Making Your Writing Clearer with Commas

Writers sometimes have difficulties with commas. Therefore, in order to make sure your commas are well-placed, you need to take a note of the common uses for this frequent form of punctuation.


When You Should Use a Comma

A comma is used in the following instances:

  • After such transitional phrases as Consequently, As a result, or However.


  • Before a conjunction that links two independent clauses. For example, use a comma in the sentence, “I write for a living, and I play tennis in my spare time.”


  • In place of a parentheses, as in the following – Mary and Bill Jones, who are teachers, are hosting the conference.


  • To separate items in a list, as in the following – They will be eating turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing, and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner.


  • After establishing a scene at a sentence’s beginning, as in the following – Now that I’ve graduated from college, I can start looking for a job.


  • When using the vocative case (VOC), or when the expression is a direct address – “I went to the seminar with your sister, Andrea.”


  • When writing numbers – such as 4,000.


  • Before quoting a phrase – She said, “I am going shopping.”


While a comma represents a pause in writing, it does not mean that a writer can randomly select where this type of pause is added. You still need to know when a comma should be applied. The above list can serve as a reference in this respect.


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