How to Use Commas

commaThe general rule for commas is that we use them to make reading more understandable by separating parts of a sentence so that readers don’t get confused about what a certain text means.

When to Use a Comma

1. Separating items in a list.

Example:

Bill had a phone, a record player, and a flute.

2. Putting two independent clauses together (phrases that are complete thoughts).

Example:

Emily wanted to win the race, but she was not fast enough.

3. After an introductory statement.

Example:

Since Nick was sick, he didn’t go to school.

4. Showing parenthetical parts of a sentence.

Example:

The Seattle Space Needle, which was not made by astronauts, despite its name, is a fabulous piece of architecture in the Emerald City.

5. Separating details.

Example:

The city of New York was once a poor, dilapidated, uncultured fishing port.

6. Before quotes and sometimes after them.

Examples:

“You are so kind,” Hilary said with a wink that creased her cheek freckle.

The greatest moments of life, according to philosopher Barbara Hunst, is when, “the ego collapses and reality is set clear.”

7. Show contrast.

Example:

Bill was a warm fellow, not cold at heart.

8. To make sure there is no confusion.

Example:

Let’s eat, dad!

Instead of: Let’s eat dad!

9. Technical reasons: between date/day, city/state, titles.

Examples:

October, 2012
Seattle, Washington
Howard Benford, Professor Emeritus

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