A Comma Here, A Comma There
I often hear people say that commas are a
punctuation challenge for them; either they use too
many or too few. Sometimes they use commas
randomly, hoping that the commas land correctly in
Since commas can influence the meaning of a
sentence, their placement or absence can have
different results. Which one of the following do you
Woman, without her, man is nothing.
To ensure you punctuate sentences that express your
intended meaning, review the following principal
guidelines for comma usage.
Woman without her man is
|Separate three or
more items (words, phrases, or clauses) in a
Note: The comma before the
final "and" (known as the "serial" comma) is optional
because some people learned not to use it. Whether
you use it or not, be consistent in your
three favorite desserts: cherry pie, chocolate
Cameron has three favorite desserts: cherry pie,
chocolate mousse and
|Separate complete thoughts
joined by conjunctions such as for, and, nor, but,
or, yet, and so
||Today was a sunny
day, but the forecast for tomorrow is
|Follow introductory clauses or
||Although Simon was tired
after working late, he went out for dinner.
|Enclose the names of people
|Tell me, Jatin, when do
you think you will move to New York?
expressions that are not enclosed in
||Greg Marcus, our
accountant, explained the tax benefits of an
As soon as Dalia gets her license, which will be in
May, we will buy her a car.
|Separate nonessential clauses
from the rest of the sentence
||Owen and Luke played tennis
at the Hanson School, the one with the new
|Separate items in dates and
|The next student council
meeting is on December 1, 2007, at 7 p.m.
Casey's new address is 565 Elm Street, Quincy,
|Separate two or more
adjectives that equally modify the same noun
Note: To decide if a comma is needed, see if
the word and fits between the two adjectives. If
it does, replace the and with a comma.
|Mr. and Mrs. Devlin live in an
old, well-preserved Victorian home.
Mr. and Mrs. Devlin live in an old and well-
preserved Victorian home.
|Follow the greeting in informal
letters and the closing in all letters
|Follow transitional words or
phrases (however, nevertheless, for example)
begin sentences or link two complete
||Therefore, the bank
approved the loan.
Ben is a talented football player; however,
wrestling is his favorite sport.
|Are always placed inside a
closing quotation mark according to the preferred
American style. The British style places commas
outside the closing quotation mark.
||Aileen sent the package
by "Priority Mail," but it still arrived
Remember to use one of the following strategies if
you are unsure about any grammar and punctuation
- Find a different way to write the sentence.
- Check a reliable book or online resource (I can
recommend a few).
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ilana G. Traverse, Principal