Get excited: This is the long-awaited follow-up to my post explaining the five surprising places you need a comma. Just as people tend to leave out commas when they should put them in, people tend to insert commas when they should leave them out. Here are three surprising places commas don’t belong:
1. Between a person’s title and name (when the title comes first). When you write someone’s title before the person’s name, you don’t need to use a comma in between:
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks took office in 2013.
Facebook COO Cheryl Sandburg is a bestselling author.
When the title precedes the name, it functions as an adjective describing the person, and there’s no reason to separate adjectives from the nouns they describe.
Do note, though, that when the title follows the name, it is set off by commas. (See #2 on the list of places you need a comma).
Nicholas B. Dirks, the UC Berkeley Chancellor, took office in 2013.
Cheryl Sandburg, the COO of Facebook, is a bestselling author.
2. From something to something to something. A common way to group a list of items is to start the sentence with from and separate the items with to. Many people use serial commas to separate these items, but there’s no need; each to does its own separating.
I love all berries from strawberries to blackberries to huckleberries.
From boots to bicycles to broccoli, that store sells everything.
3. Between an independent clause and a dependent clause. This one is a bit tricky for people who are not naturally inclined to identify parts of a sentence, but I’ll try to make it make sense.
An independent clause has a subject and a predicate, and it can stand on its own as a sentence:
You should wear a jacket.
A dependent clause modifies an independent clause, and it can’t stand on its own:
Because it’s cold outside.
If you put the dependent clause first, you use a comma to separate the clauses:
Because it’s cold outside, you should wear a jacket.
However, if you put the independent clause first, you don’t need a comma between the clauses:
You should wear a jacket because it’s cold outside.
I hope this post helped you identify some places you may be inserting commas unnecessarily. And don’t miss part three of this series: places you can use a comma, or not.