Commas: To Use or Not To Use?

Don’t you find Germans seem to have an unexplained love for commas? 

They scatter them around like confetti at a child’s birthday party. 

In German, it’s perfectly normal to put a comma here:

Ich weiß, dass du beschäftigt bist.

But in English, we’d simply write:

I know that you’re busy.

No comma needed!

And here are more examples of German sentences:

  • Ich hoffe, dass das nicht wahr ist!
  • Ich habe eine Schwester, die in Bonn wohnt.
  • Wir besuchen oft den Park, wo wir unser erstes Picknick hatten.

The case is clear in English: The comma waits outside, possibly looking in through the window. 

  • I know that it’s not true! 
  • I have a sister who lives in Bonn.
  • We often go to the park where we had our first picnic.

In German, the comma provides a pause. It lets thoughts unfold, breathe and resonate.

But English likes to jog along briskly. No time for pausing!

Yes, we use commas more sparingly. Less is more perhaps? 

What are your biggest challenges when writing? Do you have any advice for others?


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Foto Christine Sparks

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