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When to Use the Comma | Net Writing

When to Use the Comma

A full stop indicates a complete end to a sentence; a comma indicates a slight change in direction of the sentence. A comma can also be used to break up a sentence into different sub clauses.

When to Use a Comma

1. Linking main clauses.

Keynes was an economist. Keynes was intelligent. Keynes was born in England

Each of these 3 sentences is grammatically correct, however, it makes for stilted reading. We can combine these 3 clauses into one sentence.

  • Keynes was an intelligent economist, who was born in England.

2. After an introductory element of a sentence.

Monetarism is the study of Money supply. We could add an introductory sentence to this.

  • Popularised by Milton Friedman, Monetarism is the study of Money Supply.

These introductory phrases are often known as prepositional phrases; it literally means, “to go before”.

  • One more example: In many different countries, economists often fail to predict recessions.

3. Adding a subordinate clause at the end of a sentence.

A subordinate clause is a phrase that couldn’t make a sentence on it its own.

  • Economists are very bad at predicting the future, although occasionally they get it right.

The first phrase is a sentence on its own, the last phrase adds to the initial statement, and so is a subordinate clause.

4. Parenthetical Elements in a sentence.

These involve words like “however”, “in fact”, “of course”, and “for example”. These words help to link a sentence together; they need a comma before and after.

  • Economics is termed the dismal science, however, occasionally it can be fun to study Economics.

A common mistake, however, is to only include one comma after the “however,” and not before.

  • The latest inflation news was disappointing, in fact, the Bank of England was very concerned.

5. Appositive.

This is a term used to rename a noun.

  • John Maynard Keynes, Britain’s most famous economist, died in 1946.
  • Economics, the study of scarcity, is growing in popularity.


6. Link Between lists.

  • The benefits of studying economics include: higher pay, understanding of life, and boundless joy.


7. Comma before quotation

  • Milton Friedman repeatedly said, “to control inflation, you must control the money supply”

Sometimes you can use a semi colon, or even colon, before a quote.
8. Surrounding the name or title of a person

  • Will you, Tom, do that essay?
  • No, Richard, I have better things to do.

9. Use comma to separate statement from question.

  • Monetarism is rubbish, do you agree?

10. Use a comma for sentences beginning with yes, well, or now.

  • Well, it would be unusual to pass Economics without studying.

11. Use a comma between two adjectives when the word and could be put between them.

  • Keynes was an intelligent, innovative economist.

12. Use a comma between independent clauses.

  • Keynes was a member of the Bloomsbury set, and he studied hard to become a great economist.

Note: Each phrase could stand alone as a sentence.

Books on Using The Comma

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