We receive many requests from individuals who seek help with commas. To help aid those individuals, we have made this synopsis. Below you will find a list of rules pulled from all of our comma lessons:
• Use a comma or commas to set off the abbreviations Jr., Sr., and Esq. (Lesson 341)
Carl Harris, Jr., is here now.
• Use a comma after the parts of an address. (Lesson 342)
My new address is 1234 North Main, Salt Lake City, Utah 84007.
• Use commas to set off the year in a date if three parts of date are given (month, day, year). Do not use commas if only two parts are given. (Lesson 343)
I left May 23, 1958, at night.
I know that July 1776 is an important date.
• Use a comma after the salutation of a friendly letter. (Lesson 344)
Example: Dear Fred,
• Use a comma after the complimentary close of a friendly or business letter. (Lesson 345)
Example: Sincerely yours,
• Use commas to separate parts of geographical places. (Lesson 346)
Have you visited St. Louis, Missouri?
• Use commas to separate a series of three or more words, numbers, phrasesA phrase is a group of words used as a sentence part. It does not have a subject and a verb. It can be a noun, adjective, or adverb. Some common phrases are prepositional, gerund, participial, and infinitive. Source: Lesson 246, or clausesA clause is a group of words having a subject and a verb. Source: Lesson 246. (Lesson 347, 348, 349, and 350)
I dropped my pencil, papers, and books.
(The comma before the conjunctionA conjunction is a word that joins other words, phrases (groups of words), or clauses (groups of words with a subjects and verb). Source: Lesson 77 and is optional, but I prefer using it.)
• Use no commas in a series when all items are joined by or, and, or nor. (Lesson 349)
The cat climbed up the tree and out on a limb and finally onto the roof.
• Use a comma to separate introductory words yes and no and mild interjectionAn interjection is a word or word group that shows feeling. A mild interjection is followed by a comma; a strong interjection is followed by an exclamation mark.
Source: Lesson 85 from the sentence that follows them. (Lesson 351)
Oh, I heard that before.
Yes, I will be here.
• Use a comma or commas to set off words or phrases used as nouns of addressNouns of address are the persons or things to which you are speaking. They may have modifiers and are not related to the rest of the sentence grammatically. You can remove them and a complete sentence remains. Source: Lesson 131 (nominatives of address). (Lesson 352)
Joe, get over here.
Get over here, Joe.
• Use a comma or commas to set off an appositiveAn appositive is a word or group of words that identifies or renames the noun or pronoun that it follows. Source: Lesson 126 if not closely tied"Closely tied" means that it is needed to identify the word. to the words it equals or identifies. (Lesson 353)
Larry Millward, my best friend, will speak at the meeting.
My brother Ken moved to Hawaii. (closely tied)
• Use a comma to separate co-ordinateEqual in rank or importance. adjectivesAdjectives modify or affect the meaning of nouns and pronouns and tell us which, whose, what kind, and how many about the nouns or pronouns they modify. They come before the noun or pronoun they modify except for the predicate adjective which comes after a linking verb and modifies the subject. Source: Lesson 151. Co-ordinate adjectives can be checked to see if a comma is necessary by placing and between them. They will sound smooth and correct with the and. (Lesson 354)
The warm, sunny day made everyone happy. (warm and sunny sounds smooth)
You are a clever little girl. (clever and little doesn't sound smooth)
• Use commas to set off parenthetical expressionsParenthetical expressions are words inserted in the main sentence but not necessary to the meaning. They interrupt the flow of the sentence. Common expressions used parenthetically are however, of course, on the other hand, in fact, for example, that is, by the way, after all, perhaps, indeed, also, too, nevertheless. These expressions are not always parenthetical.. (Lesson 355)
Lucy, on the other hand, reads little.
He knows, perhaps, five answers to the questions.
• Use a comma after an introductory participial phraseA participle is a verbal used as an adjective. A participial phrase is made up of a participle and any complements.
Source: Lesson 222. (Lesson 356)
Feeling hot, the boy ran to the refrigerator for a drink.
• Use a comma after an introductory infinitive phraseAn infinitive is to plus a verb form. It can be a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. Examples: to be, to see, to be seen, to be eaten. An infinitive phrase is made up of an infinitive and any complements (direct objects, predicate nominatives, predicate adjectives, or modifiers). An infinitive phrase that is used as an adjective modifies the subject of the sentence.
Source: Lesson 224 used as an adjectiveAdjectives modify or affect the meaning of nouns and pronouns and tell us which, whose, what kind, and how many about the nouns or pronouns they modify. They come before the noun or pronoun they modify except for the predicate adjective which comes after a linking verb and modifies the subject. Source: Lesson 151. (Lesson 357)
To find her ring, Mary removed everything from the room.
• Use a comma after an introductory dependent adverb clauseAn adverb clause is a dependent clause that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb. It usually modifies the verb. Adverb clauses are introduced by subordinate conjunctions including after, although, as, as if, before, because, if, since, so that, than, though, unless, until, when, where, and while. These are just some of the more common ones.
Source: Lesson 261. (Lesson 358)
If you want to see the Olympics, order your tickets now.
• Use a comma after long introductory prepositional phrasesA preposition is a word that begins a prepositional phrase and shows the relationship between its object and another word in the sentence. A preposition must always have an object. A prepositional phrase starts with a preposition, ends with an object, and may have modifiers between the proposition and object of the preposition.
Source: Lesson 71 or two or more consecutive prepositional phrases. (Lesson 359)
At the entrance to the cave, the guide gave us instructions.
• Use a comma or commas to set off transposed (out of their natural order) words, phrases, or other modifiers. (Lesson 360)
This woman, without question, is too weak.
(These transposed items are very much like the introductory items, but they do not come at the beginning of the sentence.)
• Use a comma to set off a short clauseA clause is a group of words having a subject and a verb.
Source: Lesson 246 at the end of the sentence to change a
statement into a question or an exclamatory sentenceAn exclamatory sentence shows strong feeling. Declarative, imperative, or interrogative sentences can be made into exclamatory sentences by punctuating them with an exclamation point. Example: The assignment is due tomorrow!
Source: Lesson 91. (Lesson 361)
You are going to town, aren't you?
• Use a comma when words are omitted from parallel clausesA clause is a group of words having a subject and a verb. Source: Lesson 246 in a compound sentenceA compound sentence combines two or more independent clauses. Commas separate the clauses of a compound sentence. (A short sentence joined by and is sometimes combined without a comma.) A semicolon can take the place of the conjunction and comma. Only clauses closely related in thought should be joined to make a compound sentence. Source: Lesson 246. (Lesson 362)
Mother baked an apple pie, and Aunt Gayle, a chocolate cake.
• Use commas to set off contrasted expressions. (Lesson 363)
His mother, not his father, is in charge.
• Use commas to set off nonrestrictive clausesA clause is a group of words having a subject and a verb. Source: Lesson 246 and phrasesA phrase is a group of words used as a sentence part. It does not have a subject and a verb. It can be a noun, adjective, or adverb. Some common phrases are prepositional, gerund, participial, and infinitive. Source: Lesson 246. Nonrestrictive clauses and phrases are modifiers that can be omitted without changing the meaning of the main clause. (Lesson 364)
Our new boat, which we bought last week, is a pleasure to use.
(The adjective clause is not needed to understand the meaning of the main clause.)
• Use a comma wherever necessary for clarity to prevent misreading. (Lesson 365)
Beneath, the water sparkled brilliantly. (clear)
Beneath the water sparkled brilliantly. (confusing)
• Use a comma before the co-ordinateEqual in rank or importance. conjunctionsA conjunction is a word that joins other words, phrases (groups of words), or clauses (groups of words with a subjects and verb). Source: Lesson 76 that join
independent clausesA clause is a group of words having a subject and a verb. An independent clause can stand alone as a sentence.
Source: Lesson 246 in a compound sentenceA compound sentence combines two or more independent clauses.
Source: Lesson 294. (Very short clauses joined by and may omit the comma.) (Lesson 366)
Harry will leave on the next flight, but you will join him in a week.
You wash and I will dry.
• Use a comma after a conjunctive adverbAdverbs are words that modify (1) verbs, (2) adjectives, and (3) other adverbs. They tell how (manner), when (time), where (place), how much (degree), and why (cause). Source: Lesson 161 or phraseA phrase is a group of words used as a sentence part. It does not have a subject and a verb. It can be a noun, adjective, or adverb. Some common phrases are prepositional, gerund, participial, and infinitive. Source: Lesson 246 like for example, in fact, or for instance used to join two main clauses. Common conjunctive adverbs are therefore, nevertheless, moreover, consequently, furthermore, besides, then, thus, instead, accordingly, otherwise, so, yet, still, hence, however. (Lesson 367)
Jill knew she could not win; nevertheless, she kept running.
• Use a comma or commas to separate the exact words of the speaker from the rest of the sentence unless the sense of the sentence requires some other punctuation (? or !). In quoted words, the comma always goes inside the quotation marks. (Lesson 368, 369, and 370)
"I can help you now," said the clerk.
The clerk said, "I can help you now."