Comma Uses

Clarify meaning by separating words and phrases

use a comma
 

 

Separating Elements

COMMA

use a commaCommas make sentences easier to read by adding breaks (separation) or by grouping information (setting off).   A pause or break is marked by a single comma and grouping (setting off) is marked by a pair of commas before and after the text.  

1.  SEPARATING WORDS IN A SERIES – MORE THAN TWO

A shepherd tends, feeds, and guards his flock of sheep.  

See Comma–series  and punctuation before and.

2.   SEPARATING NUMBERS, DATES, ASDRESSES

This shepherd has watched over 2,000 sheep in his lifetime. 

He was born on May 21, 1987.

130 First Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90012  (but not telephone numbers)

 

3.  SEPARATING 2 CLAUSES W/ COORDINATING CONJ.

A shepherd tends sheep, and he moves them from one pasture to another.

A shepherd tends sheep, but his dogs keep the sheep together.

A shepherd tends sheep, so they will be safe from predators.

4.  SEPARATING SAME OR SIMILAR SENTENCE ELEMENTS

Inside, the village is busy and noisy .  Outside, the village is calm and peaceful.

We are interested in, on site learning programs.

What he was, was not what everyone else thought he was.

Taking an art course is something I am looking forward to, too.

NO COMMA

no commaA similar meaning may be expressed without a comma.

COORDINATED ELEMENTS (2)

A shepherd tends and guards his flock of sheep.   (two elements)

WRITTEN-OUT NUMBERS

This shepherd has watched over two thousand sheep in his lifetime.

Nineteen eighty seven was the year that he was born. Write out numbers at the beginning of a sentence.

May twenty-first was the year he was born.

ENDING A CLAUSE WITH A PERIOD

A shepherd tends sheep.  And he moves them from one pasture to another.

A shepherd tends sheep. However, his dogs keep them together.

A shepherd tends sheep. As a result, they are safe from predators.

REWORDING TO AVOID MISREADING

The central part of the village is busy and noisy with activity.

We are interested in on-site learning programs. hyphen

Taking an art course is something I am also looking forward to.  

 

 

Also see FANBOYS.   Pop-Q "What he was was"    

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commas

Introductory Words

A shepherd
 

 

Introductory Words, Phrases and Clauses

COMMA

use a commaA single comma is used after an introductory word, phrase or clause to separate it from the main clause. The comma marks a change from standard l word order.  

5.  AFTER AN INTRODUCTORY SUBORDINATE CLAUSES

Because sheep need protection, a shepherd guards them.

While he is watching them, the shepherd listens to his iPod.

When he sees his sheep stray, he commands his dogs to gather them.  

6.  AFTER A SHORTENED ADVERBIAL CLAUSE

Moving the sheep, Giorgo uses dogs to keep them together.  (when)

Moving the sheep, Giorgo always has a fresh grass for them to eat. (because) 

See Because Clauses and After / Before –ing

7.  AFTER AN INTRODUCTORY MODIFYING ADVERB

Fortunately, there are still farming and agricultural jobs Crete. 

Regretfully, young men often leave to pursue a career.

See Adv Manner Placmnt.   

8. AFTER INTRODUCTORY WORDS FOR ORDERING

First of all, they try to find work nearby.

— first, secondly, then, next, thirdly, finally, lastly, in conclusion—

9. AFTER INTRODUCTORY WORDS FOR EXAMPLE

For example, sheep and goats provide wool, milk and meat.

See For example— for instance, that is (to say), in other words, more precisely. 

10. AFTER INTRODUCTORY WORDS W/ EMPHASIS

Occasionally, young men leave the island to pursue a career. (ADVP)

To pursue a career, young men occasionally leave the island. (INF)

During the winter, young men often leave to find work. (PP)

11.  AFTER AN INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT BEFORE A QUOTE

He said, "I wouldn't trade my job for any other job."

See quoted speech and reported speech.

12.  AFTER INTRODUCTORY INTERJECTIONS, OR YES & NO

Hey, where are you going?

No, I don't know.  / Yes, I can tell you.

Oh, I see what you mean.

NO COMMA

no commaA similar meaning may be expressed without a comma. Connective words and prepositional phrases are used instead.

STANDARD WORD ORDER

A  shepherd guards a flock of sheep because they need protection.

The shepherd listens to his iPod while he is watching them.

He commands his dogs to gather the sheep when they stray.

TIME-RELATIVE CLAUSE

Giorgo uses dogs to keep the sheep together when he moves the them.

Giorgo always has a fresh grass for them to eat because he moves the sheep.

IT-CLAUSE

It is fortunate that there are still farming and agricultural jobs Crete.

It is regretful that young men often leave the island.

See It-Clause   

SEQUENCE WORDS / NUMBERED LISTS

See Linking Adverbs, in-text lists or numbered lists.

 

OTHER EXAMPLE WORDS

Yogurt makers prefer to use milk from animals such as goats and sheep.

See Listing Examples–comma or colon

 

Young men occasionally leave the island to pursue a career.

Young men occasionally leave the island to pursue a career.

Young men often leave the island to find work during the winter.

 

He said that he wouldn't trade his job for any other job.  (Change to reported speech.)

 

Hey! / Excuse me.  Where are you going?

Negative! I don't know the answer.

Oh!  I see what you mean.

 

Categories:  NP – noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Det – determiner; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adv – adverb; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj – adjective; Subord – Subordinator;  Coord – Coordinator; Interj – Interjection;

Nonfinite ClausesInf –Infinitival; Ger –gerund-participial; PPart –past participial

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commas

Aside Comments

sheep
 

Setting off comments within a sentence

COMMA

use a commasAn aside comment is information added to a sentence that is related but not essential ("nice to know").  Commas set off the information within the sentence. Note that the sentence is still logical if the information is removed.

13. BEFORE AND AFTER A NONRESTRICTIVE ADJECTIVE CLAUSE

A  shepherd, who spends his day outside, must be able to control his sheep.

A  shepherd—must be able to control his sheep.
The clause is set off with commas because it is extra information, and it does not serve to identify which shepherd we are talking about. Also see Some or All.   

14. BEFORE A CLAUSE THAT MODIFIES AN ENTIRE SENTENCE

A  shepherd must be able to control the flock, which can be rather difficult.

Also see Which-clause.   

15. BEFORE AND AFTER ASIDE COMMENTS

A shepherd, who by the way has a great job, spends his days outside.

A herding dog, such as a shepherd or Collie, can assist with the job.  

A shepherd, for example, can spend the day moving around rather than sitting in an office chair.

See For example and Comma Comments. 

16. BEFORE AND AFTER WORDS THAT GIVE EXAMPLE

Animals, such as sheep and goats, provide wool, milk and meat.

Sheep and goats provide us with , for example, wool, milk and meat.

 Also see For example — for instance, that is, in other words, more precisely, that is.

17. BEFORE AND AFTER AN APPOSITIVE

Giorgo Petrakis, Jr. , was trained by his grandfather.   optional commas

Giorgo lives on Crete, a Greek island, all his life.

Mr. Petrakis, Mayor of Othos, encourages youth.

The International Olympic Committee, IOC, will meet…

See appositives "another name for it".

NO COMMA

no commaA similar meaning may be expressed without a comma.

SEPARATE MODIFIER AS AN INDEPENDENT CLAUSE

A  shepherd must be able to control the flock. The shepherd spends his day outside. 

Optionally enclose a comment that diverges from the central idea of the main sentence. See parentheses.  

 

SEPARATE COMMENT AS AN INDEPENDENT CLAUSE

A  shepherd must be able to control the flock. This can be rather difficult.   

See It / This.

SEPARATE COMMENT AS AN INDEPENDENT CLAUSE

A shepherd spends his days outside. (A shepherd has a great job!)

A herding dog (such as a shepherd or Collie) can assist with the job.

A herding dog — such as a shepherd or Collie — can assist with the job.

See Comments and Dashes. 

 

Yogurt makers prefer to use milk from animals such as goats and sheep. See such as.

 

Giorgo was trained to be a shepherd by his grandfather. Infinitive

Giorgo lives on the Greek island of Crete.  PP

Mayor Petrakis of Othos encourages youth.  PP

 

NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Detdeterminer; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adv – adverb; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Comma Splice

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

Using a comma to join to independent clauses (without a conjunction or subordinating conjunction) is called a comma splice.  

He bought the rice, I bought the beans.

 

She cried, cuz I din't call her when I said I would.

 

We got into our car , then we drove to the mountains and went hiking. comma splice

This friend of mine that's a crazy  guy buys a new car, that's really awesome and he asks me to come for a ride with him but I tell him no way. comma splice and run-on sentence

SOLUTION

Avoid making a comma splice by separating the two independent clauses (1) with a comma and a connector, (2) with a semicolon, (3) with a period.

He bought the rice. I bought the beans. (Separate the independent clause with a period.)

He bought the rice; I bought the beans. (Separate the independent clause with a semicolon.)

He bought the rice, and I bought the beans. (Separate the independent clause with a conjunction.)

She cried. I didn't call her when I said I would. (period)

She cried; I didn't call her when I said I would. (semicolon)

She cried because I didn't call her when I said I would.  (connector )

See Connector Review)

We got into our car, and then we drove to the mountains and went hiking.

After we got into our car, we drove to the mountains and went hiking.

First, we got into our car.  Then, we drove to the mountains and went hiking.

A friend of mine, who is a crazy  guy, buys a new car that's really awesome. He asks me to come for a ride with him, but I tell him, "No way!" 

—This friend is informal unless specifying this from that.

—Use commas to set off a nonidentifying clause: who is a crazy guy  (use who)

—Begin a new sentence for the next clause: He asks me to come for a ride with him

—Separate the last independent clause with a comma.  That is, it has its own subject and predicate and can stand alone as a sentence: ,but I tell him…

—Add a comma before the quoted speech:  I tell him,

—Enclose the speech in quotes: "No way!" (Place the exclamation mark inside the quotes. No additional period is necessary at the end of the sentence.)   

 

Style Manual Abbreviations: AP (Associated Press), APA (American Psychological Association), CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), GREGG (Gregg Reference Manual); MLA (Modern Language Association)

 

 

Resources 

 

Style Manual Abbreviations (used in this website)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Eating Local

Locally grown beets
 

 

Read for Errors

Eating local means more for the local economy, because money stays in the community with local business.  Local food just tastes better, for example, a tomato has a more intense flavor. Locally grown fruit, which travels a shorter distance, has more time to ripen. Transporting food shorter distances we create less air pollution, traffic and damage to the food. By eating in-season food, we are eating foods when they are ripe, abundant and inexpensive.

 

Brian Howell Professor at UCZ points out that local crops bring more dollars to the local economy. Buying local food encourages more variety. For example, farmers can try out new varieties that may have shorter shelf lives such as Little Gem Lettuce, Senshu Apples, and Chieftain Potatoes.  Supporting local food providers supports responsible land development. A local farmer said "I'm happy to meet the people who will eat my apples."

"Are you ready to accept the Eat Locally Challenge ?" 
"Yes I am!"

abundant – in great quantity

crop (n.) – a plant such as wheat, rice, or fruit that is grown by farmers and used as food

development (n.) – the planning and use of something to make it better or grow larger

economy (n.) – the system by which a country's money and goods are produced and used

encourage (v.) – give someone the courage or confidence to do something

in season (prep. phrase) – the time of year in a particular region that fruit or vegetables normally grow

local (adj.) – nearby

shelf life (expression) – the time that something can remain on a supermarket shelf and still be good enough to eat

transport (v.) – carry to market in trucks, planes and ships

variety (n.) – types, kinds

 

 

 

 

Is the sentence punctuated with commas correctly?

  1. Read the sentence and decide whether the comma use is correct or incorrect.
  2. Compare your response to the answer and feedback to the right.

 

1.
Eating local means more for the local economy, because money stays in the community with local business.

       


because clause
2.
Local food just tastes better, for example, a tomato has a more intense flavor.

       


For example
3.
Locally grown fruit, which travels a shorter distance, has more time to ripen.

       


which
4.
Transporting food shorter distances we create less air pollution, traffic and damage to the food.

       
5.
By eating in-season food, we are eating foods when they are ripe, abundant and inexpensive.

       


comma series
6.
Brian Howell Professor at UCZ points out that local crops bring more dollars to the local economy

       


appositive
7.
Buying local food encourages more variety. For example, farmers can try out new varieties that may have shorter shelf lives such as Little Gem Lettuce, Senshu Apples, and Chieftain Potatoes.

       


such as
8.
Supporting local food providers supports responsible land development.

       


gerund subjects
9.
A local farmer said "I'm happy to meet the people who will eat my apples."

       
10.
"Are you ready to accept the Eat Locally Challenge ?" 
"Yes I am."
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

The Food Pyramid

Old pyramid and new MyPlate
 

 

Read the Context

The old food pyramid which was used to promote healthy eating was replaced Thursday by a simple plate symbol. The plate is divided into four sections representing fruits vegetables whole grains and lean protein-- with a small side of dairy. The new plate is designed to show Americans at a glance the types of foods they should be eating and in what proportions. "It's an opportunity for Americans to understand quickly how to have a balanced and nutritious meal" said Tom Vilsack Secretary of Agriculture.

"It's a constant reminder as you look at your own plate whether your portion sizes are right whether you've got enough fruits and vegetables on that plate."  Vilsack launched the new icon at a news conference with first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Regina Benjamin Surgeon General. The My Plate campaign will encourage Americans to fill up half their diet with fruits and vegetables avoid sugary drinks and back away from oversized portions. The circa-1992 food pyramid came under harsh criticism for focusing too heavily on carbohydrates which made up its base and on dairy products.

balanced (adj.) – including different things in the right amounts

carbohydrates (n.) – foods such as sugar, bread, potatoes, which provide the body with energy.

circa (adv.) – around, about (used for dates)

criticism (n.) – statements about what is bad about something; critical analysis

dairy (n.) – foods such as milk, eggs, butter, cheese, cream

glance (n.) – a quick look

grains (n.) – rice, wheat, corn, barley, rye, etc. (edible seeds of the grass family)

harsh (adj.) – strong, severe

icon (n.) – symbol that represents a program

launch (v.) – begin a new project, something big or important

portion (n.) – an amount of food for one person (part of a larger amount)

 

 

 

 

Is the sentence punctuated correctly?

  1. Write your corrections for the sentence in the edit box.
  2. Then compare your response to the answer with the "check" button

 

11.
The old food pyramid which was used to promote healthy eating was replaced Thursday by a simple plate symbol.


12.
The plate is divided into four sections representing fruits vegetables whole grains and lean protein-- with a small side of dairy.


13.
The new plate is designed to show Americans at a glance the types of foods they should be eating and in what proportions.


14.
"It's an opportunity for Americans to understand quickly how to have a balanced and nutritious meal" said Tom Vilsack Secretary of Agriculture.


15.
"It's a constant reminder as you look at your own plate whether your portion sizes are right whether you've got enough fruits and vegetables on that plate."


16.
Vilsack launched the new icon at a news conference with first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Regina Benjamin Surgeon General.


17.
The My Plate campaign will encourage Americans to fill up half their diet with fruits and vegetables avoid sugary drinks and back away from oversized portions.


18.
The circa-1992 food pyramid came under harsh criticism for focusing too heavily on carbohydrates which made up its base and on dairy products.