Prof. James ClickFall 2010
Everything You Need to Know About Using Commas (Almost)
The comma is one of the most common and important punctuation marks because it is used to identify and manage different parts of a sentence. Understanding how to use commas properly is critical to becoming a clear and persuasive writer.
Use commas to separate INDEPENDENT CLAUSES when they are joined byany of these seven coordinating conjunctions:
and, but, for, or, nor, so,yet.
- The semester was finally over, but I still had three papers to finish.
- The student rephrased her question, yet the professor still could notunderstand.
- I spent all weekend writing this paper, so the last thing I need is a new paperassignment.
Use commas after introductory clauses. Common starter words forintroductory clauses that should be followed by a comma include
after,although, as, because, if, since, when, while.
- When I woke up the next morning, my wallet was gone and there was no signof my girlfriend.
- Since she was going to the store, I asked her to pick up some carrots and asix-pack.
However, don't put a comma after the main clause when a dependent(subordinate) clause follows it (except for cases of extreme contrast).
- He failed the class, because he never attended the Writing Center.(INCORRECT)
- Her kids called me “daddy” since I looked like her ex-husband. (CORRECT)
- Janet was quite depressed, although we had been married that day.(CORRECT because it indicates extreme contrast)
Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off clauses,phrases, and words that are not essential to the meaning of thesentence. Use one comma before to indicate the beginning of the pauseand one at the end to indicate the end of the pause.
- I enjoy your company; your food, on the other hand, is something you need towork on.
- My car, which was given to me by my grandfather, catches fire every time Istart the engine.