Subordinate Clauses – a quick, sexy guide

Write Better Now
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Subordinate Clauses - a quick, sexy guide
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


SUBORDINATE ME, SANTA CLAUS

Subordinate clauses are baby clauses that can’t stand all by themselves as complete thoughts and they demand a certain kind of punctuation – or lack of punctuation.

HERE ARE EXAMPLES:

If I can find Santa, then we can go party. 

We can go party if Santa ever freaking shows up. 

So, in both of those sentences there is a clause can’t stand alone as a complete thought: 

If I can find Santa

If Santa ever freaking shows up.

A subordinate clause or supporting clause is basically a clause that’s supporting the show-stopping regular clause, right? These clauses do not get a comma before them if they are at the end of the sentence. 

HOW TO DEAL

There are words that always lead off these clauses. What I do is go back and do a find/replace in my work (or client’s work) when I’m copyediting. 

Helpful hint for writers: If you include the comma in the find/replace search, it makes it so much easier. 

Those words are…

THESE CONJUNCTIONS: 

After, although, as, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order that, once, provided that, rather than, since, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, whether, while, why, for, therefore, hence, consequently, and due to.

And these relative pronouns that make the world of the clause even trickier. They are part of relative clauses but then these overachievers? Well, they are part of a subculture called restrictive or nonrestrictive clauses.

THESE ARE THE RELATIVE PRONOUNS

that, which, who, whom, whichever, whoever, whomever, and whose

ARE YOU RESTRICTIVE OR NONRESTRICTIVE MR. CLAUSE? 

These pronouns start either restrictive clauses or nonrestrictive clauses. Restrictive clauses also like to be called essential clauses because they are alpha like that, but also because they are – you guessed it – essential to the sentence meaning and shouldn’t be separated by a comma 

Do you enjoy watching Santa Claus employ lots of elves that wear sexy sweaters?

No comma before that because the sentence needs to know the qualifier for its meaning.

But in a nonrestrictive clause? Well, you don’t have that happen. Here’s an example: 

Watching Santa, who employs a lot of elves wearing sexy sweaters, is pretty freaking awesome.  

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Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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