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How to Use Commas

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Commas, commas, commas.

I’ve found that learning how to use commas helps me differentiate the groups of my words. Once I know how to categorize them, everything becomes easier. Here are a few examples of sentences with commas and some rules on how to use them.

Example Sentence:

I decided to call the pet store, and the pet store had a puppy for me.

This sentence is correct because there are two independent clauses.

I decided to call the pet store, and ask for a puppy.

In this sentence, the comma is incorrectly placed because the second clause is a dependent clause while the first is an independent clause. Additionally, as one action took place directly after the other, the comma would need to be removed for the highest accuracy.

If you remove the comma, it clears up the sequence of events.

  1. Call the pet store.
  2. Ask for a puppy.

The Oxford Comma is used specifically for lists.

I like to run, walk, and dance.

I like apples, oranges, and candy.

Even though it has been eight years now, I still reminisce on the good times, good connections, and good life lessons.

There are several ways to use a comma in English:

  • To separate items in a list: For example, “I need to buy milk, eggs, and bread at the store.”
  • To separate clauses: For example, “I went to the store, but it was closed.”
  • To set off introductory phrases or clauses: For example, “After I finished my homework, I watched TV.”
  • To separate two adjectives that describe the same noun: For example, “She has a beautiful, old piano.”
  • To set off non-essential clauses or phrases: For example, “My sister, who lives in New York, is coming to visit.”
  • To indicate a pause or to break up long sentences: For example, “He was tired, so he went to bed early.”
  • To separate a direct quote from the rest of the sentence: For example, “She said, “I’m tired.””
  • To separate dates and addresses: For example, “The event will take place on June 15, 2022 at 123 Main Street.”

It’s important to use commas correctly in order to avoid confusion and to make your writing clear and easy to understand.

Comma Rules

  • Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of these seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.

Example: I love vanilla ice cream, but my brother prefers chocolate.

  • Use commas after introductory a) clauses, b) phrases, or c) words that come before the main clause.

Example: In the beginning, there was light.

  • Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off clauses, phrases, and words that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Use one comma before to indicate the beginning of the pause and one at the end to indicate the end of the pause.

Example: Hilda, a very good cook, went to San Francisco.

  • Do not use commas to set off essential elements of the sentence, such as clauses beginning with that (relative clauses). That clauses after nouns are always essential. That clauses following a verb expressing mental action are always essential.

Example: It is critical that you not put a comma in this sentence.

  • Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series.

Example: George traveled to Spain, France, and Germany.

  • Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Be sure never to add an extra comma between the final adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with non coordinate adjectives.

Example: The big, hairy monster glared down at me.

  • Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), addresses (except the street number and name), and titles in names.

Example: On October 3, 2015, Jeff Smith, marketing director at Intel, traveled to 14 Appian Way in Rome, Italy.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below!


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