Commas, the little punctuation you can use correctly
DON’T FEAR THE COMMAS
COMMAS ARE SCREENS
You can look through them
You can’t get through them
WHERE DO THE COMMAS GO?
General comma rule - use a
comma where it makes sense and
helps to eliminate ambiguity.
Main idea COMMA not important COMMA main
Stuff COMMA the sentence.
STURG’S 14 COMMA RULES
1. Use a comma before a conjunction
when they join the clauses of a
compound sentence (this is optional - if
both clauses are short and the meaning
is clear without the comma)
• We went to the movie, and we were surprised how
violent it was.
MORE COMMA RULES
2. To separate an introductory clause
from the main one
• After all, commas are essential to clear writing.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
3. To set off words like yes and no,
words in direct address, “transitional
No, I don’t want to go swimming today.
Thanks, honey, for taking out the garbage.
This dinner, not surprisingly, was delicious.
STILL MORE COMMA RULES
4. To set off a question at the end of a
• We’re going out to dinner, aren’t we?
5. To set off titles, addresses and
Amanda Sturgill, professor, said commas are
John Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa., led the cheers.
John Smith, 37, died of exhaustion.
6. To set off contrasted sentence
Navy blue, not powder blue, was the color of
7. To indicate omitted words
Man, Wife Donate Thousands
8. To separate words, phrases and
clauses in a series (do not use the final
serial comma before a conjunction in
• I will be serving cookies, cake, pie and ice cream.
LOOK! MORE COMMA RULES!
9. To separate coordinate adjectives
(test - can you substitute “and” for the
comma? If not, it is a compound
adjective requiring a hyphen)
She sat on the ugly, brown couch.
LOTS OF PEOPLE MISS THIS ONE
10. To set off a clause or phrase that
disrupts the main clause
• Jones, though not a graduate student himself, led a
protest for the rights of graduate students.
HEY, ENOUGH WITH THE
11. To set off non-essential clauses
(hint - look for “Which.” If “that,” it’s
• The table, which has a broken leg, sits in the
• My husband David teaches computer science (I’m
not polyandrous, so this is wrong!)
CALM DOWN, WE’RE ALMOST DONE
12. To set off one-sentence direct
quotations from attributions.
• “I hate grammar,” she said.
• Smith said, “The sky is falling.”
HOT, FRESH COMMAS
13. With party affiliations, academic
degrees, religious affiliations
Amanda Sturgill, Ph.D., loves them there commas.
David Duchovny, M.A., left Yale to pursue acting.
I TOLD YOU THERE WERE 14
14. To separate similar words
Learning what good grammar is, is not easy.
WE HATES THE GRAMMAR PEOPLE
Rules, schmules…Your mileage may vary
Oxford commas (the series ones)
**People fight hard over these. It’s not worth losing
your job over.