Small, fat balls? It's a punctuation thing

There’s a bird boom this spring. The garden outside my studio window is full of newly-fledged blackbirds, starlings, blue tits, coal tits, wood pigeons, rooks, crows, magpies, dunnocks and house sparrows. So fat balls are on the menu… lots of ’em.

Ambling to the corner shop early this morning before firing up my PC, I was amused to see they’d described their bird food as small, fat balls rather than small fat balls. Which just goes to show how crucial something as seemingly insignificant as a comma can be.

When do you use a comma?

When you want to separate connected / unconnected ideas or items in a list.

  • connected ideas: I wanted to go for a walk, but the weather was awful
  • unconnected ideas: I was in my studio, Tony was at work and the cats were asleep
  • lists: I bought a packet of dark chocolate biscuits, some small fat balls and a Mars bar

If you get stuck, read your sentence out loud and add commas where you naturally pause.

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