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Grammar: Comma Rules

Guidelines for when you should (and should NOT) use a comma.

Josephine Icaro

on 8 August 2014

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Transcript of Grammar: Comma Rules


Commas are used to separate items
in a list of 3 or more.
I am taking biology, English 102, and math this semester.
I'm never going to have free time! I'll always be doing labs, writing papers, doing word problems, or studying for a test.
Commas are used

(for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)

to combine two COMPLETE sentences.
I wanted to take Astronomy, but I realized that three
classes were more than enough.
I wanted to take Astronomy but realized that three classes were more than enough.
NO COMMA HERE because the 2nd half is not a complete sentence. It doesn't have a subject the way that the first example did. ("I realized that..." vs "realized that...")
Commas are used
after introductory information
(if you have some details BEFORE the subject of your sentence).
Last semester, I took four classes to help raise my GPA.
Whenever I could get a free moment,
I would take a power nap in my car.
Commas are used
when some information is "interrupting" your sentence
Power naps, however, really aren't very helpful.
I mean, in my experience, they just make you want to get some real sleep even more.
(basically, whenever details are in between the subject and the verb or the verb and the object).
Use a comma
to separate two adjectives when the word "and" can be inserted between them
On the very first day, my tough, demanding English teacher assigned us an essay! Luckily, it was just a short descriptive essay.
Comma goes here because you
could say "my tough AND
demanding English teacher."
No comma here because
"short AND descriptive essay" doesn't make much sense.
Use a comma
to set off direct quotations
"Don't stress about this assignment," Professor Jones had said, "I just want to see what you guys can do."
The girl beside me whispered, "Seriously? Homework on the first day?"
These commas are here because the quotes are short and can combine with Professor Jones had said to make one complete sentence.
This comma signals that what the girl whispered will be what is in the quotation marks.
use a comma (by itself)
to join two complete sentences
I wrote the essay in about an hour, it was actually pretty easy.
A comma is not strong enough to combine two complete sentences. You would need a semi-colon (;), a comma with a coordinating conjunction, or a period to make them separate sentences.
I wrote the essay in about an hour; it was actually pretty easy.
use a comma
before a subordinating conjunction .
I wrote about the York Fair because I go there every year.
Other subordinating conjunctions:
even though
so that

tells the reader to pause briefly before continuing a sentence.
Commas are used more than any other internal punctuation mark.
Through this presentation, you will understand that commas are
for separating items in a list
for separating compound sentences (when a coordinating conjunction involved)
for separating independent modifiers (adjectives)
for separating introductory material
for isolating nonessential expressions
with dates and geographical locations
with direct quotations
Types of Introductory Material
Introductory Words

Nouns of Direct Address

Introductory Adverbs

Participial Phrases

Prepositional Phrases

Infinitive Phrases

Adverbial Clauses
Well, I was definitely surprised by her question.
Gavin, will help me carry this heavy box?
Hurriedly, hey gathered up their equipment.
Moving quickly, she averted a potential social disaster.
In the shade of the maple tree, a family spread a picnic basket.
To choose the right gift, I consulted the bridal registry.
If you compete in marathons, you may be interested in this one.
Use a comma with
geographical names
When a date is made up of two or more parts, use a comma after each item, except in the case of a month followed by a day.

When a geographical name is made up of two or parts, use a comma after each item.
The wedding took on June 16, 2005, and their son was born on June 16, 2006.
The show opened on June 16 and closed two days later.
no comma needed after the date
no comma needed because the second part of this sentence is not an independent clause (closed two days later is NOT a complete sentence)
Ms. Icaro visited Sydney, Australia over the summer.
She wants to visit Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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