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THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: USING COMMAS

Summary of Uses of the Comma
1. Use commas to separate items in a series: Students, teachers, parents, and visitors attended the meeting.
2. If all items in a series are joined by and or or, do not use commas to separate them: I bought a tie and a shirt and a suit.

3. Independent clauses in a series are usually separated by semicolons.
Short independent clauses, however, may be separated by commas.

The wind blew furiously through the trees; lightning flashed across the sky; thunder boomed and rolled.
But: The wind blew, lightning flashed, rain poured down.

4. Use a comma to separate two or more adjectives preceding a noun: That is a rough, narrow, dangerous road.
Exception: if last adjective is closely connected with noun.
5. Use a comma before and, but, or, nor, for, yet when they join independent clauses:

Brian changed the oil, and his friend washed the car.
He did not come to my birthday party, nor did he even bother to answer the invitation.

6. Use a comma to set off nonessential clauses and nonessential participial phrases:

My final point, which seems very sane to me, is that hero worship is a necessary part of growing up.
Looking around, this adolescent, filled with restless ambition, sees successful actors and actresses.

7. Use a comma after certain introductory elements, such as well, yes, no, when etc. No, I have not answered her letter.
...after an introductory participial phrase:

Pausing a moment in the doorway, the teacher smiled at the class.
Frightened by the noise, the birds flew from the roof.

...after a succession of introductory prepositional phrases: Near the gate at the end of the lane, I watched a burglar enter our neighbour's house.
...after an introductory adverb clause: After Bob scored a goal, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
8. Use commas to set off elements that interrupt sentences: He, of course, won't be there.
Nevertheless, I think we should go.
9. Appositives and appositive phrases are usually set off by commas: Everyone, even his enemies, respects him.
I play soccer, a lively game.
10. Parenthetical expressions are set off by commas:

He did not, however, keep his promise.
The following expressions are commonly used paranthetically:
consequently, however, moreover, nevertheless, therefore, after all, as amatter of fact, at any rate, for example, for instance, in fact, in my opinion, in the first place, of course, on the contrary, on the other hand, generally speaking, to tell the truth etc.

11. Use a comma to separate items in dates and addresses: My family moved to Yuba City, California, on Monday, Sep. 6, 1972
12. Use a comma after the salutation of a friendly letter and after the closing of any letter: Dear Uncle Tom,
Sincerely yours,
13. Use a comma after a name followed by Jr., Sr., M.D., etc.: Allen Miller, Jr.
Robert Brown, M.D.

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