Contemporary essays, fiction, and opinion offered regularly by author Anne Brandt.

Question for the week
When is it correct to use towards?
Rules of the Games
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Elaine asks...
Commas drive me crazy. Are the below correct? If not, why? 1. Many women are surprised to learn that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. 2. Although heart disease has been studied for decades, most researchers have studied male patients. 3. Now, however, scientists are beginning to understand that heart attack symptoms differ in men and women. 4. Unfortunately, many doctors are unfamiliar with the symptoms of heart attacks in women, so their female patients may remain undiagnosed after a heart attack.
Anne answers...
Elaine, congratulations! You have navigated the pronoun landmines with great agility. Each of your sentences uses commas correctly, even though there are different reasons for each sentence. In the first there is no reason for commas at all. In the second, you have an introductory phrase set off by a comma. In the third, you separate an unnecessary word (however) by commas; and, in the fourth, you use a comma as a conjunction between two clauses. Do you want to sign on as my assistant?
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