“The rule is: don’t use commas like a stupid person. I mean it.”
Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
English 101: The mighty comma
The comma is the most widely used form of punctuation and often is used incorrectly. Here are a few tips on how to use the comma like a pro.
Use a comma for:
- Independent clauses: groups of words that contain a subject and verb and could be punctuated as a complete sentence
Mary liked the idea of living in Rome, but her husband disliked the traffic.
- Introductory elements: Introductory descriptive information must be followed by a comma.
After the movie was over, Sally started home to Winter Park.
- Items in a series: Use a comma to separate words or phrases in a series of three or more.
Tina’s book is now on sale at bookstores, Amazon.com, and her website.
4. Non-restrictive clause – Groups of words that give descriptive information not essential to the sentence. A quick way to spot these clauses is to look for phrases that begin with which, who, and whose.
Alice Munro, who has won numerous awards, is her favorite author.
5. Non-restrictive phrases – Groups of words that adds details that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence and that interrupt the sentence.
Tony Smith, living at 123 Grand Lake Drive, lost his dog.
If the detail changes the meaning of the sentence you do not need a comma. For instance:
The man living at 123 Grand Lake Drive lost his dog.
6. Dates: Separate day, month, and year by a comma. When only the month and day are given no comma is needed.
He was born on Sunday, June 12, 1995, in Delaware.
He was born June 12 in Delaware.
- Titles: Lowercase titles when they do not have a name attached to them.
The president gave a statement.
Capitalize titles when they are used attached to one or more names.
Today President Obama signs the Medicare bill.
The Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden met in Orlando.
For long titles use a comma to set off name and title.
Brian Greene, senior editor of business development at Stockworld magazine, says ….
Conquer the comma and you’ll be the grammar pro in your office.