Help with comma usage

LiteracyLover

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Hello everyone,

I'm learning about using commas properly and am having a difficult time.

I wrote a summary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s essay "The Ways of Meeting Oppression" and have included five sentences below where I'm confused about the proper punctuation.

I would greatly, greatly appreciate it if someone could take the time to help me apply "comma rules" to these sentences. I was unable to get help from an instructor at school, and I have read through my schoolbook and looked at websites, but I'm still having troubles putting it together.

Thank you very much for reading through this.

Sentences:

1. In his essay "The Ways of Meeting Oppression," Martin Luther King, Jr. argues that of the three ways in which people typically respond to mistreatment, acquiescence, physical violence, and nonviolent resistance, the method of nonviolent resistance is the most virtuous and effective.

My thinking: Should commas or dashes be used to set off the phrase "acquiescence, physical violence, and nonviolent resistance"? I understand that dashes set off parts of a sentence that are non-essential; otherwise, commas are used. In this sentence, I feel that the phrase "acquiescence, physical violence, and nonviolent resistance" IS essential and should therefore be set off by commas, but I think this makes the sentence harder to follow. Could someone kindly explain the rule in this case?


2. King quickly asserts that this choice is both immoral and impractical: immoral because the oppressed become complicit in their mistreatment [should there be a comma here?] and impractical because accepting abuse serves to reinforce the oppressor's notion that African Americans deserve such abuse, which deepens the problem.

My thinking: I know that a comma can be used with a coordinating junction to join two independent clauses. Therefore, I think it's incorrect to use a comma between "mistreatment" and "and impractical" because the second part of the sentence is NOT an independent clause. However, I also know that commas should be used in places where there is a natural pause, and to me this feels like a natural location for a pause.


3. King next defines the second option, physical violence, which suffers from the same lack of morality and practicality as acquiescence.

My thinking: I know that when an independent clause is followed by a dependent clause, no comma is needed. I also know that "which" is a subordinating conjunction that begins a dependent clause. To me, this suggests that I shouldn't use a comma after "physical violence." However, this feels intuitively wrong to me, and the sentence appears incorrectly on spell-check without a comma. Could someone please clarify this?


4. In closing, King urges African Americans to seize the opportunity to fight for equality in the South, but only through the loving and principled method of nonviolence.

My thinking: I think a comma after "South" may be incorrect here because I'm NOT joining two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction. However, the comma feels appropriate to me (maybe as a natural pause?), so I'm uncertain.


5. King envisages how the tool of nonviolence can be used: not as a means of pitting groups of people against one another, but as a means of replacing unjust practices with just ones.

My thinking: This is the same issue as the previous sentence: is the comma unnecessary, or is it important as a natural pause or for some other reason?

Thank you again for reading through this.
 

bubbha

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It's standard practice to place a comma before "which" in sentences like #3 above. This is in contrast to "that": ("Dogs, which are carnivores..." vs. "Dogs that have long tails...")
 

LiteracyLover

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It's standard practice to place a comma before "which" in sentences like #3 above. This is in contrast to "that": ("Dogs, which are carnivores..." vs. "Dogs that have long tails...")

Thank you bubbha!
 

Tarheel

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A general rule is to use a comma where in speech the person would pause.
 
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