Keli Gwyn
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Copyediting with Keli: Three Common Comma Conundrums Resolved

Welcome to the first edition of Copyediting with Keli.

In this session, I resolve three common comma conundrums.


Here’s a quick recap of what I covered in the video:

1. Comma in a Series (CMOS 6.18)

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) advocates the use of the comma in a series, known as the Oxford comma.

Insert a comma between all elements in the series as well as the one preceded by a conjunction, which is often and.

Example: I went to the grocery store because I needed chocolate, ice cream, and cookies.

2) Comma with coordinate adjectives (CMOS 6.33)

When a noun is preceded by two or more adjectives that could—without affecting the meaning—be joined by and, the adjectives are normally separated by a comma.

Example: The tall, dark, and handsome hero rescued the heroine.

3) Independent clauses joined by a conjunction (CMOS 6.28)

A clause is a complete sentence; a phrase is part of a sentence. C = Complete, P = Part)

When two clauses—or complete sentences—are joined using a conjunction (and, but, or, so, yet) a comma is normally used before the conjunction, creating a compound sentence.

Example: Maria was falling in love with Captain von Trapp, but he was engaged to someone else.

The exception is when the clauses are very short and closely connected. In this case the comma can be omitted.

Example: Captain von Trapp gazed into Maria’s eyes and her heart raced.

Now you know how to deal with commas in a series, commas used with coordinating adjectives, and commas as they relate to independent clauses joined by a conjunction.

• • •

Thanks for watching my first video blog, or vlog. I hope you found the information helpful.

Keli Gwyn


  • bethkvogt says:

    Hi, Keli! I confess, I read through your blog and skipped the vlog part. But hey, it’s 1:30 a.m. –way-past my bedtime! As an editor, I appreciated your quick take on the commas! As a compIement to this, have a resource, “Comma Sense,” over on my Resources for Writers page.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Beth, that’s a great resource. Thanks for sharing the link. I can empathize with those who learned the AP style as I did when I was a journalism major and are forced to relearn some things in order to be in line with CMOS when we shift to writing books.

  • I love it, Keli! I got such a kick out of your sentences! And now I officially want to watch The Sound of Music! Can I tell you that commas are the one thing grammatically, that I don’t get?? My line editor had to explain a lot of the rules to me. 🙂 My scientific comma strategy has always been…..put one in whenever there’s a pause.

  • Thanks, Keli. Isn’t there also the school that says …

    I went to the store to get milk, eggs, bread and cheese.

    Leaving off the last comma in the list??

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Florence, there are those who prefer to leave the last comma out of a series, but my publisher (along with many others) adheres to The Chicago Manual of Style, which, as I said in the vlog, advocates using it.

  • Love hearing your voice! You’re a great teacher Keli! Now, if I can only remember those comma rules when I’m writing… 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Lacie, thanks for your kind words. I don’t think of myself as a teacher, but I did have my resident teacher hubby give me several tips. And Gwynly deserves a medal for his patience while teaching me to prepare, edit, and upload a video.

  • Carla Gade says:

    Thank you, Keli! I’m looking forward to more episodes of Copyediting with Keli!!

  • Erica Vetsch says:

    Love this!! So great to hear your voice, and you laid out everything in such a clear manner. I’m looking forward to these Copy Editing with Keli sessions.

  • Donna Pyle says:

    Well done, Keli! I feel like I’ve met you now. 🙂 Commas give me grief, so I’m thankful for this very helpful information.

  • Keli,

    I’m new to reading your blog, but you’ve got me hooked. I love grammar! Call me a nerd, but I’m an editor and professor by trade, so what can you do? 😛

    I had the hardest time going from NOT using the serial comma (Associated Press style calls for dropping the comma before “and”, and that’s what I used throughout college and my first job) to using it in my second job. It’s so funny how certain style elements stick with you!

  • Cindy R. Wilson says:

    Keli, you look and sound so professional. I’m impressed! And thanks for the comma lesson. I see it done all sorts of different ways and it’s nice to know there’s a preferred method that I can stick to. I like consistency!

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Cindy, thanks for your kind words. If you saw how many takes I had to record before I got a version of the video I was willing to post online, you might not think me so professional. My hubby teased me about making a bloopers vlog. =)

  • LOVE your vlog, Keli! You were amazing! (I’ve always learned best by watching!)

    When I received my CMOS in the mail (I ordered it for abour $20 cheaper than what it was priced at in a big box store) I was just like a jubilant kid on Christmas morning! It’s a must-have for writers.

    Although English and grammar always came easily to me in school, I still get rules, some forms of punctuation, AND yes…occasionally commas confused. And that’s where the CMOS comes in handy–it’s the handbook that many–if not most–publishers follow when editing, etc.

    Thanks so much for teaching us this morning! (You’d think you had a teacher in the family or something. 😉 )

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Cynthia, I did a happy dance the day my new edition of the CMOS arrived. I was so happy I even tweeted about it. 🙂

      Having a resident teacher was a big help in preparing the video. Gwynly gave me plenty of pointers. He also kept me from taking an axe to my computer when I encountered the inevitable challenges that come with learning something new and complex. LOL

  • Loree Huebner says:

    I loved your vlog, Keli! Great tips on the commas.

  • You did awesome!! It was fun watching you talk–without any UMS!! and hear your voice that you even added slides! Wow!

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Terri, thanks for your compliments. I put my Toastmaster skills to work as I prepared the video. We learned to use silence in place of those pesky “um’s” and other crutch words, as those in TM call them. However, there were plenty of flub-ups in my practice versions of the video. 🙂

  • Keli, What a treat to see you and hear your voice! (And I mean that in a completely non-stalkerish way. :)) And what a great idea to do this feature. I’ll admit I always goofed up commas in a series, but I think you were the one who set me straight on that one. 🙂

  • I’m impressed! Good content and great presentation! No one would ever guess this was your first vlog. I generally prefer to read info, but have to admit I enjoyed the chance to “meet you” this way, and with the addition of your written recap I had a choice. Commas aren’t my worst writing problem, but this was a concise and very clear review for me. Thanks!

  • This was very helpful, Keli. Thank you, and great job on your vlog!

  • Kudos just for saying Common Comma Conundrums clearly, Keli!
    I love the idea of a vlog, especially for teaching. Great job!

  • Anne Barton says:

    Keli, you are a natural teacher. Great tips & examples in nice bite-sized chunks. 🙂 Can’t wait for the next installment.

    And BTW, I think a bloopers reel would be SO MUCH FUN!

  • How cool to do a vlog!!! I love it, Keli!

  • Jill Kemerer says:

    Fabulous, Keli!! I’m an Oxford comma girl myself, so I’m glad you mentioned it. 🙂 And I LOVED seeing you vlog! How fun!

  • Keli, this is awesome! Loved your vlog, and so appreciate your comma lesson. Okay, did I do that right? Or is “And so appreciate your comma lesson” short enough to omit the comma before the conjunction “and”?

  • Laura Frantz says:

    Keli, You’re such a natural at this – humor, style, and savvy:) LOVE it! Being befuddled by commas and such myself, this was very helpful and memorable. Bless you for doing something I’m not brave enough to do. But then I don’t need to – you’ve got it all wrapped up:)

  • So glad I found your blog, Keli. Thanks for the comma info.

    Diane Wheeler