In the previous post, we looked at comma use with direct address, which is the act of directly calling someone by name (“Hi, Mike.”) or pronoun (“Hey, you!”) or term (“Thanks, Mom.”).
Commas are used to separate or isolate the direct address because it consists of nonessential words in the sentence.
There are other nonessential words or phrases that are not part of our main thought or sentence, but can add emotion, clarification, or confirmation. These include interjections, contrasting expressions, and tag questions.
We touched on interjections in the previous blog: “Hi, Mike” is an example of an interjection with a proper noun added to it (which makes it a direct address where a comma is needed).
Interjections are words or groups of words that interrupt other speech or writing and mainly expresses feeling rather than meaning: for instance, they can express pleasure, pain, surprise, dismay, embarrassment, annoyance, or anger.
Masterclass.com goes so far as to suggest 12 categories of interjections: mistakes (oops), concern or fear (yikes), confusion (huh), disgust or discomfort (yuck), surprise or bewilderment (gee), relief (phew), regret or disappointment (alas), satisfaction or celebration (hooray), displeasure or disappointment (boo), approval (bravo), emphasis (ahem), coldness (brrr).
Interjections are grammatically independent from the words around it and can appear within sentences or function alone as sentences as we saw in the previous blog. (Here are interjections punctuated as complete sentences: “Hey.” “Hello.” “Hi!”) Some other common interjections include ahh, oh, wow, oops, please, ouch, well, yes, no, and why. Examples of interjection phrases include “good grief” and “for goodness’ sake.”
Because they are nonessential words, commas are used to separate or isolate interjections.
“Wow, you won first place.”
“Please, can I bring my dog on the walk?”
“Well, maybe you’re right.”
“Why, this is a big surprise.”
We are probably most familiar with interjections that appear at the star of a sentence. When they function as a sentence opener, they are followed by a comma. (Of course, if why is introducing a question, it is not followed by a comma: “Why are you doing that?” No comma used because it is a question.)
Interjections can also appear in the middle or at the end of a sentence:
“I think I will, um, give that 5K race a try.”
“This sandwich, ugh, is terrible.”
“You were promoted to manager, huh?”
When the interjection is in the middle of a sentence, it is set off by 2 commas, and when it appears at the end, by one comma.
We use interjections in speech all the time and sometimes in our writing, especially if we are being informal or conveying dialogue. Interjections are less common in formal writing.