Common Comma Usage

Hey, guys! Welcome to this video on comma rules.

Commas tend to get misused a lot, or perhaps even worse, they aren’t used where they should be. So, in this video we are going to take a look at ten different comma rules to be aware of when writing.

Rule #1:

When you have a coordinating conjunction that is being used to separate two independent clauses, use a comma.

For example:

My brother rode his bike so fast, but he still arrived late for school.

 

Rule #2:

When you have an intro clause, phrase, or just a couple of words that precede the main clause, then use a comma to separate them.

Here’s an example:

When I was younger, I used to roller skate to the neighborhood park with my family.

 

Rule #3:

When you have a nonrestrictive clause in the middle of a sentence then use a pair of commas to separate it. Nonrestrictive clauses are just clauses that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence.

For Example:

My paper, which I think you might like, is about changing psychological behaviors in our culture.

 

Rule #4:

Use commas when you have three or more words that are within a series to separate each word.

Here is an example:

The ingredients that I need for you to pick up from the store are onions, potatoes, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.

 

Rule #5:

When you have multiple adjectives modifying the same noun they need to be separated by commas.

For example:

The strong, lean olympian catapulted herself over the bar.

 

*Notice, there is no comma after lean. The last adjective right before the noun should not have a comma after it.

Rule #6:

Use commas to separate opposing coordinate words, or to represent a clear pause or change.

For example:

She was simply uninformed, not stupid.

We are still going to the fair together, right?

 

Rule #7:

Use a comma to distinguish phrases at the start or end of a sentence that are referring to something in the middle or at the beginning of a sentence.

Look at this example:

Sweet Emma yelled, “choo choo,” as the train passed by, jumping enthusiastically.

 

Rule #8:

Use commas to distinguish geographical names, addresses (except for the first line), format dates (with exception of month and the day), and to set apart a title in someone’s name.

Example:

Hollywood, California is where a lot of major films are made.

Her address is 59 Crestview Drive, Layton, Utah.

George C. Oxford, PhD, has written over thirty-seven books on the human brain.

 

Rule #9:

Use commas to separate the normal flow of writing from quotations.

For example:

The frustrated young student asked, “Why on earth do we exist?”

“You are doing great,” she said, “keep working hard!”

 

Rule #10:

Use a comma if it helps the sentence to be read correctly, or if a comma would help to eliminate any possible confusion.

Look at this example:

It seemed as though there was never enough encouragement at work, to Martha.

 

The Oxford Comma

Now, before we close here, let’s talk about one last thing. Let’s take another look at rule #4. Use commas when you have three or more words that are within a series to separate each word.

The example we saw was:

The ingredients that I need for you to pick up from the store are onions, potatoes, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.

 

Well, the comma immediately following sour cream is referred to as the Oxford comma. The Oxford (or serial) comma can be defined as the comma that comes after the second to last item in a list of three or more items, right before and or or.

The Oxford comma is referred to as stylistic, which means that depending on what type of style you use, it may not be necessary. For example, if you are writing in AP style (which is what news reporters use) then you would not use the Oxford comma.

Typically, you will hear it said that it is up to you to decide if you want to use the Oxford comma or not. However, you want to be very careful, because this can potentially lead to some confusion. I’ll show you how.

I like my friends, Beyonce and Abraham Lincoln.

 

Now, the problem with this sentence is that it seems as though this person is claiming to be friends with Beyonce and Abraham Lincoln. When, really, what they meant to communicate was that they like their friends, Beyonce, and Abraham Lincoln. So, in any case, when writing make sure that you are communicating effectively what you would like for your audience to take away.

I hope that this video over commas, and how to use them has been helpful for you.

See you guys next time!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

What is a comma splice?

A

A comma splice is when two independent clauses are joined by a comma. This is something that should be avoided; two independent clauses should be joined by a semicolon or a comma and conjunction instead.

Here’s an example of a comma splice:

“Kerry let me borrow his textbook, I needed it to finish my science homework.”

In this case, replacing the comma with a semicolon would fix the comma splice:

“Kerry let me borrow his textbook; I needed it to finish my science homework.”

You could also separate the two independent clauses:

“Kerry let me borrow his textbook. I needed it to finish my science homework.”

Q

What is an Oxford comma?

A

Also known as a serial comma, an Oxford comma is the final comma used in a list of items, always preceding a conjunction. In the example below, the comma used between flour and the conjunction and is an Oxford comma:

“Carrie bought eggs, flour, and sugar to use in her cake mix.”

Q

Does the comma go before or after “but”?

A

When joining two independent clauses, the comma will always appear before the word but. Here’s an example:

“I wanted to visit the park today, but I can’t find my umbrella.”

When an independent clause and a dependent clause, no comma is needed before or after the conjunction but. Here’s an example:

“She bought some oranges but forgot to buy apples.”

Q

When do you use a comma before “and”?

A

There are two common instances where you would use a comma before the word and. The first instance is when you are joining two independent clauses, as seen in the example below:

“Landon threw the ball across the yard, and the dog chased after it.”

The other instance is known as the Oxford comma, or serial comma. An Oxford comma is the final comma used in a list of items, always preceding a conjunction:

“I saw lions, giraffes, and snakes at the zoo today.”

Q

Where does the comma go in an address?

A

If you are writing an address on an envelope, a comma should only appear between the city and state. Here’s an example:

John Smith
1234 Example Drive
Atlanta, GA 30311

Notice that there is no comma between the state and the zip code.

If you are writing an address as part of a sentence, a comma should appear between the street and the city, and another comma should appear between the city and state. Here’s an example:

“Marie Johnson lives at 5678 Pretend Avenue, Nampa, ID 83653.”

 

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: June 28, 2022