+
Comma Sense

Comma Sense

Author: Ryan Howard
Description:
  1.  

    Introduce commas, why they are used, and common errors associated with them.

  2.  

    Explain where to insert commas in coordinating clauses. 

  3.  

    Explain where to insert commas in lists.

  4.  

    Explain where to insert commas with introductory phrases or clauses.

  5.  

    Explain where to insert commas with direct speech.

 

This packet should help a learner seeking to understand how to use correct punctuation and who is confused about how to use commas. It will explain when to insert commas in a sentence and common errors with commas. 

(more)
See More
Introduction to Psychology

Analyze this:
Our Intro to Psych Course is only $329.

Sophia college courses cost up to 80% less than traditional courses*. Start a free trial now.

Tutorial

Introduction to Commas

What is a Comma? 

A comma is a punctuation mark that is used primarily for separating words or phrases. E.g. You did not buy the eggs, radishes, or chocolate.

 

Commas are used in the following ways:

  • Separating elements in a series (I went shopping, mailed the package, picked up the TV, and went home)
  •  Before a conjunction (e.g. I do not eat meat, but I make an exception with fish)
  • Setting off Introductory Elements (e.g. Forlorn and disgusted, Ray ran home)
  • Parenthetical Elements - these are words that can be added or removed without affecting the original sentence. (My dog, who is seventeen years old, is suffering from kidney failure)
  • Quoted Elements (Franklin Delano Roosevelt quoted, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself.")
  • Expressing Contrast (e.g. Joe is the boss, not you)
  • Avoiding Confusion (e.g. "In the prison, Jen was thinking of a way to escape" looks less confusing than "In the prison Jen was thinking of a way to escape.")
  • Typographical Reasons -  This would include between a city and its state (Honolulu, Hawaii) , long numbers (200,000), the date (January 22, 2001),  or a person's name and their title if it comes after the name (John Lootens, Professor of Biology)

 

Focus on: Coordinating Clauses and Lists

Where to insert Commas in COORDINATING CLAUSES.

Coordinating clauses are two separate clauses that can be connected with a coordinating conjunction( e.g. and, or, but, for, ).  Always insert the comma before the conjunction.

E.g. My cat Cheeto loves to play outside, and he has his fun in the house.  

You could have stopped by my house last night, but I was at the bar. 

When Tom was studying history in the library, an unusually friendly man approached him.  (In this case, we have an independent clause being connected with a dependent clause, whereas the other two sentences had two independent clauses)

 

Inserting Commas in Lists:

This is actually quite simple once you get the hang of it.

The comma begins after the first item and ends before the final item in the list.

E.g. Donald's nephews are named Huey, Dewey, and Louie.  Because Huey is the first nephew in the list, a comma is placed after his name, wheras Louie is the last in the list and a comma is placed before the conjunction and (NEVER place a comma between "and" and the last item on the list)

Comma Video

In this video, the teacher gives instructions on when and where to use commas.

NOTE: At some point in the video, the instructor says that one does not need to use a comma in a short sentence with and such as "I was running and I fell down." Because these are two independent clauses, they should have a comma between them.

Source: www.youtube.com

Focus on: Introductory Phrases/Clauses and Quotations

A comma always follows an introductory clause or phrase. 

E.g. Besides being a talented soccer player, Kylee is also good at basketball.   Besides being a talented soccer player introduces the sentence.  If there were no comma it would read "Besides being a talented soccer player Kylee is also good at basketball" and that would not sound right.  When saying the sentence out loud, you would naturally make a slight pause between "player" and "Kylee," thus enforcing the need for a comma between those two words.

To have friends, you have to be a friend.  As stated in the above sentence, you have to place a comma where you would hear a slight pause.

 

In quotations, the comma is always placed within the quotation marks. 

 

E.g. "I'm coming to your house today," said Benny.

However, you would NOT use a comma if the sentence went as:

Benny said he is coming to your house today.  This sentence simply states that Benny mentioned he would be coming to "your" house.  It does not mention the exact words he said.  As a result, there would be no comma to separate the quotes from the non-quoted part of the sentence.

Do not use a comma when a partial quotation is used in a sentence. 

E.g. Fred will be "working on his tan."  The phrase "working on his tan" is in quotations because that is apparently what Fred quoted, but the sentence just says what Fred is doing.  It would not be too different from simply saying Fred is working on his tan without quotations.

 

If the quotaion ends with a question mark or an exclamation point, a comma is not necessary.

E.g. "Oh my God!" gasped Shirley.

"Where is the registration booth?" asked Connie.

Conclusion

Throughout this lesson, you have learend that commas are used in the following ways:

 

 

  • Separating elements in a series (I went shopping, mailed the package, picked up the TV, and went home)
  • Before a conjunction (e.g. I do not eat meat, but I make an exception with fish)
  • Setting off Introductory Elements (e.g. Forlorn and disgusted, Ray ran home)
  • Parenthetical Elements - these are words that can be added or removed without affecting the original sentence. (My dog, who is seventeen years old, is suffering from kidney failure)
  • Quoted Elements (Franklin Delano Roosevelt quoted, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself.")
  • Expressing Contrast (e.g. Joe is the boss, not you)
  • Avoiding Confusion (e.g. "In the prison, Jen was thinking of a way to escape" looks less confusing than "In the prison Jen was thinking of a way to escape.")
  • Typographical Reasons - This would include between a city and its state (Honolulu, Hawaii) , long numbers (200,000), the date (January 22, 2001), or a person's name and their title if it comes after the name (John Lootens, Professor of Biology)

Source: see above sections for sources