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How to use Commas Correctly

Updated on September 12, 2013


Commas seem to be the punctuation that people have the most trouble using. While some comma rules should have been engraved in our heads at a young age, many of the rules slipped through the cracks. Comma usage is important, but it doesn't surprise me that people have so much trouble finding a place for the little guys within their writing. There are quite a few comma rules out there. Many of which, I'm betting, people have been second guessing themselves on for years. It's high time to clear up all the confusion.

Comma Rules

1.) You should always use a comma to separate two adjectives that can be separated by the word and.

  • She is an intelligent, beautiful woman. (She is an intelligent and beautiful woman).

2.) Use a comma before or surrounding a name or title when directly addressing someone.

  • No, Trisha, I can't come over later tonight.
  • I love you, Heather.

3.) Use a comma to separate a series of three or more words.

  • Some of my favorite pastimes are hiking, swimming, and boating.

4.) When writing the date, use a comma to separate the day of the month from the year. Include a comma after the year.

  • David was planning to go on vacation on July 3, 2012, but decided to wait until August instead.

5.) Use a comma to separate a city from a state. A comma should also follow the state unless a two-letter abbreviation of the state is used.

  • I live in Cleveland, Ohio, and love it. — I live in Cleveland, OH and love it.

6.) Use commas around expressions that interrupt sentence flow.

  • Alice, despite having slept for ten hours, was incredibly tired from the day before.

7.) Use a comma to separate two main clauses joined together by a conjunction (and, but, or, nor or so). Unless, however, both clauses are short or closely related in meaning.

  • I enjoy playing soccer, but I can't stand watching it on television.

8.) Use a comma when beginning a sentence with a phrase that contains three or more words.

  • In the beginning, I really enjoyed working out after classes.

9.) Use a comma after a weak clause when it begins a sentence.

  • Although I'm not too happy with her, I can't ignore her forever.

10.) Always use a comma after the greeting and closing of letters.

  • Dear Mrs Hubert,
  • Sincerely,

11.) Use a comma when interrupting direct quotations and when introducing them.

  • "Who knows," she asked, " where they left the controller."
  • She calmly replied, "no."

12.) Separate a statement from a question by using a comma.

  • It's entertaining, isn't it?

13.) Use a comma before and after a person's title or degree.

  • Be sure to call David Wilcohlm, Ph.D., as soon as possible.

14.) Use a comma to separate contrasting parts of a sentence.

  • Those are your brother's jeans, not yours.

15.) When using words like however or therefore as an interrupter, surround them with a comma.

  • I don't like coffee, but I do, however, enjoy a good latte.

16.) Use a comma before and after introductory words like that is, or for example.

  • I like all kinds of movies, for example, action, adventure, and fantasy.
  • (a colon could also be used) I like all kinds of movies: action, adventure, and fantasy.)

Avoid comma splices

A comma splice occurs when two strong clause are combined using a comma instead of a period, semicolon, or a comma and conjunction.

  • Incorrect: I like chocolate ice cream, my friend likes vanilla.
  • Correct: I like chocolate ice cream, but my friend likes vanilla.
  • I like chocolate ice cream; my friend likes vanilla.

Avoid run-on sentences

A run-on sentence occurs when two independent clauses are joined together with no punctuation at all.

  • Incorrect: My car is almost completely out of gas we won't make it home.
  • Correct: My car is almost completely out of gas, and we won't make it home.


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    • profile image

      IntegrityYes 5 years ago

      Many need to read this one. I voted up for sure.

    • anupma profile image

      Dr Anupma Srivastava 5 years ago from India

      Comma is very important punctuation mark. It can change the meaning of a sentence if wrongly use. So we must be careful in using it. Thanks for sharing.

      Great hub.

    • shalycriston profile image

      Shaly Criston 5 years ago from USA

      Hmmm Very interesting Hub, Thanks to share it.

    • Mritzert1 profile image

      Mritzert1 5 years ago from Canton, OH

      @donnah75 — I wish that were the case as I've had a few professors I'd like to have proven wrong as well!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Darn! I was so hoping that evil college professor was wrong. I knew he wasn't, but there was glimmer of hope there. Oh well, at least I don't make that mistake anymore :-)

    • franticsharpie profile image

      franticsharpie 5 years ago

      Great hub. Very helpful.

    • Mritzert1 profile image

      Mritzert1 5 years ago from Canton, OH

      donnah75, looking back at my example I see that I inadvertently omitted the "I" that you just used in your example. Two strong clauses separated by a coordinating conjunction should use a comma. Thanks for the catch!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      #7 is eating away at me. I had a college professor who berated me in front of my class on that one. He insisted that the two clauses must be independent clauses or no comma is necessary. Using your example:

      I enjoy playing soccer but can't stand watching it on tv.


      I enjoy playing soccer, but I can't stand watching it...

      That is how I have been doing it for years after that rather embarrassing moment. Now I will need to do some serious research. I hope you are right and he wasn't. That will give me some satisfaction after all these years!

      Thanks for this hub. Comma mistakes are rampant, so this was an important lesson to share. Thanks for getting me thinking! Voting up.

    • pinkhawk profile image

      pinkhawk 5 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

      Thank you very much for this useful topic. ^_^!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This is a useful hub on the basic mechanics of using commas for any writer. Voted up and sharing.

    • Kamalesh050 profile image

      Kamalesh050 5 years ago from Sahaganj, Dist. Hooghly, West Bengal, India

      Interesting and Useful. Voted Up.

      Best Wishes, Kamalesh