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Rules for Using the Comma | Net Writing

Rules for Using the Comma

When should you use a comma?

These simple rules may help.

Common Sense

To make it clear what you are referring to.

  • My beloved honey is over there.
  • My beloved, honey is over there.

And perhaps the most famous:

  • A Panda came into the bar. He eats shoots and leaves
  • A Panda came into the bar. He eats, shoots and leaves.

The second sentence could have involved a dead bear. The first sentence suggests the Panda eats shoots and leaves.

Lists.

  • I would like to buy, books, chocolate, clothes, a new car and a Rolex watch.
  • There are several countries in the Euro, such as, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Germany.

In some academic publications there will be a comma before the last and.

  • There are several countries in the Euro, such as, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Germany.
  • This is known as the Oxford comma.

Sub Clauses.

  • With great reluctance, I decided to do my homework.
  • I am trying to learn the rules for using a comma, in order to improve my written English

Note: even without the sub clause there would still be a valid sentence

Before a Little Conjunction (and, but, yet, indeed, so) of two independent clauses.

  • I should have scored a century, but the bowling attack was very precise.

Non-Essential Clauses

  • My Economics teacher, who has a silly haircut, gave me far too much homework.

Dates

  • A comma should be used in giving full date.
  • Economics classes start on 7th September, 2010, in the Old Library.

Contrast

  • Global warming is increasing temperatures around the world, yet England is getting colder.
  • She was very attractive, but vain.

Should you use a comma before and?

  • In a list it is not necessary. For example, the UK Eurovision song got nil points from France, Sweden and Portugal.

However, it can be helpful in complicated lists:

  • I buy food from Tesco, Morrisons, Marks and Spencers, and the Co-op. This helps show Marks and Spencer is just one item in the list.

A comma should be used for two distinct clauses.

  • He went to get the bus, and the weather was cloudy again.

When Not to Use the Comma.

Two Adjectives that would not make sense with and between

  • He only had a tiny cutting knife. (It wouldn’t make sense to say – He only had a tiny and cutting knife.)
  • My grandmother is a little old lady, but very fiery.

Comma Splice
This occurs when a comma is used for two independent phrases which would be better with fullstop or semi-colon.

  • He went to catch the bus, the weather was dull and grey.

This could be corrected by:

  • He went to catch the bus. The weather was dull and grey.
  • He went to catch the bus; the weather was dull and grey.
  • He went to catch the bus, and the weather was dull and grey.

Books on Using The Comma

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Book Cover

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