Comma Rules Made Simple

A few simplified comma rules for our readers. Add a comma–

  • after multi-word introductory comments: “When I was a child–”
  • after certain introductory words such as no & yes: “Yes, I am very interested in the job.”
  • before a quote: He said, “We have to finish today.”
  • to separate two interchangeable adjectives: “a serious, complicated situation”
  • in lists of three or more
  • to set off non-essential information
  • to separate a statement from a question tag: “That’s correct, isn’t it?”
  • with the word “which”
  • to separate the day of the month and the year: August 12, 2017
  • to separate a city from its state: Chicago, Illinois
  • to separate independent clauses (phrases that could be written as complete sentences)
  • with conjunctive adverbs such as however
  • And finally – The Oxford comma – also called the serial comma and the Harvard comma – is a subject of debate. In other words, there is no right or wrong usage rule, except that you must use it when it is needed to avoid confusion.
  • Beyond that, whether you use the Oxford comma is a matter of style – some style guides call for it and others don’t. Check your school or company style guide and punctuate your texts accordingly.

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