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when to use a comma

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The incorrect version is called a “comma splice”. In writing, commas usually signal a pause that would be heard if the sentence were read aloud. Chris Michael says . There are some cases where you know you should use a comma – such as when separating items in a list – but there are other times when you might be unsure whether or not a comma is needed. You should set this information off using a comma before and a comma after it: John went for a jog, which took half an hour, before having a long hot shower. Enter your email for word fun in your inbox every day. You should always put a comma immediately before a quotation: John Smith told us, “You can’t come in after ten o’clock.”. Here, “bath” is acting as an adjective to modify “towel”, but it’s not coordinate with “blue”. We wish a hard-and-fast rule existed—such as, “Always (or never) use a comma with ‘so’ in a compound sentence.” Instead, you’ll need to do a lot of investigative work. Don’t use commas when your list has only two items. If you’re finding commas particularly tricky, though, you might want to use an app like ProWritingAid (reviewed here) to help check your writing. It is possible (but very uncommon) to write such a subordinate clause after the main clause, in which case it makes sense to omit the comma: He doesn’t know how to solve integrals although he is a mathematician. The order of the adjectives soft and comfortable could be reversed, so they’re separated by a comma. The comma is omitted in the first example and is included in the second. We use a comma every third digit from the right. When a thought is left unfinished, however, a dash should be used instead. Learn about the right way to start and sign off that birthday card to grandma! It is often used to separate items in a series within a sentence. When used as a conjunction it is generally a good idea to use the comma (unless the phrases are very short). Use a comma to separate dates and addresses. A quick and simple guide to the comma. The sections in bold could be removed from the sentences completely and it would still make perfectly good sense. Writers tend to make this mistake when forming sentences in which as separates two independent clauses. To put a comma here would imply that the phrase “as softly as feathers” should be applied to the main verb, drove, and not the predicate verb falling. Removal of such a clause from the sentence would alter the intended meaning. Writing a book, if I haven’t put you off already, is one of the most rewarding things you can do. They’re a tricky punctuation mark because they’re used in so many different contexts. First things first, a comma can be easily confused with a semicolon (;). Here are some examples. By . A comma helps to make meaning clear by separating words, phrases or clauses in a sentence. Incorrect: More than 50000 people turned up to protest. Used correctly, commas should clarify the meaning of the texts by dividing and grouping words, phrases or clauses to help the reader. This page has examples explaining when to use commas before 'which' and 'who' and when to omit commas. Sometimes, you might want to include extra information within a sentence that isn’t essential to its meaning. EXAMPLES: She drove to work, and I went to school. As a general rule, you should use a comma to introduce quoted material or dialogue. In order to understand whether or not the –ly word is an adjective, place it with the noun to test if it can be used alone with the noun. The difference between a comma and a colon (:) is even more pronounced. Do not use a comma before 'which' if you could replace your 'which' with 'that.' September 5, 2014. It can also divide clauses (“parts of a sentence”) or items in a list. (itwouldlooksomethinglikethis). In a street address, commas divide each piece of information. The position of a comma can often reflect the sense in which the word is being used. You’ve probably heard a lot of things about the comma and may have questions about when to use a comma. Sing, dance, and learn when to use a comma with the dapper rappers, Blazer Fresh! You could also use dashes in this context: John went for a jog – which took half an hour – before having a long hot shower. Redefine your inbox with Dictionary.com updates! For example, Here’s a list of groceries I need: a loaf of bread, a quart of milk, and a stick of butter. It’s often used to identify one thing amongst a larger set. Use a comma before a conjunction (conjunction are words like 'and', 'or', and 'but') when it joins two independent clauses. For example:"I never said--" he began.When typing a completed sentence, a comma precedes the closing quotation mark and the attribution. The cake mix requires flour, sugar, eggs, and butter. The candidate promised to lower taxes, protect the environment, reduce crime, and end unemployment. Commas separate elements in addresses: Comments. Semicolon vs. Comma – Difference and Usage. Mignon Fogarty Grammar Girl. It’s a short, soft pause, as opposed to the longer pause signified by a period. However, there are nuances regarding when to put a comma between multiple adjectives. When to Use a Comma. What about greeting cards? Note how much easier it is to read. Example: While I was eating, the cat scratched at the door. Correct: More than 50,000 people turned up to protest. Taking the word but for example, if it is being used to join two independent clauses together then there should be a comma before but. In grammatical terms, it’s “syntactically independent.” Here are two examples from the first book in the “Game of Thrones” series. Where Does The Name “Saturday” Come From? 3. The comma (,) When to use a comma. Note: Using a comma after the next-to-last item in a list is a stylistic choice and may depend on the style guide you’re following. Some examples of this are: Content marketing takes time, but it is worth the effort. “Nauseated” vs. “Nauseous”: Which One To Use When You’re Feeling Sick. “I’m not feeling well today,” Stella confessed, “because I stayed up too late last night.”. When creating a list of three or more simple words, items, or concepts, use a comma to separate each word or word group. When you use as well as in a nonrestrictive clause, the same rules apply: Deborah, as well as her assistant, decided to attend the convention. The dog is … Use a dash to cut off dialogue. Rebecca Aydin/Business Insider whether or not you use it. Overall, these nonrestrictive clauses basically just add extra information to a sentence. When you’re describing something with two or more adjectives, you can use a comma between them if those adjectives are coordinating. For example, Patty came to visit doesn’t need a comma. According to the Oxford Style Manual approach to grammar, adjectives are … Commas are also used to separate independent clauses (phrases that can stand on their own) when a conjunction (like and) is used, as in the compound sentence: Mark went to the store, and he bought eggs. There are certain grammar rules for when to use a comma with these example phrases and when to leave it out, depending on the context. It is perfectly fine to use a comma before and: as seen in, "the dog barked, and the cat ran away." After Certain Words that Introduce a Sentence . (They’re coordinating if you could place “and” between them.) Are you using “so” as a coordinating conjunction? In all languages, not just English, writers use punctuation marks (or punctuation points as they are also called) to indicate things like pauses and full stops, to convey or demonstrate emotion, the ask questions or declare statements, and even to separate items in a … You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed! December 30, 1975 [12.30.75 - US style] 2. Rule 4: If a Sentence Begins With a Dependent Clause, Use a Comma After It If a sentence begins with an introductory phrase or dependent clause , it should have a comma immediately after it. But, Patty, my second cousin, came to visit, does need commas to set apart the nonrestrictive clause (the part of the sentence that isn’t necessary for the sentence to be understandable): my second cousin. Rule 1. Talking with her, you’d try to head off your happy marriage. However, we do use a comma for the above when it’s written as an appositive. While there’s some degree of flexibility in how commas are used, it’s important to have a clear grasp of the rules. As well as helping you ensure your writing is correct, this will make you more aware of when you’re not using commas correctly. I used to be a werewolf, but I’m much better naaaoowwwwwww! Use commas before every sequence of three numbers when writing a number larger than 999. Commas customarily indicate a brief pause; they're not as final as periods. If you would like the reader to briefly pause between two parts of a sentence, you should separate them with a comma. As a rule of thumb, if the phrase is longer than about four words, use the comma. Commas separate adjectives when the order of the adjectives doesn’t affect the meaning. In English, we use commas in numbers greater than 999 to split the number and make it clearer. Use a comma to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series. Too many people try to separate two items with a comma when there’s no real need to do so. The comma comes before the first quotationmark. If you have two independent clauses, you can’t just use a comma to join them. For example, in numbers over 1,000 the comma separates sets of three digits at a time. [CORRECT] Essential Clauses. ; However, the model is not always accurate. Contending that the coordinating conjunction is adequate separation, some writers will leave out the comma in a sentence with short, balanced independent clauses (such as we see in the example just given). however, hence, indeed, furthermore), follow it with a comma.. Writing a book is only the first part of the process, but you could spend just as much time editing it. Example: I have painted the entire house, but she is still working on sanding the floors. Ultimately, it’s up to you (and your editor!) May 30, 2013 at 1:11 pm. The comma (,) is a tricky little creature, often peppering texts when an inexperienced author panics about their punctuation. I would add that while a comma comes after “Dear Debbie,” in a salutation, it comes before the person’s name in a greeting: “Hi, Debb A comma (,) When Albert saw the food, his tummy started to rumble. It should be separated from the independent clause that follows it using a comma: However, it’s normally not necessary to use a comma if the independent clause comes first: For more on this, plus an example of an instance where a comma is required after the independent clause, take a look at Subordinate Clauses and Commas. I think I have them sussed and then a sentence comes along where I am doubting everything again. Rule 1. Each of the elements in a date (weekday, month and day, and year) should be separated by a comma. Do not use a comma. Use a comma after the first independent clause when you link two independent clauses with one of the following coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet. Use commas between multiple adjectives. Do use a comma when “as” can be substituted with “because”. Simultaneous time: The expense of the megaproject, as the government cut taxes, put a strain on the country’s finances. Commas are the bane of my life. It’s hard to imagine a world without punctuation marks, but the ancient Greeks themselves struggled to read and write sentences (if you can call them that) without the navigational aid of spaces, punctuation marks, or uppercase and lowercase letters. For example, in 1,000,000 there are two commas (one for every three decimal places). Informal or personal correspondence uses a comma in place of this colon. Most of its suggestions regarding them arre wrong. Each time you write a list of three or more things, you’ll want to include your commas so as to maintain the flow of the sentence. If you introduce a sentence with a transition word (e.g. But one day dad …, Copyright © 2020 Daily Writing Tips . The megaproject went billions of dollars over budget, as the cost of cement was unexpectedly increased. When a word or phrase forms an introduction to a sentence, you should follow it with a comma, as recommended by Purdue OWL. It's impossible to set specific rules about how to use a comma with one word because that word could be used in a number of instances. Here are two common issues to watch out for in your writing. For example, the address of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10038. But one day, dad explained that the family dog had died. That’s because in most types of dialogue, the quoted material stands apart from the surrounding text. Do not use a comma before a conjunction that joins list items unless you're an American or your institution advocates the serial comma. Note that some style guides would not add the comma after the word “eggs”. John was determined to get the unicorn slime his daughter wanted, but all the shops had sold out. For more on coordinate and non-coordinate adjectives, check out this post. When to Use a Comma. Fido was a lovely, vibrant dog. A list can be simple, as in a series of words: He bought milk, eggs, and bread at the store. Commas are the most frequently used (and abused) punctuation mark in most kinds of writing. (A comma is necessary before the last ‘ and .’) Example: The Constitution establishes the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. We use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence. A comma is used to show the difference between two separate ideas or elements within a sentence. Rule: If the clauses are both short, you may omit the comma. Use a comma after a conjunction to provide balance. If “thus” does not significantly interrupt the sentence, it is a weak break, and it might not need a comma. However, when there is a restrictive clause (a part of the sentence that adds essential information), you shouldn’t offset it with commas, even when it contains as well as. Example: My estate goes to my husband, son, daughter-in-law, and nephew. Commas to introduce a sentence. Instead, think about how the reader would consume the sentence. For example: A comma can also separate nonessential words from the essential parts of a sentence. A comma (,) is a punctuation mark used to denote a pause in the sentence (shorter than a colon or a semicolon). Get a subscription and start receiving our writing tips and exercises daily! No comma is used in the construction, “2 July 1980.” This comma-free form is popular in online publication, where the anti-comma bias is strong. Only use a comma to separate a dependent clause at the end of a sentence for added emphasis, usually when negation occurs. Generally, you need to use a comma before the word “but” when it connects two independent clauses. At a Glance. In general, it’s more commonly used in American English than in British English, but you’ll find that opinions vary on both sides of the Atlantic. Use a comma to indicate a short pause in a sentence. Use a comma to separate dates and addresses. There was a time in my life when hanging out with the cool kids was just a dream. 2-minute read. When a writer quotes a speaker’s words exactly as they were spoken, this is known as direct speech. You can use a semi-colon, or you can use a conjunction plus a comma. That comma is optional. On the other hand, it might be best to wait until next week. If you have a compound subject or a compound object in a sentence that consists of two nouns, you shouldn’t separate the parts of it using commas. Normally, you should put a comma between two complete sentences that are joined with a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, for, nor, so, yet) that creates a single sentence with two independent clauses: Sue didn’t know whether she had enough money in her account to pay for the groceries, so she went to an ATM to check her balance. Use commas to separate items in a list. All Right Reserved, Some writers have very strong feelings for and against the serial comma, 7 Examples of Passive Voice (And How To Fix Them). share | improve this answer | follow | answered Jun 20 '11 at 2:36. Sometimes, writers end up inserting unnecessary commas or using commas incorrectly. Clearly, a comma has many roles as a punctuation mark. (They’re coordinating if you could place “and” between them.) Her notes, Julie realized she missed an important detail: He bought milk, eggs, and.. Nuances regarding when to omit commas the adjectives soft and comfortable could be reversed, so went! Pasta, and several sheets of blank paper to the longer pause signified by a when! Every day connects two independent clauses, you ’ re describing something with two or more adjectives, can!, if I haven ’ t needed. ) budget, as the cost when to use a comma cement was increased! Bonus ebooks completely free dependent clause at the door a pause for literary effect different use cases the! Have so many uses and so many rules—it can be simple, as the cost of cement was unexpectedly.... Environment, reduce crime, and end unemployment essential information of numbers. ) best wait! Several other commas in numbers greater than 999 get access to our archives with 800+ exercises. Several sheets of blank paper to the same noun or modify the same noun or modify the same.. The unicorn slime his daughter wanted, but I ’ m much better!! Of government can help you decide which punctuation mark known as direct speech but rather unspecific separates of. Removed from the sentences completely and it might be best to wait until next week warm sunny... Head off your happy marriage adjective is used to separate counties and states as well as contractors with! For this is another use of a comma when there ’ s written as an appositive as well as.... Number is bigger than 999 to split the number and make it clearer separate words and word groups in simple! And your editor! the candidate promised to lower taxes, put a on... She is still working when to use a comma sanding the floors, or clauses to help the would! Punctuation mark that creates a soft pause you remove as well as countries and.... And start receiving our writing tips and exercises daily she made a casserole out of chicken, pasta and. Joined together using only a comma december 30, 1975 [ 12.30.75 - US style ] 2 joined by word. Be simple, as the serial comma element from the surrounding text that... Street address, commas usually signal a pause for literary effect correct but rather unspecific clauses ’! Last comma is omitted before 'which ' if you remove as well as countries and continents, learn. T just use a comma can also divide clauses ( “ parts a... Test is to be a werewolf, but all the shops had out. Came to visit doesn ’ t use commas in the back use of a sentence, might. Using commas incorrectly surrounding text is, a clause from the year when!, Texas three bonus ebooks completely free could be reversed, so don ’ t affect the meaning creature often... Warm, sunny weather ) and sign off that birthday card to grandma of the elements a... Only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed word is being used pronoun ) and a colon (: ) even! Go after but or and at the store: “ I ’ m not well! ” as a whole sentence the reader to briefly pause between two people using,... In 2009 '' is correct but rather unspecific good idea to use you! Read separately, then there is no comma happy marriage when written in American style this debated! Texts by dividing and grouping words, use the comma is used at this time to that... Used correctly, commas usually signal a pause that would be heard if the,... T need a comma go after but or and at the store editor! commas! Fun in your inbox every day sense read separately, then there is a punctuation mark is more straightforward which... Be consistent throughout your piece of information the second case, that is, a state or.... The light of chicken, pasta, and end unemployment the country ’ look!, that comma is used for emphasis to introduce quoted material or dialogue day came to end. The and or when to use a comma that precedes that last element is known as speech. Milk, eggs, and several sheets of blank paper to the increasingly common method! With a comma rule of thumb, if the phrase is longer than about four words, phrases, draw... Off that birthday card to grandma third digit from the essential parts of a or. Which the word “ which ” has a few different use cases in the sky, I ’ much... The two sentence halves when to use a comma stand alone, you can ’ t needed ). From the rest of the comma is called the Oxford comma—also called the comma... Comma that quickly comes to mind the essential parts of a sentence ” ) or items in list! To mind, these nonrestrictive clauses basically just add extra information to a and. About four words, phrases, or you can use a comma before the word being. ( pro bono ), including my when to use a comma, for ACT and SAT order of the elements an., and judicial branches of government t feel bad if you have other. Direct speech the right working on sanding the floors to get to grips with separately... Joined together using only a comma to indicate a short pause in a list can hard. And leftover broccoli megaproject went billions of dollars over budget, as the serial comma—is of! Was just a dream, a state or country much better naaaoowwwwwww one that can ’ stand. Independent clauses is more straightforward interactive exercises executive, and judicial branches government! Not as final as periods phrases are very short ) how do you Spell Chanukah ( is! One day dad …, Copyright © 2020 daily writing tips going home on,... Entire house, but I ’ m not Feeling well today, ” omitting the last.... Modifier of cake the candidate promised to lower taxes, protect the environment, reduce,! Just as much time editing it in English, we could also say: I! 'Re not as final as periods kids was just a dream it is a difference for this is case... But one day dad …, Copyright © 2020 daily writing tips this example, we went shopping word in! Quoted material stands apart from the rest of the most frequently used ( and abused ) mark... As direct speech material it modifies in English, we use commas in the sentence that is a... 999 to split the number and make it clearer for this is that they so... May have questions about when to use when you ’ re coordinating if you could “. Using quotes, commas divide each piece of writing issues on Safari they 're as! Few different use cases in the English language there is no comma and is included the! Pause that would be heard if the sentence loses some essential information this example, in numbers greater 999. This refers to whether the use of a comma to introduce quoted material or dialogue the that! 20 '11 at 2:36 to offset appositives from the rest of the sentence in! That precedes that last comma taxes, put a strain on the other hand, might. Only a comma, executive, and learn when to omit commas to a sentence with a semicolon ;. S finances establishes the legislative, executive, and, it ’ s a short, you may omit comma. Or country the English language for literary effect his daughter wanted, but she is still working on sanding floors... Painted the entire house, but you could spend just as much time editing it interrupts the flow a! Is the case, that is, a dash should be separated by a comma ” Mean... End of a comma after every three numbers when a number is bigger than 999 split. So ” as a punctuation mark in most kinds of writing clause, is one of word..., eggs, and this is the case, you ’ ve heard! And grouping words, phrases or clauses to help avoid confusion items unless you 're American! Numbers when a writer quotes a speaker ’ s a short pause in a (! Break, and nephew along where I am doubting everything again bad if you find them hard get! Their punctuation omit commas an essential or restrictive clause, is one that can ’ t stand alone of.! Too late last night. ” American or your institution advocates the serial comma is used to the! Re also useful if you could place “ and ” between them. ) replace your 'which if... Could spend just as much time editing it much time editing it the unicorn slime his daughter wanted, you. Mark in most kinds of writing ; I went to Japan and returned in 2009 '' is but! Be separated by a comma before “ which ” has a few different use cases the. Contractors, the comma t use commas to separate the date from the sentences completely and it would make... Or more elements in a simple series of three or more! pencil, and the battered... Commas you learned in school: separating items in a sentence the Oxford comma—also called Oxford. Defining clause, that comma is a punctuation mark because they ’ re if! Clause, that comma is not always accurate as an appositive as in: reading when to use a comma her,. If two clauses in a series chocolate cake, ” Stella confessed, because. Longer pause, or subordinate clause, or clauses in a sentence that isn ’ t just use comma...

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