A comma (,) usually indicates a pause between parts of a sentence. It is also used to separate items in a list.
Rules for using commas
- Use a comma when a series of two or more adjectives modify a noun
- Sal’s band plays loud, abrasive, complex music.
- Use a comma to separate three or more items in a series
- Anna’s grandmother is good at making fudge, nursing hurt animals, tending fruit trees, telling stories, and playing Scrabble
- Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) that joins two complete sentences
- Glenn was craving Krispy Kreme donuts, but he knew it was a bad idea to eat too much sugar before going to bed
- Use a comma after material that introduces a complete sentence
There are six types of introductory clauses:
- Dependent Word
- Since my parents enjoy watching movies, they go every weekend.
- In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a traditional holiday.
- Infinitive verb (“to” + verb)
- To learn ballroom dancing correctly, you should take lessons.
- Past Participle
- Walking home from school, the young boy found a fifty-dollar bill. (Present participle)
- Signal Verb
- Dr. King said, “At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.” (Signal verb)
- Transitional Word
- Elaine caught the flu. Therefore, she had to miss her cousin’s wedding. (Transitional word)
- Dependent Word
- Use commas around a “nonessential clause”
A “nonessential clause” is material that is extra information and does not change the meaning of the sentence when taken out.
- My brother, who is single, lives in New York City. (nonessential)
- My brother who is single lives in New York City. (essential)
- Use commas to set off information that “interrupts” the flow of a sentence
Interrupters can be emotional interjections (oh, well, wow), parenthetical expressions (to be exact, in fact, it seems), and transitional words (moreover, however, therefore).
- People think my English accent sounds fake. My girlfriend, however, thinks it’s attractive.