Oh, my, Another Comma Rule

by Cherie Tucker

I’ve noticed in things I’ve been editing lately that many people don’t know about Oh. When you begin a sentence with it, it must be followed by a comma.
 
            Oh, I forgot to lock the door.
            Oh, here it is.
            Oh, well, we can catch the next ferry.
 
An exclamation point will do if it really is an exclamation, but exclamation or not, there must be a punctuation mark following Oh at the sentence’s beginning.  
 
            Oh, my, how you’ve changed!
            Oh! My, how you’ve changed.
 
If oh appears later in the sentence, it must be set off by commas, as it serves to interrupt.
 
            I need about, oh, three yards of that.
            The party?  It was, oh, fine, I guess.
 
There is also an O without the as well.  It is used in direct address and is not followed by a comma.
 
             O death, where is thy sting?
            They changed the words to “O Canada” some years ago.
 
If you are praying or swearing, there are also rules.  A prayer, especially an urgent one, would be written
 
            O God, I need your help.
            O Lord, protect my family.
 
On the other hand, if you are blaspheming, it goes like this:  with a comma if you want a pause, without if not.
 
            Oh, God, not another bill.
            Oh God, your mother’s on the phone again.
 
And if you have to write out OMG when you’re not praying or blaspheming, it’s
 
           Oh my God, I think that’s my wife.  

Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.  She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well.  GrammarWorks@msn.com

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