Commas are one of the most essential punctuation marks in writing, but figuring out when to use them can be difficult. Here’s a guide to help you remember when to use a comma.
Why you should use a comma:
- Commas help to clarify the meaning in sentences.
- INCORRECT: Let’s eat Grandpa!
- CORRECT: Let’s eat, Grandpa!
- Commas also make lists easier to read.
- INCORRECT: This recipe requires milk eggs and cheese.
- CORRECT: This recipe requires milk, eggs, and cheese.
Use a comma:
- After an introductory phrase that precedes the main clause of a sentence
- Before Jack left the house, he locked the door behind him.
- With a coordinating conjunction (remember FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) in order to combine two independent clauses
- Carol had no flour, so she couldn’t bake cookies.
- Between items in a series or list
- My favorite colors are red, purple, and blue.
- To set off clauses, phrases, or words that add nonessential information to the sentence
- My necklace, which my grandma gave me, fell down the garbage disposal.
- In dates, addresses, titles, names, and numbers
- This overdue library book was due October 12, 2013.
- To set off quotations
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Source: Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. Boston: Bedford, 1995.