How do I know when I need to use a comma?

From LitWiki

Important information about commas

  • Commas are the most used and misused punctuation for beginning college writers.
  • Commas are used to signal and pause.
  • Commas help to make a sentence’s meaning clearer, but if used carelessly, can cloud the meaning entirely.
  • The comma was invented to help readers understand run ons and smushed together sentence parts.

Follow these rules and you will begin to use commas correctly.

Put a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it connects two independent clauses.

: Our plane was late, so we ate dinner.

Put a comma between items in a series and coordinate adjectives.

: I’m taking math, science, and reading. : Use the large, red pen.

Some words seem to go togther, so do not need a comma:

: She is a sweet little old lady.

Put a comma after an introductory expression (word clause, phrase) that does not flow smoothly into the sentence.

: Yes, I have visited New York City. : Although I like reading, I watched a movie instead. : For example, dogs might be a better choice than hampsters.

Put commas around the name of a person being addressed (direct address).

: Look, Derek, I do not care for your attitude. : Kim, would you hand me that piano? : Would you get me a Coke, darling?

Put commas around expressions that interrupt the flow of the sentence.

: I think, of course, that she is the best person for the job.

Put commas around non-restrictive information, or nonessential information. If the information is removed, it will not change the meaning of the sentence.

George W. Bush, the President of the United States, will speak tonight.

Use commas with date, addresses, tittles,and numbers.

On December 31, 1956, Peter was Born. I was born in Columbus, Mississippi, in the 1980's. Bill Barnes, M.D., performed my knee surgery.

Use commas to set off conjunctive adverbs.

: Over one million people in Atlanta wanted tickets to the big game. Their access to the Super Bowl, however, was a chance in a million.

Use commas with coordinate adjectives.

: After the NASDAQ bubble burst in 2000 and 2001, the Internent technology companies that remain are no longer the fresh-faced, giddy kids of Wall Street.

Extra Practice

[Daily Grammer 1] [Daily Grammer 2]

Works Cited

Hacker, Diana. A Writer's Reference. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin's, 2003.

Hult, Christine A., Thomas N. Huckin. THe New Century Hand Book. New York: Pearson Eeucation, Inc, 2005.

Faigley, Lester. "The Brief Penguin Handbook." New York: Pearson Education, Inc, 2003

Composition FAQ