Proper Grammar Check: When to Use a Comma

When should you use a comma and when you should not? This is the question to answer if you do not want to make terrible comma mistakes in your paper. The following highlights a quick guide on how you can use it properly.


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Quick Guide to Commas

  • Use the comma in separating independent clauses when it is being joined by coordinating conjunctions: but, for, and, yet, so, nor, or. For instance: “Yesterday was his sister’s birthday, so he took him out for a date.”
  • Use the comma after introductory phrases, words and clauses before the main clause. For example: “Because his watch was broken, he was late for his class.”
  • Use a pair of commas in the middle of the sentence in setting off clauses, words, and phrases that are not important to the meaning of a sentence.
  • Do not use the comma in setting off important elements of a sentence, like clauses beginning with “that”. “That” after the noun is always important.
  • Use the comma in separating three or more words, clauses or phrases. For example: “You are inspected, infected, selected and neglected.”
  • Use the comma in separating 2 or more coordinate adjective describing the same noun.
  • Use the comma in setting off phrases at end of sentence referring back to middle or beginning of a sentence.
  • Use the comma in setting off geographical names

When Not to Use Comma

There are introductory elements that do not require a comma. Here are some instances that you should not use the comma:

  • After restrictive appositive phrase
  • After brief prepositional phrase
  • To separate subject from predicate

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Comma Usage

Comma should be used in some cases such as:

  • Separating non-critical words, clauses, and phrases from main clauses. For example: “Turning slowly, he gazed at the window.”
  • Adding phrases to the end of the sentence to mark distinct shift or pause. For example: “He stood frozen, while waves started washing over him.”
  • Comments inserted into the sentence. For example: “She tried to say something to her friends but engrossed on what they are doing, they did not hear her.”
  • When a conjunction joins 2 independent clauses. For example: “He suddenly moved, and the shadow disappeared.”
  • Introduce a quotation. For example: “She heard a voice say, “Great world!”

Understanding the comma needs time because it is a little bit confusing, but the time you know its usage, you never have a hard time.

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