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Comma (,)

The comma sets off or separates words or groups of words within sentences.

Six Rules for the Comma

  1. Use a comma after a long introductory phrase.

    After working all day at the office, I went home for dinner.

  2. If the introductory phrase is short, forget the comma.

    After work I went home for dinner.

  3. Use a comma if the sentence would be confusing without it.

    The day before, I borrowed her calculator.

    When you’ve finished, your dinner is ready.

  4. Use a comma to separate items in a series.

    I need to pack my computer, calculator, business cards, and toothbrush.

  5. Use a comma to separate two sentences that are joined by and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet.

    He wanted the promotion, but he was afraid to ask his manager.

    She liked her new job, and she respected her colleagues.

    They may go to the game, or they may stay here.

    The partners aren’t going to the retreat, nor are they happy about it.

    Her assistant took a cab, for it was a long way to walk.

    They waited until Friday, so it was too late to go.

    I’d like to travel, yet I’m reluctant to change jobs.

  6. Use a comma to set off nonessential elements in a sentence.

    At the podium stood a man wearing a green tie.

    At the podium stood Frank, wearing a green tie.

    In the first sentence, “wearing a green tie” is used to identify a specific man. Without it, the reader would not know to whom the writer was referring, so it is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

    In the second sentence, the writer assumes the reader knows Frank. “Wearing a green tie” adds only descriptive information about Frank, but it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.


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