The comma appears to be a harmless little
fellow, but don't let
appearances deceive you. Sure, the little guy
never shouts, never
declares, never questions, never even finishes
a sentence, but that
doesn't mean he holds no power. In fact, he is
the hardest working of
all the punctuation marks�the
often appearing more than once in a single
sentence. He holds
the power to change the meaning of a sentence
and to disrupt the flow
of prose. Therefore, isn't it time to give the
little guy his due and
quit misunderstanding him? Here's his M.O.:
comma to separate the clauses of a compound
sentence connected by a
coordinating conjunction (and, but, or,
nor, for, so and yet).
comma is placed before the
coordinating conjunction, not
The students ate spaghetti for
they had no dessert.
do not use a comma before and,
but, or and
when they link pairs of words, phrases or
elements other than main
here is to recognize whether the conjunction
separates a main
clause (or major thought), or if it simply
links pairs of words or
phrases. Writers may omit the comma in short
compound sentences when
the connection between the clauses is close,
but it is required when
linking the elements of a compound sentence.
If the sentence is clearly
understandable without the comma, it's
probably okay to omit it, too.
Here's an example:
comma to separate two or more adjectives
modifying the same noun if and
could be used between them without changing
Janine pushed her long, straight
hair out of
not use a comma between unequal adjectives
or when an adjective
modifies another adjective (instead of the
also separates the items in a list or a
Jasmine visited the park, the
court house, and the historical hotel on
the last day of her vacation.
the comma before the last item in the series
(the one directly
before and) is optional. Also, note
that no comma appears
before the first element in the list (the
park), nor after the last
element in the list (the historical hotel).
is used in setting off transitional
regardless, of course and so on) from
the rest of the sentence.
The weight of the ball, however,
than the strength of the boy.
Of course, we could have eaten
comma with introductory elements:
No, he didn't wear a hat.
When the bell rings, the students
comma sets off long phrases that precede a
Before we could call Great Aunt
Mary, we had
to locate her phone number.
sets off words or phrases that rename nouns.
John, my oldest cousin, loves to
not use a comma if the added information is
essential to the meaning
of the sentence, such as:
The song "Unchained Melody" melts
People who dream in color are
thought to be
is whether the sentence makes sense if the
renamed noun is removed
from the sentence.
comma can indicate the omission of a word or
To err is human; to forgive,
comma to set off a word of direct address:
Wilma, for teaching me about commas.
comma is used to set off a quotation from a
dialogue tag. Examples:
He said, "I didn't do it."
"I don't believe it," Jason
maybe if you prove it, I will."
comma sets off a tag question from the rest
of the sentence:
I didn't see it there, did you?
also use a comma to set off any sentence
element that might be
misunderstood if the comma were not used,
To me, Millie would always be my
use a comma to set off a city from a state,
the year from a
full date, a series of four or more numbers,
and to set off titles and
degrees from surnames and from the rest of a
My children were born in
My oldest daughter was born on
I wish my husband made $625,000 a
My husband's full name is Sherden
Jr., although he goes by "Butch."
can see, the innocuous little fellow known
as the comma can be
quite cantankerous. Study this little guy�once
you've accomplished a great feat.
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