Rules For Comma Usage

Rules For Comma Usage provides a list of comma rules in order to help students use commas correctly.


A List of Comma Rules

1. Use a comma to set off a word, phrase, or clause preceding the main clause.

a. Use a comma to set off and introductory word preceding the main clause.

For example: Therefore, Mr. Johnston is telephoning for more information.

[NOTE] Some commonly used introductory words are: however, namely, perhaps, finally, personally, indeed, fortunately, obviously, etc.

b. Use a comma to set off an introductory word from the main clause.

For example: However, I do think that you might wish to invite Milli to the party.

[NOTE] If the introductory word is essential to the sentence, omit the comma.

c. Use a comma to set off an introductory phrase.

For example: After making the journey, Travis and his brothers will return to England.

[NOTE] Introductory phrases may be introduced by prepositions, infinitives, gerunds, or participles.

d. Use a comma to set off an introductory clause preceding the main clause.

For example: If I am elected treasurer of this fraternity, I will pay all bills promptly.

e. Introductory phrases that precede a main clause are set off by a comma.

For example: Wishing to be sure that he was right, he tested the program for a semester.

[NOTE] If the introductory phrase is used as the subject of the sentence, do not separate it from the verb with a comma.

2. Use commas to separate the items (at least three) in a series of words, phrases, or clauses that are in parallel form.

a. Use commas to separate words in a series.

For example: Jenny will be visiting the embassies in London, Paris, Vienna, and Madrid.

[NOTE] No comma is used before the first item or after the last item in a series.

b. Use commas to separate phrases in a series.

For example: Will David accept a position in Brisbane, in Sydney, or in Melbourne.

[NOTE] If all items in the series are joined by conjunctions, do not use commas.

c. Use commas to separate clauses in a series.

For example: John writes the copy, he edits the copy, and he prints the copy.

d. Use commas to separate a series of coordinate adjectives, except the last, that midify the same noun.

For example: Shirley wore a short, frilly, red dress to the party.

[NOTE] If the adjectives can be reversed or if the conjunction and can be inserted between them, the adjectives are equal and a comma is necessary.

e. Use commas to separate words in a series.

For example: They ordered sandwiches, soft drinks, potato chips, etc., for the picnic.

[NOTE] If the last item in a series is the abbreviation etc., a comma follows etc., unless it ends the sentence.



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