Common Comma Rules All Writers Should Know

the comma

Rule 1:

Use a comma between items that are listed in a series, which contain three or more words or clauses.

Example: We went to a movie, ate dinner and then went to a party.

Example: I bought a chocolate cake, strawberry pie and some ice cream for the party.

Rule 2:

Use a comma when quoting the words of others.

Example: Michele grabbed her keys and said, “I won’t be back.”

Example: “Don’t hit your sister,” my mother warned.

Rule 3:

Use a comma when writing dates and addresses.

Example: My address is 1234 Fake Lane Drive, Chula Vista, CA 91910.

Example: We are going to Ireland on May 25, 2012.

Rule 4:

Use a comma after introductory phrases.

Example: Despite the fact that we haven’t spoken in weeks, I still sent Heather a gift for her birthday.

Example: After washing my hands, I cut the cake.

Rule 5:

Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it joins two independent clauses. Coordinating conjunctions include for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. Remember, independent clauses are two complete sentences.

Example: The weather was rainy, and it was very cold.

Example: The girls overslept, so they did not go to school.

Rule 6:

Use a comma after a subordinate/dependent clause when it begins a sentence. Subordinate/dependent clauses begin with words like if, because, after, when, as, while, since, even though, although, before, and whenever.

Example: While I ate my sandwich, my brother played. (Dependent clause is at the start of the sentence, so a comma is needed.)

Example: My brother played while I ate my sandwich. (Dependent clause is second, so no comma is needed.)

Rule 7:

Use a comma to set off an adjective clause if it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Adjective clauses usually start with words like that, which or who.

Example: My uncle, who lives in Santa Barbara, loves to surf.

Example: The college, which is in El Cajon, is very nice.

Rule 8:

Use a common when using conjunctive adverbs.

Conjunctive adverbs are words like however, on the other hand, although, nevertheless, consequently, therefore, especially, moreover, and for example .

Example: The Chargers looked like they were going to make it to the Super Bowl, however, I decided to root for the Cowboys.

Example: I decided to ask for a raise and, consequently, I was fired.

Rule 9:

Use a comma to break up the flow of a sentence.

Example: Michelle, clean up your room!

Example: The entire congregation, known for their generous giving, donated money to build a new parking lot.

Rule 10:

Use a comma to set off an appositive word or phrase that is used to describe or identify another noun.

Example: That was the best day of my life, the day when my daughter was born. (“Day” is repeated and is described further after the comma).


2 thoughts on “Common Comma Rules All Writers Should Know

  1. Stacy says:

    Well done. The use of commas can difficult to discern. Most bloggers should print this, and keep it next to their computer.

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