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Extra Help Section

Comma Rules

Using commas can be tricky. As a rule of thumb, commas should be put into places where the reader should take a natural pause in reading the paper.

Following these simple rules should help the writer solve most comma problems.

  1. When you have an introductory word or phrase at the beginning of your sentence, put a comma after it. These words and phrases are not essential, meaning if you cut them out, the sentence would still be complete.

Ex. In the crisp morning air, I ran five miles.

  • This includes those transitional words and phrases when they are not integrated into the sentence.

Ex. First of all, I like skiing for the physical exercise it provides. (non-integrated)

The first reason why I like skiing is for the physical exercise it provides. (integrated)

  1. When you have a dependent clause at the beginning of a complex sentence, put a comma after that clause, before the independent clause.

Ex. When I drove to work this morning, I saw an accident on the freeway.

  1. When you join two complete sentences with a coordinating conjunction, put a comma after the first sentence, before the coordinating conjunction.

Ex. I studied hard, so I learned the material very well.

  1. When you have words or phrases that describe other parts of the main sentence, but this information isn’t essential, meaning it’s just nice to have, then put commas around them. These can appear at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence.

Ex. I realized I was betraying my friend’s confidence, something I value most. (What does she value most? Her friend’s confidence!)

  1. 5. When you have a list of three or more items or activities, put commas between them and before the coordinating conjunction that introduces the last item.

Ex. I bought milk, bread, fabric softener, and eggs.

NOTE: If using AP or APA, do not put the comma before the last item in the series.

Ex. I bought milk, bread, fabric softener and eggs. (APA style)

  1. When you set-off quoted material from the rest of the sentence, use a comma.

Ex. “Think before you speak,” said my dad.

Exercise 1: In the following, use one of the five comma rules to correct the sentences. Add your commas right in the typed sentences.

  1. We bought paper staples copier ink and highlighters.
  2. As we began the lesson our class was interrupted fun-loving people and became distracted.
  3. Jason exclaimed “I’m shocked by your response.”
  4. However Sue decided to go another route than the rest of us.
  5. Just for fun I drove to Chicago this weekend and caught a Cubs game.
  6. I woke up this morning and ate breakfast got ready and then drove to school.
  7. Melina enjoys listening to jazz music so she often goes to the café on Fridays to listen to live entertainment.
  8. My homework required lots of group meetings research and essay writing.
  9. I studied hard working long hours each night and even on weekends.
  10. When I came to LCC I hoped I could transfer to MSU in just one year.


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To the extent possible under law, Cheryl McCormick, Sue Hank, and Ninna Roth have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Comma Rules, except where otherwise noted.

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