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When To Use A Comma: Essential Rules And Examples

Home / Blog / When To Use A Comma: Essential Rules And Examples

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 Admin  September 21, 2021  Assignment  0

Try to figure out the following riddle- “When you truly need one, they’re nowhere to be found. However, they pop up when they are not wanted or desired all the time.”

Scratching your head to figure out the answer? It is commas!  

Without a shadow of doubt, commas can be quite mischievous and the most troublesome punctuation mark. This is hugely due to the numerous ways the comma is used. Often, the comma indicates a pause that would occur if the sentences were spoken out loud. Other times, the comma is used to separate grammatical components of the sentence.

A wise and smart writer must always be a careful user of the commas. No need to fret. We are here to aid you. Whether you have a specific question about when or how to use commas or you are looking at a page littered with those pesky things and feeling slightly overwhelmed, our comprehensive blog, including a list of comma rules, will help in nailing your writing and editing task like a pro in no time at all.  

Let’s discuss in detail the intricacies of ‘when and how to use commas’ properly.

What Is A Comma? A Quick Overview

Before you delve deep to comprehend ‘when to use parentheses vs. commas’, let’s take a quick look into what a comma truly is.

A comma demonstrates a smaller break, while a period ends the sentence. There are some writers who believe a comma to be a soft pause. It is a punctuation mark that separates words, clauses, or ideas within a sentence in an essay .

When To Use Semicolons And Commas?

Often, most people tend to get baffled between a comma and a semicolon (;). However, as the rules clarify, a semicolon is strictly used to indicate a more significant break than a comma (but less important than a period). Often, when you are reading a sentence aloud, it can help you determine which punctuation mark to use where accurately.

Why Use Commas: The Essential Comma Rules

Pondering over the question “When and how to use commas?” Know commas tend to clarify the sentence structure, separating a group of words, and grouping others. It tends to add meaning to the written words and guides the comprehension of readers as they move through the sentences.

While there’s a certain degree of flexibility in the use of commas accurately, it’s crucial to have a clear grasp of the significant rules-

Commas are used to separate the elements in a list of three or more items

One of the basic and correct uses of commas is to segregate items in the list. In American English, a comma (also popularly known as the serial comma or Oxford comma) is inserted before the conjunction separating the last item in the list.

You can even use a semicolon rather than a comma to segregate the list items that include internal commas. Furthermore, remember, the concluding conjunction may not always be ‘and’. It can be either ‘or’ and ‘as well as’ used for the same purpose.

Have a look at the examples given below to comprehend how to use commas in a list-

Example- The questionnaire of the survey was distributed to the district bodies, local residents, and the neighborhood schools.

The cake baking mix requires flour, sugar, eggs, and butter.

We purchased apples, peaches, and bananas today.

Use of commas in a direct speech

Direct speech signifies when a writer quotes the words of a speaker exactly as they were spoken. If the piece of direct speech comes after the information about who is speaking, it becomes imperative to use the comma to introduce the direct speech. Again, the comma always comes before the first quotation mark. The final quotation mark also follows the full stop at the end of the direct speech.

For example-

Richard replied, “No problem”

‘We have to go there’, they said.

‘I do not agree with your point of view’. I replied.

Use a comma to separate independent clauses

It is crucial to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, yet, so, or nor, for) when it joins two complete ideas (independent clauses).

Like,

He ran down the street, and then he turned the corner.

You can go to the get together with me, or you can go to the movie alone.

Use a comma to join a dependent clause and an independent clause

As the name suggests, a dependant clause relies on another clause to form a complete sentence. Avoid getting carried away with your commas here. If a dependent clause follows an independent clause, no comma is required.

Like,

Please leave the class if you think you are going to use improper grammar.

However, note that a comma is required when a sentence begins with the dependant clause. For instance,

If you are going to use improper grammar, please leave the class.

Following an introductory word group

There are certain sentences that open with a specific word or group of words to offer more information. Here, a comma follows this introductory word or group of words. It explains to the reader that the main section of the sentence is yet to begin.

For example, When I see too many cars parked in a single lane, I instantly turn into an enormous green-rage monster.

Use a Comma before a quotation

If you often find yourself typing all across search engines 'How to know when to use commas before and after?’, then know that you must always put a comma immediately before a quotation.

For example,

She said ,“It’s so relaxing today.”

Mark Richardson told us, “You can’t come in after eleven o’ clock to the office.”

Use a comma to separate a dependant clause that comes before the independent clause

A dependant clause or a subordinate clause can never stand alone as a whole sentence. It must be separated from the independent clause that follows with the proper use of commas.

Take, for instance,

If you fail to make it to the event, at least have the courtesy to inform me.

After the race, Maya was exhausted and tired.

Use commas to set off the nonrestrictive clauses

Make use of commas to enclose clauses that are nonessential to the meaning of the sentence. These nonessential clauses are known as nonrestrictive. Both restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses may start with a relative pronoun (like who, whom, whose, that, which). A relative pronoun refers to the noun or pronoun that precedes it.

For instance,

Jane Richardson, whose shows you adore, will host a party in The Evelyn lawn next week. (Nonrestrictive)

The woman who is standing by the fireplace is a reputed and famous composer. (Restrictive)

Use commas to separate coordinate adjectives

When you are explaining something with two or more adjectives, you can always use a comma between them if those adjectives are coordinating. Know that they will be only coordinated if you could place the ‘and’ between them. But know that you shouldn’t put a comma after the final adjective.

Like, she’s a kind and jolly young girl.

There’s a read bath towel kept on your bed.

Commas are used to set off appositives

An appositive is a noun or a noun phrase that renames a nearby noun. Appositives offer nonessential information. Thus, nonrestrictive appositives are set off with commas; restrictive appositives are not.

For instance,

Alexander Pope, the Restoration poet, is well-renowned for his monologues. (appositives)

The famous poet Pope is well-known for his monologues. (no appositives)

Use commas with dates and addresses

Remember, a comma is always used to separate the month and day from the year. Like, there have been no misplaced commas since March 20, 2021.

But, if the date is written in the inverted style or if only the month and year are given, then no comma is needed. For instance,

There have been no misplaced commas since 20 March 2021.

Again, the most important thing to remember is that the correct date notation and the correct format of addresses will differ based on your flavor of English. In the US, the city, street address, and state are separated by commas.

Commas are used with titles

Want to know what else comes under the vital comma rules? Know that if a title follows a name, a pair of commas separate it from the rest of the sentence. For example-

John Sommerhalder, a comma misuser, will speak of the day when he left out that important comma.

Use a comma with numbers

When there are numbers longer than four digits, commas separate the numbers into groups of three, especially beginning from the right side.

10,000 (correctly placed commas)

88,000,00 (incorrectly placed commas)

Comma Splices

When you aim to join two independent clauses, you require conjunction or a semicolon. A comma alone isn’t strong enough to join them. This type of mistake is popularly known as the comma splice.

Example-

We were out of brea;, I went to the store. (Incorrect)

You can fix this comma splice with the addition of conjunctions or changing the comma to the semicolon.

We were out of bread, so I went to the store. (Correct)

We were out of the bread; I went to the store. (Correct)

Commas are used with interrupters or parenthetical elements

Contemplating, where to use commas properly? Interrupters are small thoughts that pop up in the middle of a sentence to demonstrate emotion, tone, or emphasis. Again, a parenthetical element defines a phrase that adds extra information to the sentence but could be eliminated without even changing the meaning of the sentence. Both parenthetical elements could be easily set off with the commas.

For example,

It was unfortunately the last day of sports camp. (Incorrect)

It was, unfortunately, the last day of sports camp. (Correct)

How Or When To Use Commas In A Sentence- A Brief Overview

As mentioned above, adding a comma can alter the meaning of a sentence. For example,

Let’s eat John= We are going to eat with John.

Let’s eat, John= We are eating with John.

When it is a long sentence, you can even use commas to separate out the extra information and enhance the readability of the sentences. The commas perform the same responsibilities as the brackets but look a lot neater in your writing-

John (the alien with the black spots) is from the planet Soink.

John, the alien with the black spots, is from the planet Soink.

Again, a clause is the building block for a sentence. Here, the commas can be used to break up sentences that include more than one clause and make them easier to read.

When John saw the food, his tummy began to rumble.

John got used to the black spots, but then they started itching suddenly.

Summing Up

Though we often tend to hear about run-on sentences and individuals who neglect commas, it is also completely possible to include far too many commas in your homework. Fortunately, we have a perfect and grammatically correct way to incorporate commas in any piece of academic writing. Make proper use of our list of comma rules and bid adieu to the unnecessary usage of commas.

You can always do your own research and investigate the many more situations that you must use commas. Do not let the door hit you on your way out!

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