Almost Everything You
Need to Know About Commas
1. Introductory Elements--Use a comma
after introductory adverb clauses, participial phrases, long
prepositional phrases, or elements that precede the main clause in a
- Examples: Six days after the
warranty expired, the car broke down.
Gazing across the channel, Matt listened to the tide come in.
Hidden in the gnarled brush, the thrush flung forth its soul in
Yes, you should try to memorize these six rules.
Fortunately, you have only five more to remember.
2. Interruptors--Use commas around
elements that interrupt the sense of the main clause and do not add
essential information (these are sometimes called nonrestrictive
modifiers). NOTE: commas around interruptors come in pairs. If you
use one comma, you must have a second one.
- Examples: The team, exhausted after
the grueling game, filed onto the bus.
The formula, which is on page 38, will solve all of your
No one, not even the people on the front row, could see the
3. Afterthoughts--Use a comma before an
element that comes after the main clause in a sentence and is
nonrestrictive. The element may be helpful in expressing a certain
idea; however, it is not an essential part of the sentence.
- Examples: We foraged through the
refrigerator, searching for artichokes.
The wind beat against the lonely child, who was huddled beneath
No one knew the correct answer, not even the professor.
The dealer drew our attention to the latest models, glistening
beneath the spotlight.
4. Compound Sentences--Use a comma
before the coordinating conjunction that separates the two
independent clauses in a compound sentence. (Do not make the mistake
of throwing in a comma before every coordinating conjunction. Make
sure that the conjunction is joining two complete sentences.
- Examples: It is bad enough that the
sidewalks are in such horrible condition, but it is even worse
that the streets are full of potholes.
A driver has to avoid broken beer bottles, or he is likely to have
a flat tire.
Dangerous chemical substances are polluting our water supplies,
and debris is piling up outside our doors.
5. Items in a Series--Use commas between
each item in a series of three or more (don't forget the comma before
the conjunction joining the last two items in the series).
- Examples: Coke, Pepsi, and R.C.
manufacture carbonated beverages.
The vandals had torn the screens from the window, shattered the
glass, and entered the cabin.
Diedrich,Geoffrey, Humphrey, and Washington were the pseudonyms
that he used.
6. Equal Modifiers--Use a comma between
two modifiers of the same type that are modifying the same word. One
test to see whether you have equal modifiers is to insert the word
and between the modifiers. If this insertion can be made
without altering the meaning of the sentence, the modifiers are
considered equal. They should be separated with a comma.
- Examples: The dull, mildewed walls
were covered with antique carvings.
Let me never feel the fateful thrilling that devastates the
lovelorn, dejected wooer's frame.
A white-shouldered, broad-browed maiden opened the gate.
Jay could not see that Daisy was a self-centered, egotistical
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