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The Only Guide You Need To Use Comma Correctly

Updated on July 28, 2020

Ask any writer: Which is the most frequently used punctuation sign, and which is the most wrongly used sign? You're likely to 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 usages, and each usage 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.

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Image courtesy:
Image courtesy:
Image courtesy:

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.


  • 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.


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

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Image Courtesy:

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.


  • 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.


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.

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Image Courtesy:

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.


  • 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.


  • 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)


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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