- I like to eat lollipops, jellybeans, and bubblegum.
The Comma tells us when to pause while reading and helps organize writing. Since commas can be used in a variety of ways, they have a lot of rules. Each one is important and helpful to know.
Rules for using the Comma
Rule 1: Use a comma to separate a series of three or more words in a list. Place a comma before the word "and" at the end of the list.
- Craig jumped, bounced, and flipped on the trampoline.
Exception: Do NOT use a comma if there are just two words in the list.
- He gave Santa milk and cookies.
- Sally walked and ran in the race.
Rule 2: Use commas between lists of three or more adjectives or adverbs.
- Luke is a fast, talented, and accurate soccer player.
- Lisa ran quickly, slowly, and wildly in the obstacle course.
- The puppy is fuzzy, soft, and gentle.
Rule 3: Use a comma between two adjectives to separate them if they are interchangeable.
- It was a short, simple play. (The two adjectives can be interchanged - It was a simple, short play - use a comma to separate the adjectives)
- She is a healthy, fit girl. (The two adjectives can be interchanged - She is a fit, healthy girl - use a comma to separate the adjectives)
Rule 4: Use a comma to separate two complete thoughts (independent clauses) in a compound sentence. Place the comma before the conjunction (and, but, or, for, yet, so, nor).
- I'd like to go to the store, but my car is out of gas.
- Julie will draw the pictures, and Sam will color them in.
- You can eat the pasta, or I can order some pizza.
Rule 5: Use a comma to separate a dependent clause from the rest of the sentence if it starts the sentence.
A dependent clause has a subject and a verb but is not a complete sentence on its own. Place the comma after the dependent clause.
- While I was at the store, my sister went to the movies.
- As she ate the cupcakes, I made more.
- After Stacy ran the race, she felt tired and hungry.
Rule 6: Use a comma to separate introductory words like "Yes" or "No" from the rest of the sentence.
- Yes, I'd love to have a picnic this afternoon.
- No, I'd rather not eat my peas.
- Well, let's see how the weather is before we decide.
Rule 7: If you start a sentence by addressing someone by name, use a comma after the name.
- Michael, join us at the table.
- Joshua, do you know the answer to the question?
Rule 8: Use a comma between the city and state in an address.
- My brother lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- Disney World is in Orlando, Florida.
Rule 9: Use a comma between the day and year in a date.
- Mazie was born on April 8, 1999.
- Lisa will leave for her trip on June 5, 2014.
Rule 10: Use a comma to separate extra information from the rest of the sentence. The sentence will still be complete if you remove this information. This extra information is called an appositive. Place commas before and after an appositive.
- Henry, my best friend, is sleeping over on Friday.
- Rover, my uncle's dog, is a trained search-and-rescue dog.
- My favorite book, The Wizard of Oz, is a classic.
Rule 11: Use a comma for numbers over 999.
- $ 53,250
Rule 12: Use a comma before or after the direct speech. We do not use comma for indirect speech.
- He said, "I am not well."
- "I am not well," he said. (A comma is used after the direct speech as the sentence begins with a quotation mark.)
- He said that he was not well.
Rule 13: Use commas in personal titles.
- Meredith Gray, M.D., is here. ("M.D." is a personal title - use comma before and after the personal title)
- Harvey Specter, Chief Financial Officer for Operations, reported the annual earnings. ("Chief Financial Officer for Operations" is a personal title - use comma before and after the personal title)
Rule 14: When writing with commas, put a space AFTER each comma, but never before.
Be careful with commas! When misplaced in or left out of a sentence, a comma can change the meaning of your words entirely:
- Let's eat, Grandma!
- Let's eat Grandma!
The handy chart below helps remember the rules and uses of the comma.
Use a comma to: