comma crimes
Need a quick way to remember all of the key ways to use commas? We’ve got you covered. In today’s post, we’ll be summarizing how to use commas in writing. We’re going to keep things as short and sweet as possible, so if you want more info about any of the topics below, check out the links to the full blog posts.

1. Use commas to separate items in lists

When providing a list that contains more than two items, separate each item with a comma.

Examples:

  • “I like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.”
  • “I need to go to the bank, pack my bags, and check in online.”

We recommend using the Oxford comma (i.e., the comma that appears between the last and second-last items in a list) because it can help you avoid ambiguity.

Example:

  • No Oxford comma: “I like Chicago mix popcorn, caramel popcorn and cheddar cheese popcorn.”

Question: “Do I like three types of popcorn or one type of popcorn that’s made of caramel and cheddar cheese popcorn?”

  • Oxford comma included: “I like Chicago mix popcorn, caramel popcorn, and cheddar cheese popcorn.”

It’s clear that I like three types of popcorn.

Want more information about this? Check out the full blog post.

2. Use commas to separate two or more adjectives that separately describe a noun

When two or more adjectives separately (i.e., independently) describe a noun, separate the adjectives with a comma. The adjectives separately describe the noun if you can place the word “and” between the adjectives.

Example:

  • “Amy walked in the dark, quiet house.”
  • “Amy walked into the dark and quiet house.”

Want more information about this? Check out the full blog post.

3. Use commas to separate nonessential information from the main part of a sentence

Place a comma between the main part of a sentence and nonessential information, including introductory words, afterthoughts, and interrupting elements.

Examples:

  • “Jessica met the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.”
  • “To be honest, I don’t know where the tickets are. (example with introductory words)
  • “I don’t know where the tickets are, to be honest. (example with an afterthought)
  • “The painting is, in fact, an original. (example with interrupting elements)

Want more information about this? Check out the full blog post.

4. Use commas to separate nonrestrictive clauses from the main part of a sentence

Place a comma between the main part of a sentence and clauses that begin with “which.” Don’t use a comma before clauses that begin with “that.”

Examples:

  • “The cookies, which Emily brought, are gluten free.”
  • “The cookies that Emily bought are gluten free.”

Want more information about this? Check out the full blog post.

5. Use commas when addressing people directly

Place a comma between the main part of a sentence and the name of someone being addressed directly in the sentence.

Example:

“Maria, let me know when Sarah arrives.”

Want more information about this? Check out the full blog post.

6. Use commas to separate grammatical parts of sentences

A) When a sentence contains two independent clauses, place a comma before the coordinating conjunction.

Example:

  • John went to the coffee shop, but he forgot to go to the grocery store.”

B) If a dependent clause comes before an independent clause in a sentence, place a comma between the clauses

Example:

  • While we wait for the plane to arrive, I’ll make a few calls.

C) If the dependent clause comes after the independent clause in a sentence, don’t include a comma

Example:

  • I’ll make a few calls while we wait for the plane to arrive.

D) When a sentence begins with a dependent clause that applies to two independent clauses that follow it, insert a comma after the dependent clause.

Example:

  • If you want to go to the zoo, you need to eat your breakfast and your sister needs to take a shower.”

E) When a dependent clause occurs between two independent clauses and applies only to the second, place commas around the dependent clause.

Example:

  • Rachel decorated the cake quickly, and when Matt saw it, he knew that she hadn’t spent much time on it.

Want more information about this? Check out the full blog post.

Have any lingering questions about how to use commas ? Leave us a note in our comments section below and we’ll do our best to incorporate your questions into one of our upcoming posts.

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How to use commas: 6 key ways
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