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ITB Library study guide: understanding commas

A study guide for using commas correctly
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ITB Library

on 26 September 2012

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Transcript of ITB Library study guide: understanding commas

Where and when
to use commas College students complete a lot
of assignments while studying.

Grammar is an important part of
good academic writing. For example:

It started to rain, but the parade continued.

The weather was cold, so she bought gloves and a scarf. 1.
Commas are used to
separate independent clauses
joined by:

and
but
or
nor
so
yet 2.
A pair of commas are used
around a clause which is not essential for understanding the sentence. You can determine
whether or not the clause is essential
by removing the clause and seeing whether the sentence still makes sense. Note: do not use commas around clauses
that are essential in order to
understand the sentence.


For example:

People who exercise are more energetic. (essential)

John, who likes to exercise, is very energetic. (not essential) 3.
Commas are used after
introductory clauses, phrases or words.

Introductory clauses, phrases and words come before a main clause. Introductory clauses:

While I was sleeping, my car alarm sounded.

As he broke his arm, he was unable to write his essay. Note: don't use a comma if
the independent clause follows
the main clause, for instance:

My car alarm sounded while I was sleeping.

He was unable to write his essay because he broke his arm. Introductory phrases:

Having washed the potatoes, he searched for a peeler.

To score a goal, you have to practice your skills. Introductory words:

Well, that was a success.

No, you cannot smoke on the train. 4.
Use commas to separate three
or more words, phrases or clauses written one after the other. The candidate promised to reduce poverty, protect the environment, and lower taxes.


The poster was printed with blue, red, and green ink. 5.
Use the commas at the
end of a sentence to show
a change in tone. There were seven oak trees in the meadow, all yellowing.


The summer sun was sinking fast, but remained vibrant. 6.
Use commas to separate two,
or more, similar adjectives
that describe a noun. It was a calm, still day.


She had a nice, pretty smile. Note:
don't use commas to separate adjectives that don't have
a similar meaning.


She wore a blue linen dress.


I drive a compact silver car. Some sentences include a
mixture of adjectives
(with and without similar meanings)




There was wintery, freezing, arctic weather on the hills.

There was wintery, freezing unexpected weather on the hills. 7.
Use commas
to indicate dialogue. Tom said of his father, "there will never be another man like him".



"I have a dream", was how Martin Luther King began his momentous address. Sources: OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/607/1/ For example:

Joseph, who is a carpenter, built a beautiful cabinet.

On Tuesday, Pancake Day, we will need to buy lemon juice. ITB Library ITB Library http://blanchlib.itb.ie
Full transcript