these examples:

There are some who say that competitive sport [Here we wouldn’t speak There are some who say that ….[pause]…. competitive sport – so we have no comma]

Another argument often made is that [Again, we wouldn’t speak Another argument often made….[pause]….. is that – so again we have no comma]

a girl who is not athletic may never be selected [We would never pause as we say this, so we never pause as we write it by putting in a comma]

If you know you have problems with commas, it can sometimes help to ask yourself if you would pause where the comma is as you spoke the sentence. This is entirely non-technical advice and won’t work every time!

A second more technical idea is that we can use commas like a pair of brackets () around clauses that we can take out of the sentence. Here we can sometimes put a comma between the subject and the verb. So

2. some commas are used in pairs around non-essential/extra information

This type of comma is often seen in extra information relative clauses. See this correct example:

This feeling, which is all too common, may [We would probably pause as we say this and there must be two commas]

Now look at the incorrect example:

 makes children, who are not naturally giftedfeel inferior [If we paused as we said this, we would mean that all children are not naturally gifted!! What we want to say is that we are defining the type of children we are talking about – not all children, just those who are not naturally gifted. You can find out more about this in my relative clause lesson]

Remember that these commas come in pairs – if you put the first comma in then you’ll need to add a second comma

Summary and one more test

The main ideas here are:

understand that commas matter

look for unwanted commas

One way too avoid this type of mistake is

Write sentences all at once and not bit by bit

If you write sentences bit by bit – passing as you write – then you may add unnecessary commas in every time you pause in writing. It can also help to check your writing by sentences – reading the whole sentence.

Test yourself again

Comma quiz

Start
Congratulations - you have completed Comma quiz. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Return
Shaded items are complete.
1234End
Return

An excellent comma page

This site has really very good grammar and punctuation advice. Practical and to the point and perhaps better for learners than some more well-known sites.

misuse of commas from write.com

Get more error correction, grammar and spelling

 

   

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