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How to Use Commas: The Naughty Grammarian Explains

Updated on February 25, 2017
CatherineGiordano profile image

Catherine Giordano, aka "The Naughty Grammarian," has had her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry published in books and periodicals.

Do You Love the Comma?

The comma is always there, so much so that it is taken for granted. It is time for everyone to learn how to love the comma. .

It's time to show commas some love.
It's time to show commas some love. | Source

The apostrophe is sexy. It floats above the fray looking like the curl on the forehead of the little girl who was horrid. She’s a siren who possesses you.

The comma is more like the sweet girl next door. She’s down-to-earth. She suggests that you pause for a moment.

The Naughty Grammarian: How to use Apostrophes explained the wily ways of the apostrophe. Now the Naughty Grammarian will explain the ways of the comma. Treat the comma well and she will be your help-mate throughout life. Misuse her and she turns vexatious.

Enough of the tortured analogies! Miss Grammers must now get down to the task of instructing you in the use of the comma.

Please vote in this poll. Miss Grammers is curious to know.

Are you confident that you know how to use the comma correctly?

See results

Why is the Comma Important?

A comma can change the entire meaning of a sentence.

In the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, the author, Lynne Truss, gives an example with her title.

The panda eats shoots and leaves.” Without the commas, this sentence describes the dietary habits of a bear native to South Central China.

“The Panda eats, shoots, and leaves.” With commas added, the sentence describes a panda with a criminal bent. (The sentence perhaps makes more sense if you think of “The Panda” as being like “The Penguin” from the Batman comics and movies.)

Here is another example. How would you punctuate this sentence?

A woman without her man is nothing.

Depending on the placement of the punctuation, especially the commas, the sentence means two directly opposite things.

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: Without her, man is nothing.

By the way, the word comma comes from Greek: it means "a little piece cut off.”

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

A charming and witty little book all about punctuation. I read it for fun and then put it on my bookshelf to use as a reference book. I used it to help me write my Miss Grammers essays.

 

How are Commas Used in Lists?

When there are three or more words in a list, a comma separates each of the words.

Melanie was young, bold, and beautiful.

In the example above, Miss Grammers has used the “Oxford comma.” This refers to the practice of using a comma after each item in the list.

However, you will sometimes see the sentence punctuated like this.

Melanie was young, bold and beautiful.

I think the second example is not quite clear in its meaning. Is “bold and beautiful” meant to be read as a phrase or as two separate attributes?

Try this sentence with and without the Oxford comma.

Melanie‘s favorite breakfast foods are pancakes, sausage, bacon, and eggs.

Melanie‘s favorite breakfast foods are pancakes, sausage, bacon and eggs

The Oxford comma tells us that the bacon is a side dish and is not part of one dish known as “bacon and eggs.”

As with other grammatical issues when there are two correct choices, you can chose one or the other just as long as you are consistent. Miss Grammers prefers the Oxford comma because it does not leave room for confusion.

The list can be a list of nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs.

Melanie, Doug, and Linda went on a picnic.

They ran, skipped, and jumped.

Melanie spoke loudly, quickly, and forcefully.

Sometimes when there are two adjectives together and they are close synonyms, a comma can be used instead of the word “and”.

Melanie’s strong, fierce love would prove to be her undoing.

Do not use a comma in lists where the word “and” or the word “or” would not make sense.

Melanie loved expensive French champagne.

In the above sentence, we are not listing the attributes of the champagne as “expensive” and “French.” We are saying French-champagne is expensive, and thus there is no comma between “expensive” and “French.”

Commas enclose the abbreviations used with lists like, e.g. (“for example” from the Latin exampli gratia), i.e (“that is” or “in other words” from the Latin id est), and etc.(“and other similar things” from the Latin et cetera. (By the way, there is no need to italicize these abbreviations in normal use, but be sure to use the periods.)

Melanie thought that her ideal man should have the character traits that she admired, e.g., trustworthiness, honesty, faithfulness.

Melanie wanted a man of good character, i.e., a man she could trust, a man who was honest, a man who was faithful.

Melanie thought trustworthiness, honesty, faithfulness, etc., were important character traits.

Melanie loved expensive French champagne.
Melanie loved expensive French champagne. | Source

How are Commas Used to Join Sentences?

Use a comma to separate two independent clauses joined by the word “and” or other conjunctions such as “but,” "or,’ or “yet.” (An independent clause has both a subject and a verb. If the comma was replaced with a period and the conjunction omitted, the sentences could stand on their own.)

Melanie wanted to continue on her quest to win Doug’s love, but she recognized that it might be a lost cause.

Melanie knew it was a lost cause, yet she continued on her quest to win Doug’s love.

The exception is when the two independent clauses are very short.

Melanie could stay or she could leave.

Avoid run on sentences. This is a sentence that should be two separate sentences or one sentence with a conjunction joining them. Sometimes you can avoid a run on sentence, by using a semicolon. A semi-colon joins two sentences that are part of one thought. For reasons of style, the conjunction that could have joined them is omitted.

Melanie knew she should leave; her heart would not let her.

However, if the two parts of the sentence are not closely related, you must use a period or a joining conjunction with a comma.

Melanie knew she should leave. Her heart pounded in her chest.

Melanie’s heart pounded in her chest, and she knew she should leave.

Note that the two examples above seem to be saying the same thing, but there is a subtle difference. In the first knowing that she should leave makes her heart pound, and in the second, the pounding in her chest tells her she should leave. This has nothing to do with punctuation; it’s just an interesting comment on style.

Wrong: Her heart pounded in her chest, she knew she should leave.

If there is no subject in the second clause following the conjunction, do not use a comma.

Melanie loved Doug and hated him too. [There is no second subject, so no comma is needed.]

Melanie loved Doug and hated him too.
Melanie loved Doug and hated him too. | Source

How are Commas Used to Separate Words that Introduce or interrupt a Sentence?

Sometimes a word at the beginning of a sentence is not actually part of the sentence, but is added or emphasis. Separate it from the rest of the sentence with a comma.

No, I can’t believe Doug does not love me.

But, this contradicts everything I know about Doug.

If a phrase interrupts a sentence it must have a comma before and after.

I am, by the way, a serious person.

I am, and you know this to be true, a serious person.

This also applies to a name or proper noun.

Doug, please don’t say these things.

What can I say, my lord and master, to change your mind?

Hand me a towel, sweetie.

How are Commas Used With Names?

The use of commas with names is very confusing. Miss Grammers advises you to pay close attention.

Use a comma with a name only if you are referring to unique person or thing, a "one-and-only.”

A comma is used when the name is not necessary because the person or thing you are speaking of is the only one. The name is non-essential. It is like the commas are parentheses. The part of the sentence in parentheses (or within the commas) can be removed and the meaning is still clear.

Doug’s best friend, Brad, will be at the party. [Doug has only one best friend and his name is Brad--the name is not essential so it is in commas.]

Melanie’s sister, Jill, will also attend. [Melanie has only one sister and her name is Jill.]

A scene from Shakespeare’s best play, Romeo and Juliet, will be performed. [Shakespeare has many good plays, but, by definition, he can have only one best play.]

Do NOT use a comma with a name if there is more than one of the thing being named.

If there is more than one friend or sister or play (or whatever), commas are not needed. This is because the name becomes an identifier for the noun that precedes it. We don’t know which of the many things described by that noun is being referred to so the noun becomes similar to an adjective that describes the name, and we don’t use commas after a single adjective.

If you would need to ask which one, commas are not needed.

Doug’s close friend Brad will be at the party. [Doug has several close friends so we must specify which one we are talking about. Brad is described by the word friend.]

Melanie’s sister Jill will be at the party. [Melanie has more than one sister, and we are identifying which sister will be at the party.]

A scene from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet will be performed [Shakespeare wrote many plays so it is essential to identify which one is being performed.]

However, when the identifier comes after the name, we use the commas.

Brad, Doug’s best friend, will be at the party.

Jill, my sister, will be at the party.

A scene from Romeo and Juliet, a play written by Shakespeare, will be performed.

With grammar, there is always an exception.

There is an exception to the only-thing-in-the-world rule. If the words “a,” “an” or “some,” or a number precede the description of the person named, use a comma. This is because these words make the noun unique by referring to a specific person(s) or thing(s).

A good friend, Brad, will be at the party.

Some good friends, Brad and Bill, will be at the party.

Two friends, Brad and Bill, will be at the party.

A scene from Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet will be performed.
A scene from Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet will be performed. | Source

How are Commas Used with a Dependent Clause?

A dependent clause is a clause that cannot stand alone as a sentence, but it precedes and is closely tied to the sentence it is a part of. If the clause is after the main part of the sentence, no comma is needed.

After we go to the movie, we should go straight home.

We should go straight home after we go to the movie.

Since you refuse to listen, I won’t bother to explain.

I won’t bother to explain, since you refuse to listen.

How are Commas Used with Quotations?

In American English, the final comma goes inside the quotations marks.

Melanie said, “I will never forgive you.”

“I will never forgive you,” Melanie said.

Melanie said, “I will never forgive you,” as she began to cry.

If the quote is a single word and it follows the attribution, a comma need not be used. However, if it precedes the attribution, it requires a comma. (The attribution is the word said, cried, reported, etc.)

She said “No.”

“No,” she said.

How are Commas Used to Separate Contrasting Parts of a Sentence?

When the second part of the sentence is meant to contrast with the first part of the sentence, a comma is used to separate them.

He loves me, not you.

It’s about love, not need.

Use a coma to separate a statement from a question when they occur in the same sentence.

It’s my party, so can I cry if I want to?


How are Commas Used with Dates?

A date sometimes requires a comma and sometimes does not.

A date that gives the month, date, and year requires a comma. The comma is needed before the year when a date precedes the year, but is not needed if only the month precedes it. A day of the week follows the same rules.

Melanie’s birthday is January 9, 1994.

Melanie’s was born in January 1994.

Melanie was born on Monday, January 9.

The comma is also needed after the year if the sentence does not end with the year.

January 9, 1994, is the date of Melanie’s birth.

Monday, January 9, 1994, is the date of Melanie’s birth.

Melanie's birthday is January 9, 1944.
Melanie's birthday is January 9, 1944. | Source

How are Commas Used with Place Names?

The names of places followed by the name of the state or country that they are part of require a comma.

Melanie was born in Atlanta, Georgia.

The perfect place for a honeymoon is Paris, France.

The comma is also needed after the place name if the sentence continues.

Melanie thought Paris, France, would be a perfect place for a honeymoon.

How are Commas Used with Suffixes for Proper Nouns?

A comma is not strictly necessary for suffixes used with a person’s name, but if one is used before the suffix it must also be used after the suffix. Both of the examples below are correct.

Bradley Williams, Jr., is Doug’s best friend.

Bradley Williams Jr. is Doug’s best friend.

When a degree or title follows a proper name, commas are used both before and after.

James Whiney, MD., is hosting the party.

Dr. William Jones, PhD, is hosting the party.

A Final Word on Commas

If a comma is optional, Miss Grammers' preference is to not use it. Do not overuse the comma. Remember, a comma indicates a a pause. If you use too many commas, your text will sound choppy. Don't use a comma to join two short sentences or phrases if the meaning is clear without them. Don't use commas when a conjunction begins a sentence. If necessary, rephrase.

Miss Grammers

This is Miss Grammers' favorite portrait.
This is Miss Grammers' favorite portrait. | Source

Who is Miss Grammers?

Miss Grammers is a passionate woman. If you have read this piece from top to bottom, you have observed her passion for grammar. However, Miss Grammers has other passions as well—hint, hint, nudge nudge, know what I mean.” However, Miss Grammers thinks it best not to go into detail here. She is saving it for her novel, Loves True Desires, which will tell the story of the passions of Melanie and Doug.

Miss Grammers must now beg your forgiveness in advance, but the visual pun is too irresistible to forgo. After writing about comas for hours, Miss Grammers finds herself feeling a bit comma-tose.

Miss Grammers wishes that the use of commas, particularly with regard to proper nouns, could be simpler. One of the most common misuses of the comma is using it to bracket all names. Miss Grammers’ life would be much simpler if all names were bracketed with commas, but Miss Grammers does not make the rules; she only instructs on them.

It is a comma complaint. Another pun. Miss Grammers needs to stop now.

Test your knowledge of commas with this quick test.


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© 2015 Catherine Giordano

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    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      lbbrummer: I'll tell you a secret. I have to revisit it my myself because who can remember all these comma rules. I made this mnemonic to help me remember one of the rules. "The one and only gets lonely; the commas keep it company."

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 2 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      So many ways to misuse the comma, I think I've used them all. This is definitely an article that I will be revisiting. Thanks for the info.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Elise Hagley: Thanks for your comment. Putting the comma after the the "and" that precedes the last item in a list is optional. I prefer it because I think it is clearer.

      My tutorial on commas is a lot to take in. I suggest that you try it just one capsule at a time. The next time you write something, read one capsule and review your commas just for that rule. You can then continue capsule by capsule or you can let a few days pass before working with the next capsule. Use the "find" feature in Word to find every comma in your text one by one.

      Ever since I wrote this I have been seeing commas differently. Read something in a well-edited magazine or newspaper. Circle every comma. Now go back and see if you understand why the comma was used. What was the rule that applied?

      I hope this helps. After a while, the use of commas will start to feel natural.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 2 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for an excellent article.

      I'm terrible with commas. While reading this I was surprised how little I knew on the subject.

      I never use a comma after the word, when using "and" before the last word.

      Even while writing this, after reading your hub, I'm lost with commas now.

      Help!!!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      peachpurple: I'm glad I could be helpful. To tell the truth, I had forgotten a lot of this stuff (or never knew it) until Miss Grammers wised me up. Thanks for the comment.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i forgotten about my grammars and punctuation marks. Thanks for your guide

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Happy to be of service lawrence01.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Excellent. I know where to come then.

      Lawrence

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks for your comment, DeborahNeyens. It's a sham when college students can't use a comma correctly. You can always send them to The Naughty Grammarian for a refresher course. They probably also make a lot of other grammatical mistakes. There are about a dozen Naughty Grammarian posts to help them out.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 2 years ago from Iowa

      What a comprehensive guide on the comma! I teach a college-level business communications class, and not knowing how to use a comma properly seems to be a common problem among my students.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      When I was in third grade, the class was asked to do an essay and How I would Make the World a Better Place. I didn't write about world peace; I wrote about making English grammar easier. I believe my focus was on spelling.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I think they did it because they knew it would keep English teachers in jobs and writers confused for years and they did a great job on both counts!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Yes Lawrence01, English has several root languages. Germanic and Anglo-Saxon tribes. And then it borrows from Greek and Latin and French and Spanish and everything else. That explains the words. But why is the punctuation so complicated? Thanks for adding to my lesson with your comment.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Folks remember that English comes from not one language originally but four! That's why you have so many complications. Example

      Horse (singular) horses ( plural) originally old French

      Hippopotamus (singular) Hippopotamii (plural) from Greek meaning 'water horse '

      Even Arabic isn't as complicated

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Paula: Here is a website that conjugates the verb "to lead."

      http://www.verbix.com/webverbix/English/lead.html

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Gotcha!! Put another way, "Paula, stop asking questions and just READ MY HUBS!!"......LOL. Great idea, Catherine. I shall do just that! :)

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks Iris. I'm glad you like it. I changed my picture and put a little dot at the top of the heart. Is it clear to readers why I did that?

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 2 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      So helpful and punny!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      fpherj48. The past tense of lead is led and it is pronounced the same as "lead" when it means the metal. This example is in my hub about homonyms.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Catherine....(all these hits in your comment section will raise those hub scores!!)....Soooo, let me get this straight. Are you saying the past tense of "lead," is spelled LED? Or are you saying it's spelled l-e-a-d and simply pronounced as L-E-D? God Bless you for being the Naughty Grammarian! No doubt I'll be reading your other hubs!! Thanks. I very much want to be grammatically correct at all times.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      There's no help for it fpherj48. That's just how it is.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      LOL! That's not BUT.....you refer to BUTT. BUT, that's OK! LOL. Well, if it's lead (LEED) in the present tense......and the past tense should be spelled lead (LED) ....then it's a matter of pronunciation. The confusion for me is we do NOT write I "RED" that book already." We say, "I read that book already." Right? So, why would the word "lead" be different?...if in fact it IS different. Thus my question to Catherine. Don't know about you, but I'm getting a head ache. Help, Catherine.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 2 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      Paula, it's led because if it was l-e-a-d it would mean you turned the group into lead. Oh no, wait that would be "I "leaded" the group," or is that even a word? I think whoever invented the English language pulled it out of their but.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      You want consistency? Hah! Read my other hub, "The Naughty Grammarian: Homonyms, Homographs, and Homophones" for the answer to your question (as best as it can be answered).

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Catherine....PLEASE! I'm so easily confused....American and British rules?? Oh my, I think I use a combination of both! Reading hubs by our hubber-friends from across the pond is always interesting. I've stopped in mid-sentence to question what I just read....and then realize the writer is from England or Australia, etc.

      While I have your attention: I need to understand this once and for all. We might say, "I read every day." OR "I'll lead the group today."

      Then past tense is, "I read the book last week.".....so the past tense of lead, should be lead......right? Yet, I see all the time, "I led the group yesterday." Can "led" be correct?

      Keep teaching us Catherine! I love it!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      LOL...there always is. In fact, we're all sitting on one, at the moment!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      tsadjatko: With English grammar, there is always a but.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 2 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      I knew there was a "but" somewhere.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks fpher8. I try my best. I took a long break from writing The Naughty Grammarian because it is the hardest topic to write on.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Catherine......I count onyou to be on your toes!! LOL. Thanks

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks fpherj48 for helping me out on this. There is one small exception with punctuation going inside the quote marks. It is for the question mark. It only goes inside the quotes if the part in quotes if it is part of the question. Did you read "The Naughty Grammarian"? Always exceptions!

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 2 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      But, but, but...oh forget it.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      T...commas, periods, questions marks, exclamation points go INSIDE the final quotation marks.....always. You're welcome, Amigo.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      MizBejabbers. I did not know that the legal system used the British style for quotation marks. And right they are to do so. The American system of quotation marks is confusing and I fought against it for years. I finally decided the retreat was the better part of valor. I have to follow the rules even when I think they are stupid. I imagine it must be hard for you having to do it one way sometime and the other times.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      MizBejabbers. I did not know that the legal system used the British style for quotation marks. And right they are to do so. The American system of quotation marks is confusing, and I fought against it for years. I finally decided that retreat was the better part of valor. I have to follow the rules even when I think they are stupid. I imagine it must be hard for you having to do it one way some times and the other times.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      annart: According to the chart HP posted when they revamped hub scores my hub scores are pretty good. but they are lower, and my average score has dropped 3 points.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks lawrence01. We all need a refresher course once in a while. I wrote a new hub today and what I learned about commas in this hub proved very helpful to me.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I'll try to get this right in future. A really good helpful hub. I'll be back for more

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Catherine, I read your comment about the commas and quotes in American and British English, and I'm going to confuse the issue a little more. In our legal usage, if the comma or period, for that matter, is part of the material we are quoting, it goes inside the quotes. If it is not part of the material that we are quoting, it goes outside the quotes. For example, "This act may be known and cited as the "April Fool's Day Act". We frequently correct bill drafters who write in the typical American style over this. This is done to keep a wiley attorney from arguing a misinterpretation of the intended quote in court if the quotation mark is on the outside of something that could be misinterpreted. One of my journalism professors in grad school used to argue with me about this all the time. I also agree with you about the comma following the date in a sentence.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      I'm surprised your hub scores are low, though I find mine go up and down a lot and I never understand why. I've come to the conclusion that there's no rhyme nor reason to any of the scores here.

      Just continue doing what you do well, Catherine. I think you can see the high results in the comments section.

      Ann

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks so much annart. I need a compliment every now and then to lift my spirits because some of my hub scores make me feel depressed.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      You often mention the differences, which is refreshing (as I've mentioned in your other recent hub). English is complicated enough but as long as we stick to the rules we know, and respect others' rules, then there is no problem. You do just that. I always find your hubs informative, humorous and friendly.

      Ann

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Annart: Thank you for reminding me that I have to be mindful of the differences between American and British English. I'm going to edit the hub to include a statement that these are the rules for American English. The hub is already longer than I want it to be so I can't go into all the differences. Thanks for your comment. You backed me up about the date, so I guess it is the same rule for both American and British English.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      This is a brilliant explanation; you have clarity and crispness in your examples.

      Being British, I don't use a comma before conjunctions, apart from when it's as your example, 'I am, and you know this to be true, a serious person'.

      Having said that, if I wish to create more hesitation in a story I might use a comma! Isn't English great?!

      By the way, I agree with you about the date issue.

      Hope you're having a good Thursday, Catherine.

      Ann

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      tsadjatko: I will research your questions and get back to you tomorrow. I want to be sure I have it right.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      In American English, the comma goes inside the quotes. In British English, I believe the comma goes outside the quotes.

      Just one more thing to complicate the English language.

      The rule is that the comma goes after the date if the sentence continues after the date. (Unless it differs in British and American. I am using American rules.)

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 2 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      I took your quiz but although I got two right it said I scored 33% and I disagree with the one I got wrong - Sorry, the correct answer was "Melanie was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 9, 1994, in the family home." I really think the correct answer is the one I picked: "Melanie was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 9, 1994 in the family home."

      Anyway, great hub page, maybe you can help me. I'd like to know if you are listing quotations where does the comma go, in the quotes or outside?

      for example

      Some famous quotes are: "Give me liberty or give me death", "We become what we think about", "An unexamined life is not worth living".

      or should it be:

      Some famous quotes are: "Give me liberty or give me death," "We become what we think about," "An unexamined life is not worth living."

      The latter looks weird to me.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      fpherj48: Thanks so much for your praise and your votes, I agree about the hassle of the do's and dont's. The comma sure has a lot of them. This hub is the longest hub I have ever done, but it had to be long to get all the rules in. Even tho, I write these instructional hubs, I have to edit my own work for grammar and punctuation. I even have to check my own hubs to make sure I got the rule right. As you point out, sometimes what feels right isn't right.

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      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Catherine...I always appreciate these instructional hubs......information & simple lessons we can all use. As much of a handle I have on our beautiful English language, all the rules and long list of Do's & Don't's.....After retiring and devoting my time to free lance writing...(as opposed to the massive volumes of writing within my career) I came to the realization that I had a habit that needed to be addressed!

      I realized that I had a tendency to over use that COMMA......because I found myself writing like I speak. Big mistake. I speak rather slowly, emphatically & thoughtfully. Thus, I pause more than most people do when speaking in general. So what happens when I pause is that I "think comma." I can't tell you how many commas I delete in one editing session! I know what I've done but I catch it on the edit and make all my corrections. I'm much better now and have given my comma habit a rest! LOL

      Love this hub...Thanks for sharing!UP+++ Peace, Paula

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      DWDavisRSL: Thanks for your comment. I'm happy to know that I have helped with your nemesis, Commas aren't so bad, once you get to know them.

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      DW Davis 2 years ago from Eastern NC

      Thank you for a very useful and informative Hub. Commas have been something of a nemesis of mine. I am always glad to read up on the use of commas.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks MizBejabbers. I especially appreciate your comments because you are a professional editor. (I hope I didn't make you pull your hair out.) Thanks for providing the fact about commas in legal documents. I knew that the comma was invented for the use of actors to tell them where to take a breath; I didn't know about its use for bill reading. Imagine how difficult it would be to read anything without commas. Thanks for the vote up.

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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      What a delightful description of the use of the comma. I think you covered it pretty well. As a legal editor, my colleagues and I encounter some of the most unusual uses of comma ever imagined, both legit and illicit. When it comes to proper punctuation over legal intent, we have to go with the latter, and it makes us pull our hair out. BTW, did you know that laws written in the 19th Century used commas after every phrase or clause because the commas were used as pauses by the speakers who read the bills to the legislatures and the Congress? That makes us pull our hair, too, but we are allowed to correct those. Good stuff. Voted up.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks tillsontian for your praise and votes. This was much harder to write than I thought it would be. Commas should be just comma-sense, right? Turns out, commas are actually comma-plicated. For that reason, this hub got really long, but I hope the sub-headings help people to just skip to the section that covers the aspect of comma usage that they are interested in.

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      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      Some many comma mistakes! I am one of those who tends to over use the comma, but not always where I'm supposed to. This was great. Your talent for writing, along with your lesson in commas, made this interesting as well as educational. Bless Miss Grammers.

      Voted up, useful, funny, awesome, and interesting.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      pstraubie48: Thanks for you comment votes and share. A misplaced comma can definitely change the meaning of a sentence. Keep those pesky commas in their place.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      firstcookbooklady: Your grammar may be gone, but she live on in your heart.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Venkatachari M: Thanks for the comment and votes. The comma is the most frequently used punctuation mark and it is a few comma-plications.

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      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      The comma is a wily little mark that we can throw around at will ...of course, changing the meaning of our work as we go..

      Cute and informative

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

      Voted up and shared

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      Char Milbrett 2 years ago from Minnesota

      My grammar is just fine. She used to live in Duluth, but she has since passed.

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      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very useful and interesting "comma guide' with good examples and illustrations. Voted up, useful and awesome.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I asked Miss Grammers to grade your comment and she gave it an "A". No mistakes with the comma at all. English grammar is a challenge even for native speakers. Thanks so much for your comment. P.S. The novel is part of the Miss Grammers set-up. Miss Grammers, my character, is writing the novel.

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      Lori Colbo 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I am afraid to make a comment lest I make a mistake. Lol! I am passionate about writing, and I think I do fairly well at grammar, but I am always second guessing myself with commas. This piece is very helpful; however learning proper grammar is a huge struggle for me. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek hub about taking an online grammar class. I really did take a little of the class but quit because it was too hard. Grammar is technical, and in my book, not creative. Retaining so much technical jargon like the various kinds of pronouns just won't stay in my brain. I have heard that the english is one of the most challenging to languages to learn when learning it as a second language. I think grammar is one of the main reasons.

      I am going to bookmark this so I can refer back to it often. After taking that course and interacting with some grammar experts like yourself, I find myself getting bogged down with second guessing my punctuation usage. I do appreciate your teaching. I hope I can retain it. Good luck on your novel.

      PS How was my comma usage? Tee hee.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Mel Carriere: I go on instinct also, and I usually get it right. I really had to study the part about names tho. I came up this this. The one-and-only-gets lonely so the commas keep it company. When I am writing something important (like a hub), I will think about the rules now. thanks for your comment.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      MsDora: A lot of people overuse commas. I hope I helped you out a little. Thanks for the comment.

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      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I have to confess that I never think of rules when using commas, I mostly use the force and fly on intuition. I think I would have been a horrible English teacher. Very useful hub.

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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for a very good lesson. I tend to overuse the comma. Your article is very helpful.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Jodah, thanks for your comment. I discovered how much I didn't know about the comma. I'm glad The Naughty Grammarian could help you out.

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      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Catherine, I both enjoyed this hub and needed it. The comma is what I have more trouble with than anything else. I seem to overuse it at times and sometimes in the wrong place. I need to bookmark this hub to keep referring back to. Thank you for sharing the naughty Grammarian's expertise.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      flourishanyway: Thanks for calling me the "diva of grammar." It is a hard-won title. These grammar hubs are hard to do. When I do the research, I always find out something I didn't know.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks billybuc: My biggest fear is that I misused a comma in this hub. Let me know if you find any errors. I'm glad you laughed at the humorous bits.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you Arioch. I'm glad you found the tips on commas useful.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks cam85210 for catching my mistake on the quiz. I'm so bad at proofreading. I've got it all right now. I'm glad you liked the tutorial anyway.

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      heidithorne: Use a comma whenever you would naturally take a breath is very good advice. Thanks for your input. Common sense can be better than rules sometimes. Thanks for the votes.

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      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      This was both instructive and humorous (at the end). You are quite the diva of grammar, girl!

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      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      I always tell writers that the comma is their best friend. But there are lots of people who don't have a clue on how to use them. To those I usually say to think about putting a comma wherever they would naturally take a breath. Voted up, useful and sharing!

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I loved the introduction of this article, and then I laughed when I took the first poll. I know how to use commas correctly. The bigger question is will I do it? LOL

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      Gordon D Easingwood 2 years ago from Wakefield, United Kingdom

      Very well presented Hub always good to be reminded about grammar.

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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      I tend to overuse commas. Thanks for helping me brush up on their use. Take a look at the answers for question 4 in the quiz. Are they identical?

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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you tobusiness. I appreciate it.

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      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      A very useful hub. Voted up, awesome and shared.