Today’s topic is Comma Rule 3: Use two commas with an interrupter. An interrupter is something that breaks up a sentence. One comma takes your voice down, and another comma brings your voice back up.
Here’s a famous example. You can hear the commas if you read it aloud!
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the group that’s running this scheme.
This is an extremely useful sentence pattern when you’re writing police and corrections reports. It’s even more useful in the types of writing that supervisors and managers have to do. It has a sophisticated (but easy!) feel that professional writers appreciate.
Today you’ll have a chance to practice Comma Rule 3. Both an exercise and answers appear below.
Here are the basic things you need to know about Comma Rule 3:
- Use a pair of commas when your voice drops to signify a change in a sentence.
- Always use two commas, never one.
- Often (but not always) Comma Rule 3 sentences include a who or which phrase.
- You’ve been using interrupters in conversation all your life, but you may not have been taught how to punctuate them.
Here are two examples:
Mrs. Jones, the neighbor who had called 911, told me the screams began at approximately 10:30. CORRECT
Inmate Withers, who works in the staff canteen, said he saw Inmate Brown punch Inmate Coleman in the face. CORRECT
Here’s a practice exercise for you to try. Read each sentence aloud, listening for a voice change. Insert commas where needed. Answers appear below.
1. Patterson Correctional Institution which opened last month is already overcrowded.
2. Sergeant Rice who teaches in the academy part-time has some good suggestions about preparing for the state certification exam.
3. During the winter when many homeless people migrate to Florida the crime rate increases here.
4. Our new evidence room which opened last month is better organized and more secure.
5. Inmate Gleason’s girlfriend who visited him yesterday may have supplied the cocaine.
Here are the answers:
1. Patterson Correctional Institution, which opened last month, is already overcrowded.
2. Sergeant Rice, who teaches in the academy part-time, has some good suggestions about preparing for the state certification exam.
3. During the winter, when many homeless people migrate to Florida, the crime rate increases here.
4. Our new evidence room, which is located down the hall, is better organized and more secure.
5. Inmate Gleason’s girlfriend, who visited him yesterday, may have supplied the cocaine.