Popular comma mistakes in scientific papers

Popular comma mistakes in scientific papers

Are you aware of how strongly negative comma errors can affect the evaluation of your work? If you allow too many comma errors in a scientific paper, you have to assume that this leaves a negative overall impression on the examiner.

Missing commas lead to misunderstandings


Sometimes sentences with missing commas are difficult or impossible to understand. This, in turn, may result in the examiner not being able to fully engage with the actual content of the scientific work. Rather, he or she may desperately try to figure out which part of the sentence refers to which other part of the sentence and how the sentence should be understood, rather than being able to focus purely on the content.

If this happens, it has been rather bad for the writer of the work. Fortunately, thanks to the following tips, popular comma errors in scientific work can be avoided by and large.

Commas – what do we use commas for?
For example, a comma may be used to distinguish a main from a subordinate clause, or to separate word groups or words. Sometimes a missing comma can even make the meaning of the sentence completely different. This is easy to see in this example:

  • “I’m eating Martin!”
  • “I’ll eat it, Martin!”

While Martin is being eaten in the first sentence, the second sentence just serves as an indication to Martin that I’m eating now. The sentence meaning can thus be completely changed by a missing comma. In addition, a sentence without any comma is sometimes difficult to read.

This is the case when it comes to particularly long sentences. The following sentence is a good example:


“If this sentence did not contain a single comma, most readers would probably be very confused or annoyed and could barely understand the sentence at first reading unless they are able to insert the missing commas, at least mentally, in the appropriate places in that sentence. “

So why should popular comma errors have a devastating effect in scientific work should be clear. But how can these mistakes be avoided? The following tips tell it!

Popular comma mistakes in scientific papers – Tips to avoid such mistakes
Popular comma mistakes in scholarly works can either be avoided by selective editing or the author has to deal calmly with the basic rules of commas. Since popular comma mistakes in scientific work can be made even against the most accomplished authors, it usually makes sense to rely on a lecturer or proofreading and to ask a third person to correct their own work in the end with regard to grammar and punctuation.

If you want to check your scientific work for popular comma errors in scientific papers yourself, the best way to keep an eye out is the following comma rules:

  • comma rules
    For enumerations, you should place a comma between the individual phrases:
  • “Maria loves make-up, books and dogs.”
  • Secondary and main sentences must always be separated by a comma:
  • “Katrin says she will win the lottery soon.”
  • You should also put a comma between two main sentences that are joined together without conjunctions:
  • “Caro paints, Marcel expects.”
  • For places and times a comma has to be set:
  • “Hamburg, February 25, 1998.”

Other popular comma errors in the overview
Those who know these basic comma rules should generally be able to write the most error-free scientific work possible. However, there are also special cases where the commas does not work analogously and therefore confuse some people. A good example of this are the following sentences:


  • “I not only won, but also set a new record.”
  • “I have both won and set a new record.”

While the temptation might be to put a comma in the second sentence, that would not be correct. For abbreviations commas are also out of place. In the following sentence, therefore, no comma may be placed after the highlighted abbreviation:


“Activities like running, jumping, jumping etc. are not allowed here.”

Get help from professionals!


Incidentally, you should know that most spell checking programs do not reliably detect all comma errors. Even with Microsoft Word, this does not always succeed. Anyone who is unsure should therefore rather research the Internet or interview a person who knows the correct punctuation, in order to avoid such errors in any case in the own thesis.

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