The Basics of Grammar: Commas

Punctuation is an area of writing where no one notices when you get it right – but everyone notices when you get it wrong.  In this post, we will look at how to use commas correctly.

When To Use Commas

When I was in school, I was taught that the basic rule for using commas was, “anytime you want the reader to take a breath between words, use a comma.”  Well, I hope my high school grammar teachers never find this, because that’s not always true.  The following four scenarios describe when you need to use commas.

Use a Comma When Connecting Two Sentences

Generally speaking, if you are using the words for, nor, or, so, but and yet there’s a good chance you will need a comma before these words.

I am tired, but I will still work hard.

Notice how “I am tired” could be its own sentence.  However, it’s connect to another sentence “I will still work hard”.

Other Examples:

I will lend you money, but you will need to pay me back.

She will not play the game, nor will she follow the rules.

Either I can find a babysitter, or you can babysit for me.

I expected that Mario would win the race, and that’s exactly what he did. 

Use A Comma When Noting A Series of Three or More Things

Commas are used in a list of three or more things.  If you are only listing two things, don’t use a comma.

The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker were all in the bar. 

I like ice cream and brownies.

When Beginning A Sentence, Use A Comma After: However, For example, and Any Other Introductory Comment.

However, the house was eventually destroyed by the fire.

For example, making your own soup will much healthier.

Use A Comma When Interrupting Yourself In A Sentence or Inserting A Pause

Julio, the current class president, attended the meeting.

Madeline, of course, was the favorite to win.

Tell me, Susan, what you want me to do! 

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