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The Only Guide You Need To Use Comma Correctly

Updated on February 3, 2017

Ask any writer: Which is the most frequently used punctuation sign, and which is the most wrongly used sign? You will certainly get the same answer. And the answer would be 'comma'.

In fact, the rules to use it are quite simple. But people make mistakes. Before we begin discussing the rules, I request you to forget every rule you were told (pause or anything of the sort) for some moments. I promise that you will have a clear picture of the use of comma at the end of this hub.

The comma has four uses, and each use has its own rules. But one rule is common in all four uses that is comma is never preceded by a white-space and always followed by a white space.

Now we will look into each rule separately.

Image courtesy: www.vappingo.com
Image courtesy: www.vappingo.com
Image courtesy: www.theglobeandmail.com
Image courtesy: www.theglobeandmail.com

The Listing (Serial) Comma

As the name implies, listing comma is used to list three or more words, phrases, or complete sentences. And the construction is called X, Y, and (or) Z list.

Examples:

  • You can learn Hindi, English, or French.
  • I spend my evenings reading books, watching movies, and playing guitar.
  • I write in English, Kamalika writes in Bengali, and Alice writes in French.

Remember, you should not join two complete sentences with only a comma. It would be wrong to write:

  • I write in English, Kamalika writes in Bengali.
  • The sentence should be written as:
  • I write in English, and Kamalika writes in Bengali.

Listing comma is also used in a list of modifiers that all modify the same thing. This way, listing comma doesn't require the word 'and'.

  • Gita is a sacred, inspiring book.
  • Her long, black, glossy hair fascinated me.

The comma used in a list of modifiers can easily be replaced by the word 'and' without damaging the sense.

  • Her long and black and glossy hair fascinated me.
  • The list of modifiers with commas is clearer.

Recap:

You should use a listing comma wherever you can use the word 'and' or 'or'.


Image Courtesy: www.slideshare.net
Image Courtesy: www.slideshare.net

The Joining Comma:

It is slightly different from listing comma. The joining comma is used, as the name implies, to join two complete sentences. And it must be followed by a suitable conjunction. The most common conjunctions used after joining commas are and, but, or, while, and yet.

Examples:

  • I like to eat an orange, and Kamalika likes to eat an apple.
  • You must take admission soon, or you will lose your seat.
  • She has been alone in college, but now she is making friends there.
  • She saves money, while her husband spends like anything.

Remember that you cannot join two complete sentences with a comma unless you also use these conjunctions. So it will be wrong to write:

  • I like Hindi, Ram likes Urdu.

One more thing must be taken into account that some conjunctions are always used with a semicolon.They are however, therefore, hence, thus, nevertheless, and consequently. You can check the hub Punctuation Made Easy: The Use of Colon and Semicolon for more details.

Recap:

You should use a joining comma to join two complete sentences with one of the words and, or, but, while, and yet. Don't use a joining comma another way.

Image Courtesy: guinlist.wordpress.com
Image Courtesy: guinlist.wordpress.com

The Gapping Comma:

The use of gapping comma is very easy. It is used to show that one or more words are left out when missing words would simply repeat the words already used earlier in the same sentence.

Examples:

  • Hyderabad is famous for Charminar, Agra is famous for Taj Mahal, and Delhi is famous for India Gate.

This sentence can be written:

  • Hyderabad is famous for Charminar, Agra for Taj Mahal, and Delhi for India Gate.

The gapping comma here explains that the words 'is famous', which was repeated earlier, have been omitted. And the short sentence is equivalent to a longer sentence.

In the use of gapping comma, you should use your judgement. If the sentence is clear without it, don't use it.

The Bracketing Comma:

Bracketing commas, also known as isolating commas, are used for very different tasks from other three types. They are very tricky to use in writing. However, if you understand the basic rule, you will always be right in using bracketing commas.

The rule is: a pair of bracketing commas is used to define a weak interruption of the sentence. Mostly, bracketing commas occur in a pair. However, sometimes one is not written.

Examples:

  • India, like any South Asian country, is facing the problem of corruption
  • Ram, as Sita informed me yesterday, has topped the college.

In the above examples, a weak interruption has been set off by a pair of bracketing commas.

To check the use of bracketing commas, you should remove the weak interruption from the sentences. If the sentences make a complete sense, you have used bracketing commas correctly.

The above sentences can be written without the weak interruptions as:

  • India is facing the problem of corruption.
  • Ram has topped the college.

As these sentences make a complete sense without weak interruptions, they have been written correctly with bracketing commas.

Sometimes, a weak interruption comes at the end or the beginning of the sentence. Such as:

  • I live in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi.
  • All in all, I think we have performed well.

In such kind of sentences, we use only one comma.

Adding clause always receives bracketing comma, while restrictive clause never does.

  • Ram, who hated buses, refused to get on the bus. (Adding clause-who hated buses)
  • The pictures that were clicked by my camera were perfect. (Restrictive clause-that were clicked by my camera)

Recap:

You should use bracketing commas to set off a weak interruption that could be removed from the sentence without destroying the meaning.

You should also make sure the words set off are really an interruption. If an interruption comes at the end or beginning, use only one bracketing comma.

If you follow these rules, I believe, you will never make a mistake to use a comma.

Thanks for reading it. Fell free to ask anything related to the topic.

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    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Dianna Mendez!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      2 years ago

      Now this is an article I can use! I second guess when using commas, it is a confusing task at times. Thank you for this refresher on the use of a comma.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks G. Diane Nelson Trotter! I'm glad that you like it.

    • dianetrotter profile image

      G. Diane Nelson Trotter 

      2 years ago from Fontana

      Hi Sandeep! I was taught to place a comma before and in a series. After I became an adult, I was told that there should not be a comma before and. I just looked it up and, as you explained, we are right back to comma before and. I've got to read all of your Hubs for English refresher. Thank you Sandeep!

    • Joyette  Fabien profile image

      Joyette Fabien 

      2 years ago from Dominica

      Very interesting explanation of comma use. Only, with regard to the listing comma, I come form the school of thought that has made the comma before 'and' and 'or' unnecessary.

      Great hub though. Thanks for sharing.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks for reading it, Shampa Sandhya! I believe you should use it. You can read more here https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/CoordConj.html

    • shampa sadhya profile image

      Shampa Sadhya 

      2 years ago from NEW DELHI, INDIA

      This hub is very useful and you have put it up in a very interesting way.

      Now, I have a question: should I use comma before 'and' in the above written sentence? I generally do not use it.

    • roselinsojan profile image

      roselinsojan 

      2 years ago from India,Kerala.

      Dear friend,Interesting hub.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Kristen!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub. Very useful for when we're writing or editing, even here at HP.

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      In Comma Land, as with most types of punctuation, there are many varieties. Sandeep, in his own inimitable way, has covered them all. Great Hub, matey.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      3 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Stella.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      3 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi, I found this a very good review. Thanks, Stella

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      3 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Rebecca Mealey for reading and sharing your thought.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Very helpful! Commas have always been a problem for me. Thanks!

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      3 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Zander, for reading and sharing your thoughts.

    • Zander Collision profile image

      Zander Collision 

      3 years ago

      Great hub Sandeep. I always use commas based on my gut feeling and sense of the sentence. I would keep some points in my mind, the next time I write an article.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      3 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Padmajah! I'm glad you liked it.

    • Padmajah Badri profile image

      Padmajah Badri 

      3 years ago from India

      Very nice Hub.The importance and correct usage of Comma is highlighted and I super like your photo which enlightens the meaning of same words written with correct and incorrect punctuation. Thank you.Happy Writing!

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      3 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Certified Noob, for reading and sharing thoughts.

    • Matt Easterbrook5 profile image

      Matthew A Easterbrook 

      3 years ago from Oregon

      Thank You Sandeep for a great hub. I always enjoy reading about grammar-punctuation-commas etc. another wonderful hub filled with information. I do look forward to another hub.

    • integrater profile image

      Certified Noob 

      3 years ago

      When using commas I keep only one thing in mind, they are used for separating elements is a sentence without terminating a sentence . Thank you for an interesting, informative hub.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      3 years ago from New Delhi

      Yes, Larry, I do agree with you. In the use of commas, I believe one must know the rules so that one can understand the implications of breaking the rules. I've seen many pieces of good writing having commas wrongly placed. But that didn't kill the flow and rhythm of the writing.

      However, I try to follow the rules of punctuation. For me, believe it or not, properly puntucated sentences are sort of sexy.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      I think what confuses people regarding commas is that there are only a couple of hard rules and the rest is determined by formality, school of thought, and judgement.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      3 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Miss De, for sharing your thoughts. I'm glad you liked it. It's really encouraging.

    • profile image

      Kamalika De 

      3 years ago

      Certainly a useful hub with detailed information. Thanks Sandeep. Looking forward for more hubs like this so that we can brush up our basic knowledge.

    • sandeep15r profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandeep Rathore 

      3 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Buildreps. It's really encouraging.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 

      3 years ago from Europe

      Interesting Hub. I read it with great pleasure. I use the comma before 'and' not strictly, it's more or less a matter of feeling to me :)

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