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Comma Punctuation in Writing

COMMA:

Commas are used to separate thoughts within a sentence allowing the reader to mentally pause and assimilate the full meaning of the sentence.  The misuse of commas can alter the entire meaning of sentences. 

The comma is used:

a)      To set apart words in apposition.  Appositives are words that identify or define other words.
 
Example:

        Mr. Smith, our manager, will be there.

 *  Do not separate compound personal pronouns from the words they emphasize.
 
Example:

        Jane herself will take on that project.  

b)      To set apart titles written after a person’s name.
  Example:

         John Smith, Ph.D. is the professor taking over that area.

 *  A comma may or may not be used before and after Jr. and Sr. following a name.
  
Examples:

         -  John Smith, Jr., will be the successor to his father’s corporation.
         - 
John Smith Jr. will be the successor to his father’s corporation.

* Omit periods and commas before and after II, III, and IV with names.

c)       When setting apart the year from the month and the day in a sentence.
  
Example:

           We’ve had to reschedule the fundraising event, which will now be held on June 15, 2006.

d)      To separate successive nouns and adjectives in a sentence.
 
Examples:

        -  Please don’t forget to bring pens, pencils, paper, and envelopes.
        -  We’re going to need balls, helmets, markers, etc., for the tournament. 

  * A comma is used before the final ‘and’ in a list of three or more items. 

e)      To introduce spoken words.
 
Example:

       Mr. Smith said, “Do not charge service fees on the Dawson account.”

 

f)      After the salutation and complimentary close of a personal or informal business letter.
  Example:

      Dear John,           Best regards,

g)      To coordinate adjectives as qualifying words preceding a noun.
 
Example:

      We want it to be a clear, simplified, informative presentation.


 * Don’t use a comma between two adjectives preceding a noun if the adjectives are too closely related to be separated: 
   
Examples:

        -  It’s an attractive quaint little motel along the shore.
        -  
The reasonable additional cost for this perk is acceptable.

h)      To separate the name of a person that is addressed from the rest of the sentence.
  
Example:

      We welcome you, Jane, as the newest addition to our team.

i)        To set off a contrasted word, phrase or clause.
 
Example:

       A better way to get cooperation from your team members is by asking, not telling.

j)        To set off a transitional word or expression when a pause is needed for clearness or emphasis.
  
Examples:

          -  Therefore, this matter must be dealt with as quickly as possible. 
          - 
 Indeed, it was a success.
          - 
As was intended, the focus turned to costs.

  *  Do not use a comma when such words, phrases and clauses do not interrupt the thought or required punctuation for clearness.
    
Examples:

            -  The board therefore voted unanimously in favor of the acquisition. 
            -  
It is indeed surprising that that they lost the contract.
            - 
That decision in this case was expected.

k)       To follow words such as yes, no, well when one of these words is at the beginning of a sentence.  
  
Examples:

          -  Yes, we expect him to arrive this week.  
          -  
Well, this is the case so we must implement plans to offset the losses.        


Back to Punctuation Page

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