A comma in writing is like a pause inside a sentence when speaking. We use commas inside sentences. Commas separate parts of a sentence into logical elements. Commas have no meaning, but they help us to see the structure and therefore the meaning of the sentence.
Put a space after a comma. Do not put a space before a comma.
xxx , xxx
1. Use a comma between items in a series or list. In a sentence, the last two items usually do not need a comma between them as they are separated by "and". However, if one or both of the last two items are long, a comma may be useful.
- coffee, tea, sugar, milk, eggs, butter, salt
- My favourite sports are football, rugby, swimming, boxing and golf.
- Hunsa was wearing blue jeans, black shoes, his brand new white shirt, and a brown and green cap.
2. Use a comma between three or more adjectives or adverbs.
- I like the old, brown, wooden table.
- He bought an old, red, open-top Volkswagen.
- He ran quickly, quietly and effortlessly.
3. For two adjectives, use a comma where you could use "and".
- It was a short, simple film. (It was a short and simple film.)
- I have a big black dog. (
I have a big and black dog.)
4. Use a comma for numbers over 999. (In English, commas separate thousands and periods separate decimals. Note that some languages use the opposite system.)
- 1,000 (one thousand)
- 10.5 (ten point five or ten and a half) - note the use of the period, not comma
5. Use a comma for addresses, some dates, and titles following a name.
- 911 Avenue Mansion, Sathorn Road, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
- Los Angeles, California
- November 4, 1948 (but 4 November 1948)
- Fred Ling, Professor of English
6. Use a comma before or after direct speech. Do not use a comma for reported speech.
- He said, "I love you."
- "I love you," he said.
- He told her that he loved her.
7. Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to join two independent clauses. If the independent clauses are short and well-balanced, a comma is optional.
- He didn't want to go, but he went anyway.
- I want to work as an interpreter, so I am studying Russian at university.
- She is kind so she helps people.
8. Use commas for parenthetical elements. A "parenthetical element" is any part of a sentence that can be removed without changing the real meaning of the sentence.
- John Geton, who is chairman of the company, is quite old.
- Andrew, my wife's brother, cannot come.
- Andrew (my wife's brother) cannot come.
- The objective, to find peace in both countries, is hard to reach.
9. Use a comma after an introductory element. A comma is optional for short, simple introductory elements.
- Rushing to catch the flight, he forgot to take his phone.
- As the year came to an end, he realised the days were getting shorter.
- By evening we were getting worried.
- After a hefty meal cooked by his host's wife, he went to sleep.
- After a snack he went to sleep.
10. Sentence adverbs (words like however, unfortunately, surprisingly that modify a whole sentence) often require one or two commas, depending on their position in the sentence.
- However, Anthony did arrive.
- Anthony, however, did arrive.
- We were, unfortunately, too late.
- He had, not surprisingly, lost his temper.
11. An adverbial clause often needs a comma when it comes at the beginning of a sentence (but not at the end of a sentence).
- If I win the lottery, I will buy a castle.
- I will buy a castle if I win the lottery.
12. Do not use a comma to separate two complete sentences. In this case, use a full stop (period) or semi-colon.
- Ram wants to go out. Anthony wants to stay home.
Ram wants to go out, Anthony wants to stay home.
I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out. Oscar Wilde