6. Introductory Commas

Introductory commas set off words, clauses, and phrases that occur at the beginning of the sentence from the subject. They serve to visually interrupt the flow of words and help the reader identify the subject.

  1. Introductory word – A single word that comes right before the subject.
  2. Introductory phrase – A phrase (more than one word, does not have a subject and verb) that comes right before the subject. Could be a prepositional phrase or another type of phrase.
  3. Introductory clause – A dependent clause that comes at the beginning of the sentence.

It is relatively easy to correctly use introductory commas on a test or assignment when you are specifically looking for the right place to put them. However, you also have to concentrate on putting them in the right places when you write.

The easiest piece of advice is to put an introductory comma in front of the subject of the sentence (if there are words in front of the sentence, apart from the articles a, an, & the.

  1. After class, we are going to go home for the weekend. (introductory phrase, subject is “we”)
  2. In fact, I have not finished grading all of the essays yet. (introductory phrase, subject is “I”)
  3. Indeed, he plans to go back to his room now. (introductory phrase, subject is “he”)
  4. Although the principal has ambitious plans, he must work with others to achieve his goals. (introductory clause, subject is “he”)

I will emphasize again the need to learn the following:

  • what introductory commas are
  • where introductory commas go
  • how to use them in your own writing

The easiest way to decide whether you need an introductory commas is this:

  • find the subject
  • are there words in front of the subject?

Usually, if the answer is yes, then you should place a comma between the introductory word, phrase, or clause and the subject.

Sample: Though I do not know when your mother plans to turn your room into a library.

Find the subject –

  • it can’t be “I,” because the sentence starts with a dependent word (“though”), and the subject is not in the dependent clause
  • should be a noun or pronoun, but it cannot be “your” because that is possessive and can’t be a subject.
  • “mother” seems likely.

Since there are words in front of the subject, you need to determine where the comma should go.

  • find the beginning of the dependent clause (“though”)
  • find the end of the dependent clause (“when”)
  • If the dependent clause is “Though I do not know when,” then the comma should be placed after “when,” which separates the clause from the sentence

 Though I do not know when, your mother plans to turn your room into a library.