Remember commas? Is it just me, or does there seem to be widespread confusion about when and where to use these handy little punctuation marks? Originally, they started out indicating where to take a breath when reading aloud, but now are used for so much more. Ultimately, though, they indicate a natural break in a sentence.
Use a comma to…
- Separate independent clauses in a sentence when using a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so). I don’t like turkey sandwiches, but she keeps making them for me.
- Separate independent from dependent clauses. After I brushed the dog, I vacuumed the floor.
- Separate the elements in a series of three or more items. For Christmas I want a doll, a dog, a diamond, and a dictionary.
Note that there is an ongoing debate about whether you should use a comma before the final element in the series. Technically, you’re correct either way, but it’s generally considered better to use that final comma than not to use it.
- Separate introductory word or phrases. Okay, we can go to the park.
- Set off non-essential elements of a sentence (parenthetical comments). The color yellow, in my opinion, is ideal for a kitchen.
- Separate two or more adjectives describing a noun. It was such a big, round, red ball.
- Separate a quotation. The most famous soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet begins, “To be, or not to be.”
Now, this list is in no way a complete one, and I’m not going to try to tell you otherwise. I didn’t touch on using commas for dates or numbers, and there are nuances that I ignored in this attempt to give you some basic information in a digestible size that wouldn’t give you mental indigestion. You can find much more about commas here or here.