Punctuation Tip: Comma (,)

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Use commas to make your meaning clear and to avoid confusion. Many writers are unsure of how to use commas, usually overusing them and making their writing disjointed and difficult to read. Follow the advice below to help you decide when to use commas. If you are still uncertain, read the sentence aloud — it’s often a good guide.

Use commas to make your meaning clear and to avoid confusion. Many writers are unsure of how to use commas, usually overusing them and making their writing disjointed and difficult to read. Follow the advice below to help you decide when to use commas. If you are still uncertain, read the sentence aloud -- it's often a good guide.

 

Use a comma:

To separate three or more items (words or phrases) in a list

They sent us notebooks, pens, pencils and rulers.

To separate consecutive adjectives that qualify the same noun

If you can insert the word “and” between the adjectives, use a comma.

Test: It was a hot (and) windy day.

Correct: It was a hot, windy day.

If you cannot insert “and” between the adjectives, don’t use a comma.

Test: They ate cold (and) roast beef.

Correct: They ate cold roast beef.

To separate independent clauses linked by a conjunction

The Queen will arrive today, and the King will arrive on Monday.

Note: If each clause makes sense on its own, use a comma.

To separate introductory words, phrases or clauses

However, I think we need a change.

In general, we work to a four-day deadline.

To separate words tagged on to the end of a sentence

We beat them, didn’t we?

To separate extra words that identify or describe

Mr James, the Sales Manager, will leave today.

To separate words not essential to the meaning of the sentence

If that’s the case, and let’s hope so, it may be important.

To avoid confusion or misreading

We’ll leave when we finished eating, my friends.

To introduce direct speech

The director said, “Let’s improve our performance.”

After a salutation or complimentary close

Dear Mr Hughes, Yours sincerely,

To separate titles, degrees

John Peters, M.P.

To separate numbers

Large numbers

2,222,332

Numbers running together in dates

September 19, 1986

To avoid confusion

By 1990, 90 people will go.

Do not use commas:

To separate independent clauses.

Wrong: The market reached 900 points, the dollar continued to rise.

Right: The market reached 900 points. The dollar continued to rise.

Right: The market reached 900 points, yet the dollar continued to rise.

Right: The market reached 900 points; the dollar continued to rise.

Before an opening bracket

Wrong: There are many computers, (over 100) on the market.

Right: There are many computers (over 100) on the market.

To separate numbers

Postcodes and Zip Codes

Kansas 54221

Identification numbers

Serial No. 22333

Telephone numbers

Tel: 07733 878234

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