Commas



Commas :



Commas are the most frequently used punctuation marks in English. Originally used to show a pause, they are used nowadays in a variety of situations to make writing clearer. While there are many specific uses for commas, nearly eighty-five percent of the commas used in written English are used in a just three situations. If you know the basic rule for these three cases, you can use commas in over four-fifths of the times you need to use commas.

Put a comma before a coordinating conjunction that separates two independent clauses in a compound sentence.

For example :

Nayan brought the sandwiches, and Meenal brought the cake. (Correct)

This contains two independent clauses with their own subject and verb - Nayan brought the sandwiches and Meenal brought the cake.



Put a comma after introductory words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence.

Commas are used to set off certain items that often begin a sentence and have no grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence.

For example :

But of course, you can participate in the competition.
Rahul, please keep the book on the table.

All three of these, words, phrases and clauses, are set off by commas no matter where they appear in the sentence. If they are not used at the beginning, the sentence often sounds more awkward.

For example :
v You can participate in the competition, of course. (Incorrect)
Please, Rahul, keep the book on the table. (Correct)



Use commas to set off elements that interrupt or add information in a sentence.

For example :
v Mrs. Lajmi, my teacher, attended my sister’s wedding. (Correct)
Mrs. Lajmi my teacher attended my sister’s wedding. (Incorrect)



Commas also set off contrasting expressions beginning with ‘not’.

For example :

I wanted this one, not that one. (Correct)
We went to Nainital not Jaipur, for our vacation. (Incorrect)



Commas in a series :

Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses in a series. A conjunction goes between the last two items of the series. While some say that the comma before the conjunction is optional, leaving it out may cause confusion, so it is better to include it.

Words : Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses.

Phrases : This morning I woke up, got dressed, brushed my teeth, and ate breakfast.

Clauses : In fact, the bus was full of people who got dressed, who brushed their teeth, and who ate breakfast this morning.

For example :

The street was filled with angry protestors, shouting spectators and police. (Leaving out the last comma makes it look like the police were shouting, too.) (Incorrect)

The street was filled with angry protestors, shouting spectators, and police. (Makes it clearer)



Commas with geographical names :

When a geographical name or location has two or more parts to it, use a comma after each different type of part. A second comma follows the last item, unless it comes at the end of the sentence.

For example :

I meant Chamba Punjab instead of Chamba Himachal Pradesh.
(Commas needed to separate city and state) (Incorrect)

I meant Chamba, Punjab instead of Chamba, Himachal Pradesh.
(Comma needed after Punjab) (Incorrect)

I meant Chamba, Punjab, instead of Chamba, Himachal Pradesh. (Correct)

If the parts are joined by a preposition, no comma is needed.

For example :

I meant Chamba, in Punjab instead of Chamba, in Himachal Pradesh. (Incorrect)

I meant Chamba in Punjab instead of Chamba in Himachal Pradesh. (Correct)



Commas with dates :

When a date is made up of two or more parts, use a comma to separate the parts when both the parts are words or both the parts are numbers. A second comma follows the last item unless it is at the end of a list or sentence.

For example :

We will meet Friday July 15. (Incorrect)
(Word Friday followed by another word, July - comma needed)
We will meet Friday, July 15. (Correct)

January 26,1952 is one of the most significant dates in history. (Incorrect)

(The comma between the two numbers is fine, but a second comma is needed after the last item, 1952)

January 26, 1952, is one of the most significant dates in history. (Correct)

January, 1952, was a major month in history. (Incorrect)
(No commas needed because word ‘January’ is followed by a number, 1952)
January 1952 was a major month in history. (Correct)

If the parts of the date are connected by a preposition, no comma is needed.

For example :

On a Sunday, in December 1941, the US found itself in World War II. (Incorrect)

(No comma needed since the preposition ‘in’ is there)

On a Sunday in December 1941, the US found itself in World War II. (Correct)



Commas with tides that follow names :

Each title that follows a name is set off by commas.

For example :

Robert Harrison Jr. could have broken Maris’ record. (Incorrect)

Robert Harrison Jr., could have broken Maris’ record. (Correct)

The book was written by Radha Mohan, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. (Correct)

(Note that each title is set off by commas)

Numerical titles following a name are not set off by commas.

For example :

Richard, I, fought the Crusades. (Incorrect)
Richard I fought the Crusades. (Correct)



Commas in addresses :

Use a comma to separate each part of an address that has two or more parts. This follows the same pattern as geographical names. Commas are not needed if prepositions join the address parts.

For example :

Write to me care of Post Office Box 203 Mahim, Mumbai 400 052.
(Commas needed) (Incorrect)

Write to me care of Post Office Box 203, Mahim, Mumbai 400 052. (Comma after state or province and before postal code is optional.) (Correct)

If the address is on an envelope or is otherwise written out line by line, no comma is needed when a new line begins.

For example :

P.O. Box 203,
Mahim,
Mumbai - 400 052 (Comma after first line not necessary) (Incorrect)

P.O. Box 203,
Mahim,
Mumbai - 400 052 (Correct)

Read the following paragraph and insert commas at appropriate places.

Tonight after school we have our final football game of the season. Our coach Mr. Raman stated ‘I want all of you to play your best and play fair.’ The game started. We knew if we didn’t play aggressively we would lose. At half time our opponents were ahead by two. Shortly after we managed to tie the game. We had very little time left and knew we had to play well. The audience was cheering loudly they could feel the tension in the air. Dinesh our captain called a time out. We gathered around and our coach said “You can do it play smart!’ We didn’t want to let our coach or fans down. Just then Dinesh kicked the ball the crowd went wild. The ball went right through the net. Just then the buzzer went to signal the end of the game! Much to our surprise we won in the last two minutes of the game!



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