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Easy Comma Rules for English I

Page history last edited by mschadt 11 years, 4 months ago




Easy Comma Rules—English I



     Rule 1 – Use a comma to separate items in a series.


  •  Magazines, paperback novels, and textbooks crowded the shelves.
  • You may pay by check, with a credit card, or in cash.
  •  Mark sat in the office, checked his watch, and flipped nervously through a magazine.
  •  Lola bit into the ripe, juicy apple

                         Note: A comma is used between two adjectives in a series only if and inserted between

                                  the words sounds natural.


     Rule 2—After introductory material

     --Prepositional Phrases – Put a comma after lengthy prepositional phrases that begin sentences

            Example: Inside the darkened house, John started to yell.

                                    Some Prepositions: in, on, after, before, by, with, from, around

                            Note: If an introductory prepostional phrase is short and no ambiguity is possible, you may omit the comma:

                                      Ex: After lunch I took a four-hour nap.



     --Dependent [Subordinate] Clauses – Put a comma after dependent clauses that begin sentences.

            Example: When Maria dropped the book, Mark screamed.

                                   Some common subordinating conjunctions: although, because, when, while, since, if, even though 



     --Conjunctive Adverbs – Put a comma after a conjunctive adverb (or transition word)

             Example: However, I will not attend that school.

                                    Conjunctive Adverbs: however, therefore, hence, thus, then, indeed, rather,

                                    furthermore, nevertheless, in addition, consequently


     Rule 3—Around words interrupting the flow of thought

  • If you have information that interrupts the flow of the sentence, and it can be deleted, then you

          need commas to surround it.



                        • The car, cleaned and repaired, is ready to be sold.  (adjectives out of order)

                        • Gene, the protagonist, pushes his friend from a tree. (apposotive phrase)

                        • Taking long walks, especially after dark, helps me sort out my thoughts. (participial phrase)

                           Heart pumping, muscles straining, the marathon runner staggered to the finish line (absolute phrase)


     Rule 4—Between two complete sentences that are joined with a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS) 

  •    When two complete sentences are brought together with For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, or So, you

             need a comma before the FANBOYS word.

            Example: Ralph ran into the forest, and the savages followed him.


     Rule 5—With direct quotations


                        • “Please take a number,” said the deli clerk.

                        •  Bradbury writes, “I have never even driven a car” (12).

                        • “Reading this,” complained Mike, “is about as interesting as watching paint dry.”

                Note: Commas and periods at the end of a quotation go inside quotation marks unless there is a page



     Rule 6—With everyday material


  •   [for persons spoken to] I think, Sam, that you are in trouble.
  •   [dates] Our house was hit by lightening on July 23, 2004.
  •   [addresses] Mark Smith lives at 8953 Kolmar Drive, Chicago, Illinois60657.
  •   [openings or closings of letters] Dear Suzy, or Sincerely,

            Note: in formal letters, a colon is used after the opening. Dear Mr. Smith:

  •   [numbers] We estimate that our town spends 1,440,550 dollars each year on road construction.
  •   [tag questions] You did remember the salsa, didn’t you?
  •   [interjections] Oh, I’m sure it will be all right.



     Rule 7--With transitional words and phrases


           The Outward bound program, for example, is considered safe.

           In fact, Outward bound has an excellent reputation.

           Other programs are not so safe, however.





Kirszner, Laurie G. and Stephen R. Mandell. The Pocket Wadsworth Handbook. fourth ed. Wadsworth CENGAGE Learning: Boston, 2008.



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