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Using Commas Correctly. Using commas correctly is an important skill in writing clear sentences. This presentation explains nine common uses of the comma. Each explanation is followed by one or more examples.

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using commas correctly

Using Commas Correctly

Using commas correctly is an important skill in writing clear sentences. This presentation explains nine common uses of the comma. Each explanation is followed by one or more examples.

Using Commas Correctly (PPT) has been prepared for IELI Level 4 Writing students by Carol Ogden. It is available at http://courses.unt.edu/cogden/Documents/LV4%20Commas.ppt

1 items in a series
1. Items in a series*
  • Willis Library has a reference desk and coffee shop on the first floor.
  • Willis Library has a reference desk, a computer lab, and coffee shop on the first floor.

Why are commas used in sentence B, but not sentence A?

(B.) When there are three or more items in a series, use a comma between each item, including the last two. Follow this pattern: 1, 2, and 3.

* “Series” refers to a list of three or more items. The items must be grammatically equal structures (e.g., noun, noun, and noun).

2 independent clauses
2. Independent clauses
  • The Science Library has cookbooks, and Willis Library has current periodicals.

Connect independent clauses with FANBOYS:

for and nor but or yet so

Pattern: S +V, and S + V.

3 dependent and independent clauses
3. Dependent and independent clauses
  • After the librarian demonstrated Boolean logic, she searched the database for articles.

Note the position of the dependent clause:

Dependent clause, independent clause. (comma)

2. The librarian searched the database for articles after she demonstrated Boolean logic.

Independent clause dependent clause. (no comma)

4 introductory phrases short
4. Introductory phrases: short
  • In 1977, IELI began to offer English classes to international students.
  • Tomorrow morning I have a doctor’s appointment.

Why is a comma used in sentence A?

(A.) In 1977 is an introductory phrase. Use a comma to separate the introductory phrase from the main clause.

Why is no comma used in sentence B?

(B.) Sometimes short introductory phrases (1-3 words) do not need commas.

introductory phrases long
Introductory phrases: long

A. In order to pass, a student must have at least a 70 final average.

Why is a comma used in sentence A?

(A.)Use commas after long introductory phrases (4 or more words)

5 parenthetical information
5. Parenthetical* information
  • The president of the university, Dr. Pohl, will be speaking in the Student Union at 3:00 p.m. today.

Use commas because it is clear from the context that there is only one president of the university. His name is “extra information.”

* “Parenthetical” means added or extra information

6 coordinate adjectives
6. Coordinate Adjectives

General order for adjectives:

number + quality + size + age + color + origin + content

  • The short old man is a judge.
  • The young, distinguished-looking man is the lawyer.

Why is a comma used in sentence B, but not in sentence A?

(A.) When adjectives appear in order, do not use a comma.

(B.) When adjectives do not appear in order, use a comma.

7 quoted speech
7. Quoted Speech
  • “Be sure to visit the rare book collection on the third floor,” said the librarian.

This is an example of a quoted sentence followed by the reporting verb and speaker.

A comma is used instead of a period at the end of the quotation.

quoted speech cont d
Quoted speech (cont’d)
  • “The library,” said the librarian, “has a rare book collection on the third floor.”

This is an example of a quoted sentence in which the reporting verb and speaker are placed in the middle of a sentence.

Commas are used after the first part of the sentence and after the reporting verb and speaker.

Note: has is lower case. Do not capitalize the word in the second part of the quotation.

A period is used at the end of the quotation.

quoted speech cont d11
Quoted speech (cont’d.)
  • “The library has a rare book collection on the third floor,” said the librarian. “Be sure to see the famous miniature apple-shaped book.”

This is an example of two quoted sentences. The first sentence is followed by the reporting verb and speaker.

A period is used after the speaker because the sentence is complete.

The second sentence begins with open quotations and a capital letter. It ends with a period and closed quotations.

8 city and state
8. City and State
  • IELI is located in Denton, Texas.
  • Denton, Texas, is a small town.

Why is a comma used in sentence A?

(A.)The city and state are at the end of the sentence. Use a comma between the city and the state.

Why is a comma used in sentence B?

(B.) The city and state are at the beginning (or middle) of the sentence. The state is parenthetical information. Therefore, commas are used before and after the state.

9 month day and year
9. Month, Day, and Year
  • The first day of class was March 20, 2003.
  • The first day of class was March 20.
  • The first day of class was March 2003.

Why is a comma used in sentence A, but not in B or C?

(A.) With month, day, and year, use a comma before the year.

(B.) With month and day, do not use a comma.

(C.) With month and year, do not use a comma.

slide14

USING COMMAS CORRECTLY

  • Directions: Correct the punctuation of these sentences by adding commas as needed. (Note: In some sentences the comma may be optional.)
  • When I lived in New York I walked to work.
  • Andrew is a tall handsome man.
  • Steve owns a horse and he likes to ride it on the weekends.
  • In 1999 Lisa moved to California.
  • My little brother was born in Chicago Illinois on April 5 1980.
  • Alice likes to run hop and jump when she is at the playground.
  • I walked to work when I lived in New York.
  • Chris asked “Will the class pictures be taken today?”
  • At the exact stroke of midnight four cats began to howl.
  • At noon we will take a break for lunch.
  • In one hour we will begin writing a composition.
  • Suddenly Sam grabbed his gun and headed for the door.
  • Tomorrow Barbara is going to go to the beach.
  • “We want to have more homework” the students begged.
  • Our teacher George Smith graduated from the University of Maryland.
slide15

USING COMMAS CORRECTLY: Answer Key

  • Directions: Correct the punctuation of these sentences by adding commas as needed. (Note: In some sentences the comma may be optional.)
  • When I lived in New York, I walked to work.
  • Andrew is a tall, handsome man.
  • Steve owns a horse, and he likes to ride it on the weekends.
  • In 1999, Lisa moved to California.
  • My little brother was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 5, 1980.
  • Alice likes to run, hop, and jump when she is at the playground.
  • Chris asked, “Will the class pictures be taken today?”
  • At the exact stroke of midnight, four cats began to howl.
  • At noon, we will take a break for lunch.
  • In one hour, we will begin writing a composition.
  • Suddenly, Sam grabbed his gun and headed for the door.
  • Tomorrow Barbara is going to go to the beach.
  • “We want to have more homework,” the students begged.
  • Our teacher, George Smith, graduated from the University of Maryland.