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Correct Commas. 13 Rules to Live By. Information provided exclusively by: Why?. The comma exists to help readers. When properly placed, commas clarify meaning by helping readers organize information.

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Correct Commas

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Correct commas

Correct Commas

13 Rules to Live By

Information provided exclusively by:

Correct commas


  • The comma exists to help readers.

  • When properly placed, commas clarify meaning by helping readers organize information.

  • Without it, sentence parts can collide into one another and cause confusion.

Correct commas


Rule 1

Rule #1

  • Commas separate items in a series (a list of 3+ things).

  • Example:The forecast calls for light showers, some clearing, and morning fog.

Rule 2

Rule #2

  • Commas separate two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, but, so).

  • Example:Seven men were arrested on the east side, and ten more suspects were taken into custody six hours later.

Rule 3

Rule #3

  • Commas set off long introductory clauses and phrases and shorter clauses and phrases that would be confusing without the comma.

  • Example:When the fire alarm went off for the third time that night, the motel clerk finally called the fire department.

Rule 4

Rule #4

  • Commas set off non-restrictive (non-essential) clauses, phrases, and modifiers from the rest of the sentence.

  • Example of restrictive (essential) clause:Two sisters who sought refuge in a church died when the tornado hit.

  • Example of non-restrictive (non-essential) clause:Sandra Bullock,who is one of the more in demand actresses of Hollywood, won an Oscar for her performance in The Blind Side.

Rule 5

Rule #5

  • Commas separate descriptive modifiers of equal rank. If you can use adjectives interchangeably and can successfully insert the conjunction "and" between them, they are coordinate and require a comma.

  • Example:Scientists will not predict the next activity of the fickle, explosive volcano.

Rule 6

Rule #6

  • Commas set off parenthetical expressions.

  • Example:These same council members, you may recall, voted themselves a 35 percent pay increase last year.

Rule 7

Rule #7

  • Commas are used when the absence of a pause can cause confusion.

  • Example:For the mayor, going fishing is enough of a vacation.

Rule 8

Rule #8

  • Commas are used to set off participle phrases that modify some part of theindependent clause.

  • Example:The Senate adjourned today, having successfully defeated a filibustering attempt.

Don ts


Rule 9

Rule #9

  • Do not use a comma to separate two independent clauses that are not joinedby a coordinating conjunction. To do so would cause a comma splice.

  • Example:The inflation rate dipped to 3 percent, the unemployment rate stayed constant.



  • Use a semicolon to link the clauses:

    • The inflation rate dipped to 3 percent; the unemployment rate stayedconstant.

  • Use a coordinating conjunction with a comma:

    • The inflation rate dipped to 3 percent, but the unemployment ratestayed constant.

Rule 10

Rule #10

  • Do not use a comma to introduce a subordinate clause.

    • (Tip: the use of a comma before the conjunction "because" is one of the biggest offenders.)

  • Example:The mayor decided to visit the protest site because she needed a firsthand report.

  • But... if the subordinate clause is being used to introduce the sentence, a comma is required:

  • Example:Because she needed a firsthand report, the mayor decided to visit the protest site.

Rule 11

Rule #11

  • Do not use a comma to separate a noun or pronoun from its reflexive.

  • Example:Bryant himself will discipline the players.

Rule 12

Rule #12

  • Do not use a comma between a word and a phrase that amplifies it if it will create a "false series.“

  • Example of a Confusing Series:Rescuers discovered seven bodies, six transients, and one firefighter.BETTER:Rescuers discovered seven bodies-- six transients and one firefighter.

Rule 13

Rule #13

  • Don't use a comma to precede a partial quotation.

  • Example:The mayoral candidate charged that the incumbent was "a charlatan of the lowest order.“

  • But... If the quotation is a full sentence, it should be preceded by a comma:

  • Example:The defense counsel asked, "How would you like to be sent to prison for a crime you didn't commit?"

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