If you want to expand your literacy, study comma usage. No other single concept in the English language offers so much potential.
Learning where to use commas, and why, trains our brains to think about the smaller pieces that create a sentence—subject and predicate, phrases and clauses, objects and complements. Boring stuff. But once we’ve begun to think about how those elements fit together in a sentence, we start to realize other ways that those elements could fit together. Fun things happen then: our sentence structures increase their variety; our communications improve their clarity; and, finally, our fledgling word clusters launch into writing styles.
I’ve designed this site for college-ready writers. Never feel sheepish about not having learned this material sooner. Most of us don’t. Despite what you may hear, comma usage is not “remedial” work that you should have learned in grammar school. Far from it; comma usage is the next step for students of any level who’ve discovered the pleasure of exploring the sounds of their voice on a page.
Kevin Alan Wells (ABD, literature and composition) teaches undergraduate writing at The University of Texas at Dallas.