When I was in eight grade, I had an English teacher named Mr. Beisel who had written a grammar handbook. He was actually a terrible teacher, but the handouts from his book were excellent. Day after day, while he sat dozing at his desk so inert that some of us eighth graders theorized about whether he might be dead, we plodded through a series of lessons partitioned in a large cardboard box up by his desk. Each isolated one aspect of grammar instruction, so that by the time you finished the lot of them, you could diagram any sentence in English.
Diagramming sentences is a lost art. But being able to identify various parts of a sentence is actually imperative in order to apply the rules of punctuation and syntax accurately. This is another reason to hire an English tutor with a strong background in writing. For example, if the rules state that you DO use a comma between an independent clause and a phrase, but not between an independent clause and a dependent clause, you need to be able to tell the two – the phrase and the clause – apart. A clause, whether dependent or independent, features a who doing a what. A phrase has a who or a doing, but not both.
A good writing coach can help you understand the difference, so the next time you’re wondering where to place a comma, you’ll know.