Last week we promised to share some of our proofreader’s tricks of the trade and, because we’re great at keeping promises, here they are. Again we’re looking at the common English errors that proofreaders will look for when they are studying a document. This week we’re going to stick with the comma theme and explore another one of the errors that seem to appear regularly: failing to use a comma after introductory phrases or words.
Introductory phrases and clauses pretty much do what they say do. They introduce something. We like to think of it as setting the stage for the rest of the sentence. You should use a comma after you have prepared readers with an introductory element in order to let them know that the main subject and verb are yet to follow. Introductory parts of a sentence can be small, medium or large in length but cannot stand alone as a complete thought. For more information about what constitutes a clause, see our article: what are phrases?
What is an introductory clause?
An introductory clause will describe where, how, when, why or how. They can be small, medium or large in length but, regardless of their size, a comma should follow them. Here are some sentences, can you spot where the comma should be placed?
- Having just returned from work Julie was not in the mood for an argument about the washing up.
- Given that it was the third Saturday of the month Karen knew that her monthly magazine subscription would be delivered.
- When exercising you need to be aware of your limitations.
Here's the correct version of the sentences:
- Having just returned from work, Julie was not in the mood for an argument about the washing up.
- Given that it was the third Saturday of the month, Karen knew that her monthly magazine subscription would be delivered.
- When exercising, you need to be aware of your limitations.
What is an introductory word?
An introductory word is a single word that sits on its own at the beginning of the sentence:
- Yes, I do like creative writing.
- Actually, my website is one of the top ranking websites on Google.
- Generally, good writers tend to have a degree in English.
What is an introductory phrase?
Introductory phrases are similar to introductory clauses but are not complete clauses because they do not have both a verb and a subject. For example:
- Checking methodically, we never miss a mistake.
- To stay top of the class, you have to study hard every day.
So what does this mean for online proofreading services?
Quite simply, all our proofreaders carry all of these grammatical rules in their heads and they will apply them to the manuscripts they check. So if you’re not too confident about your grammar skills, you can ask an expert to check your writing on your behalf. Here at Vappingo we charge less than $0.020 per word for our online proofreading services, so there really is no excuse for making mistakes with your written English.