Resources for Commas

Use a Comma

1.  To separate direct quotations from the phrase identifying the speaker

Example:  John said, "The fishing is great in Blackwater River."

2.  To separate the names of smaller geographic units from the names of larger units

Example:  Denver, Colorado, is called the Mile High City.

3.  To separate dates, if the order is month-day-year. If in the middle of a sentence, use another comma after the year

Example:  Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

4.  To separate names of titles or degrees that follow the name

Example:  Harold Johnson, Ph.D., will speak in the Commons Auditorium on Tuesday. 

Example:  Carmen Elly, Senior Vice President of Creative Technology, will conduct the seminars.

5.  To separate short, tightly interrelated clauses in a series

Example:  Joe called, Eleanor stopped by, and Bruce left a message.

6.  To provide clarity and prevent misreading, even if none of the other rules apply

Example:  We left the candidate, assured that he would win. (We were sure that the candidate would win.)

Example:  We left the candidate assured that he would win. (He was sure that he would win.)

7.  To mark allowable omissions of repeated words, especially verbs

Example:  Your analysis is superb; your execution, appalling.

8.  To separate two or three consecutive occurrences of the same word within a sentence

Example:  Rain, rain, rain--doesn't the sun ever shine around here?

9.  To separate two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)

Example:  I have known the applicant for ten years, and I am pleased to recommend her for this job.

Example:  Either I will meet you in the lobby, or I will come to your office.

10.  To separate three or more items or phrases in a series

Example:  Golfing, swimming, and playing tennis are my favorite activities.

Example:  We looked under the bed, in the fireplace, and on top of the refrigerator.

Example:  He is capricious, irresponsible, and unreliable.

11.  To separate a series of two or more adjectives not connected by a conjunction if the order of the adjectives can be reversed and still retain the same meaning

Example:  Your friend is a clever, sensitive person.

12.  To separate introductory phrases, words, or clauses from the main part of the sentence

Example:  After the Vietnam War ended, a number of veterans were hospitalized.

Example:  By the end of World War II, Europe was devastated. Fortunately, there has not been a third world war.

13.  To separate parenthetical adverbs and adverbial phrases from the rest of the sentence

Example:  Used car dealers, on the whole, are not highly trusted individuals.

Example:  Most of them, however, do try to act friendly and courteous.

14.  To separate contradictory and contrasting phrases from the rest of the sentence

Example:  It was Mr. Williams, not his son, who was appointed senior vice president.

15.  To separate names used in direct address or other isolates such as yes, no, and thank you from the rest of the sentence

Example:  Tell me, Eddie, for whom did you vote?

Example:  No, I am not voting for myself.

16.  To separate tag questions from the rest of the sentence

Example:  You did that on purpose, didn't you?

17.  To separate words and abbreviations that introduce an example or an illustration, including namely, that is, to wit, i.e., e.g., for example, and for instance

Example:  Many of my friends, for example, Bruce, Donald, and Harry, like to play pinochle.

18.  To separate nonrestrictive clauses, phrases, and appositives from the rest of the sentence

Example:  The scout leader, overweight and out of shape, trudged up the hill.

Example:  Mr. Willis, who is a very good scout leader, is overweight and out of shape.

Example:  Denver, which is known as the Mile High City, is located in Colorado.

BUT:  The city which is known as the Mile High City is Denver, Colorado.