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Author: Kimberly Sombke

Various uses of commas are dicussed here, including items in a series, dates, letter greetings & salutations, and interrupting phrases.

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Source: Kimberly Sombke




  • Commas serve several purposes, but generally it is important to remember that commas are separators.


  • Commas are used to separate words or groups of words with a series of three or more.  These leave room for a natural pause.
  • Examples: Kris ran to the park, to work, and home again in just 30 minutes.

                               She will bring ground beef, lettuce and cheese for the tacos.


  • Commas are used to separate two or more adjectives when “and” could be placed between them.
  • Example: Santa is a fat, jolly man.


  • Use a comma to set off someone’s name when addressing him/her.
  • Example: Sarah, will you set the table please?

    Yes, Doctor, I feel the pain there. (Note: The title doctor is 

    capitalized because he/she is being directly addressed.)


  • Use a comma to separate the day and year when expressing dates.
  • Example: Our newest family member was born on February 1, 2011.
    • Note: If the day is left out, leave out the comma, too.
    • Example: We met in October 2006 at a football game.


  • Always use a comma to separate city and state in addresses.
  • Example: Kelly was born in Salt Lake City, Utah.


  • Use commas to set off expressions that interrupt the sentence flow.  Again, these leave room for the natural pause.
    • Example: We are, as you might have noticed, very much in love.


  • Use commas between independent clauses (simple sentences) in compound sentences. (Natural pause space provided)
    • Example: The baby was crying, so I was up all night.
    • Note: If the 2nd subject “I” was removed, you would NOT use a comma.  That’s a common error called a comma splice.  Independent clauses always contain both a subject and a verb.  The example above contains 2 independent clauses joined by a comma and coordinating conjunction “so”.


  • Use commas after a dependent (subordinate) clause in a complex or compound/complex sentence.
    • Example: Because it is cold out, I will wear a jacket to the game.


  • In quotations, use commas before the quote if it is within another sentence and after the quote if the sentence continues.
    • Example 1: She said, “It’s freezing in here,” and then continued to


            Note: The 1st comma above is placed before the beginning

           quotation mark, and the 2nd comma is placed before the end

           quotation mark.

  • Example 2: “I wished on the falling star,” whispered my mom.

Note: Again, the comma is placed before the end quote.


  • In letter writing, you may use a comma (or a colon) after the greeting and always use one after the salutation.
    • Examples: Greeting     Dear Mr. Swanson,

        Salutation   Sincerely,

                             Jane Doe

  • Use a comma after an introductory word at the beginning of a sentence.
    • Examples: Yes, I’ll be home right after school today.

  Wow, your shirt is bright!


  • Use commas around unnecessary, inserted phrases.
    • Example: That girl, the one on crutches, just had foot surgery.


  • Use a comma to separate contrasting parts of a sentence.
    • Example: Take that to the office, not the cafeteria.


  • Use commas around “therefore” and “however” when they interrupt a sentence.
    • Example: Your tattoos and piercings, however, are very attractive.


  • Use a comma to separate a statement from a question.
    • Example: I can go to the dance, can’t I?


  • A final note: Be careful not to “over-comma”.  A good rule to remember is, “When in doubt, leave it out,” in regards to correct comma use as some writing is littered with so many commas that the reader finds pauses where they are not really needed.

Source: Kimberly Sombke