How to use commas and paragraphs correctly when writing

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In summary, the conversation discusses the importance of learning proper punctuation and paragraph usage in order to write professional looking letters. The individual also seeks advice on how to use paragraphs effectively and how to divide longer pieces of writing. The suggestion is made to read "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White and to gain experience by reading professionally-written material.
  • #1
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I want to learn how to write professional looking letters so I have to learn how to use punctuation and stuff properly. As silly as it seems, I still don't know when and where to use commas. I used to not know how to use them at all but someone advised me to sound out the sentence in my head and then wherever there's a pause, put in a comma. That works to a degree but I'm still not fully sure. Let's say I'm writing a letter with this sentence "Hello, I am contacting you on behalf of my client John Doe". I notice there's a pause in between client and John Doe so should I put a comma in there (e.g. "on behalf of my client, John Doe") or is there some other symbol I should use?

I also don't really know how to use paragraphs. I just haphazardly throw them in whenever I feel like it. For example I threw in a paragraph there to make this thread easier to read but the reason I chose that particular place to put it in was because this is my 2nd question. Is that the correct way to use paragraphs i.e. to separate different elements of the text? What happens when you've written a lot but you can't see any logical way to divide it because it all seems to be part of the same element?
 
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  • #2
Ummm, I'm no grammer nazi but your writing looks relatively fine, and this is just a casual message board.
As far as professional letters, the best advice I can give is be as concise as possible. Keep the sentences short. Don't use things like "so" or "be" (like i just did). For instance, when you said "i want to learn how to write professional letters so i have to learn how to use punctuation properly."
Instead, just say "I want to learn how to write professional letters. I need to learn better punctuation."
It sounds better with less "filler". Much of it should be replaced with a period.
 
  • #3
Read "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White.
 
  • #4
Get a copy of Strunk & White. This book is short, sweet, and cheap. The original "Elements of Style," published in 1918, is a bit outdated but is available online. The 1972 edition is in my mind still the best of the several revisions that have followed.

Edit
Vanadium 50 beat me to it by a couple of minutes!
 
  • #5
It also helps to read a lot of professionally-written or -edited stuff: magazines, newspapers, books, web sites that aren't simply thrown together by someone in his/her basement. I probably "learned" most of my writing skills this way, and by constant practice.

Style guides and composition textbooks can help you recognize concepts that you sense vaguely by reading well-written material. I think they work best if you have a lot of reading experience to begin with.
 
  • #6
Thanks I'll give that book a read.
 

1. How do I know when to use a comma in my writing?

Commas are used to separate items in a list, to join two independent clauses, and to set off introductory phrases or clauses. They can also be used to set off non-essential information within a sentence. It is important to use commas correctly to avoid confusion and maintain clarity in your writing.

2. Can I use a comma before the word "and" in a sentence?

In most cases, it is not necessary to use a comma before the word "and" in a sentence. However, there are some instances where a comma may be needed, such as when joining two independent clauses or when using the Oxford comma in a list. It is important to pay attention to the structure and flow of your sentence to determine if a comma is needed before "and."

3. How do I know when to use a paragraph break in my writing?

A new paragraph should be used when a new idea or topic is introduced in your writing. It is also important to use a new paragraph when there is a change in time, location, or speaker in dialogue. Paragraph breaks help to organize your thoughts and make your writing easier to follow for the reader.

4. Is it okay to use long sentences in my writing?

It is generally recommended to avoid using very long sentences in your writing. Long sentences can be difficult for the reader to follow and may cause confusion. Instead, try to break up longer sentences into shorter, more concise ones to improve the clarity and flow of your writing.

5. Can I use a comma before the word "because" in a sentence?

In most cases, a comma is not needed before the word "because" in a sentence. However, if "because" is used to introduce a dependent clause, a comma may be needed after the clause. It is important to pay attention to the structure of your sentence to determine if a comma is necessary before or after the word "because."

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