Set IV, 6
COMMA MARKS PAUSES
The comma is a valuable, useful tool in a sentence. When we use it correctly, we help the
reader see the necessary separations between ideas within the sentence. When we misuse the
comma, we are chopping the ideas into wrong pieces or confusing the reader with unnecessary
1. Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by: AND, BUT, FOR, OR,
The game was over, but the crowd refused to leave.
2. Use commas to separate words, phrases, and clauses written in a series of THREE or more
A trio of Marie, Ellen, and Frances sang at the entertainment.
Jack walked into my office, took off his hat, and sat down.
3. Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe or modify the same noun.
(Coordinate adjectives can be interchanged.)
The noisy, enthusiastic group applauded the speech.
(the group is noisy and enthusiastic or enthusiastic and noisy.)
BUT: The new tennis court will soon be open.
(The court is not new and tennis.)
4. Use commas in the BEGINNING of the sentence after an introductory clause or phrase which has a
verb or verb form.
Hearing his owner call him, the dog ran forward.
While I was reading, the cat scratched at the door.
If you want a seat, you ought to arrive by 7:30 p.m.
My schedule having been arranged, I went home for the week-end.
5. Use commas at the BEGINNING of the sentence to set off exclamations or comments such as "yes,"
"no," "well," "oh," etc.
Yes, I'll think about it.
6. Use commas in the MIDDLE of the sentence to set off phrases and clauses which are not essential
to the meaning of the sentence. Use these commas in pairs, one before the phrase or clause to
indicate the beginning of the pause and one at the end to indicate the end of the pause.
Sara Clark, who lives in my dorm, is in my chemistry class.
(comma #1 at the beginning) (comma #2 at the end)
BUT, commas are NOT used in this "who" clause because it is a necessary part of
The girl who is sitting at the table next to you is in my chemistry class.
Use a pair of commas in a similar manner:
-To set off nonessential appositives (phrases which identify a noun).
Tom, the captain of the team, was injured in the game.
The person injured in the game was Tom, the captain of the team.
-To set off words or names used in direct address.
It is up to you, Jane, to finish the assignment.
-To set off nonessential comments which interrupt the sentence.
I was, however, too tired to make the trip.
7. Use commas near the END of the sentence to separate sharply contrasted coordinate elements in the
He was merely ignorant, not stupid.
8. Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), addresses
(except the street name and number), and titles in names.
Birmingham, Alabama, gets its name from Birmingham, England.
July 22, 1967, was a momentous day in his life.
Who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.?
Donald B. Lake, M.D., will be the principal speaker.
9. Use commas after "he said," etc. to set off direct quotations.
John said, "I'll see you tomorrow."
"I was able," she answered, "to complete the assignment this morning."
10. Use commas to prevent possible confusion or misreading.
To John, Harrison had been a sort of idol.
Above, the mountains rose like purple shadows.