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How to Use Commas

How To Use Commas- Overview

The attractiveness of correct grammar and punctuation cannot be overstated.”

It is no wonder that the comma is perhaps the most misused and abused amongst all other punctuation marks in English. Even the most proficient essay writers sometimes get intimidated with the comma ruleslike – When to use commas, how to use commas in a list, etc.

A lot of rule is applied when it comes to how to use commas properly. And more often than not, the factors determining how to use commas in a sentence are very intricate and sensitive.

Continue reading the blog below to learn about the proper use of commas and different comma rules used in English.

What is a Comma?

Before we learn how to use a comma, we should know about this punctuation mark in detail.

 A period shows the end of a sentence a while a comma shows a smaller break within the sentence.  If you are trying to figure outwhen to use commas in a sentence, know that several writersuse commas to indicate a soft pause.

If you wonder why use commas in a sentence, remember that a comma is a punctuation mark that separates clauses, words, and ideas within a sentence.

How to Use Commas Properly?

To better understand where to use commas and how to use commas in a sentence, here are nine fundamental rules:

  • Use commas to separate independent clauses

If you don’t know how to use commas in a long sentence, use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when combining two complete ideas or independent clauses. Some coordinating conjunctions are – and, but, show, yet common or, for, or.


  1. You can go to a movie with me, or you can go shopping alone.
  2. He finished his breakfast, and then ordered a cup of coffee.
  • Use commas following an introductory phrase or clause

The use of commas is crucial after an introductory phrase/clause. When you use commas after an introductory phrase, it tells the readers that the clause has ended and the essential part of the sentence is about to start.


  1. When she was ready to leave, her mother handed her a letter.
  2. Near the small park beside the old church, John found Emily waiting for him with a bouquet.
  • Use commas between all items in a list

If you are wondering how to use commas in a list, use a comma to separate each item within the series or list. A series is a group of items (three or more) serving the same purpose within a sentence.


  1. Series of words- We bought carrots, beans, and corns.
  2. Series of clauses- Ciara promised that she would be a good girl, that she would listen to her parents, and that she would complete her university homework in time.
  3. Series of phrases- Jonathan looked inside the drawer, through his briefcase, and under the table for his lost wallet.
  • Use of commas for setting off non-restrictive clauses

The essential clauses of a sentence are called restrictive clauses, and the non-essential clauses are called non-restrictive. You should use a comma toenclose the clauses that do not impart meaning to the sentence.

Remember both restrictive and non-restrictive clauses may start with a relative pronoun. A relative pronounintroduces a relative clause referring to some antecedent. Some examples of relative pronouns are-who, whose, which, that, whom etc.


  1. Rhea, who is Derek’s fiancée, will host a slumber party next week. (Non-restrictive)
  2. The woman who is standing by the fireplace is a great singer. (Restrictive)
  • Use commas for setting off appositives

Appositives are nouns or noun phrases renaming a nearby noun. Usually, appositives offer non-essential information. However, to ensure proper use of commas, remember non-restrictive appositives are set off with commas, while restrictive appositives are not.


  1. William Shakespeare, the English poet and dramatist, is famous for Romeo-Juliet.(Appositive)
  2. The dramatist Shakespeare is famous for Romeo-Juliet. (Non-Appositive).
  • Use commas to designate a direct address

In a sentence when the speaker deems the person to whom he is speaking, it is called a direct address.Direct address is designated by the use of commas or a single comma, depending upon the sentence structure.


  1. I wish, Mary, you were here with us.
  2. Mary, I wish you were here with us.
  • Use commas for setting off direct quotations

A conversation between two or more individuals is known as a dialogue. According to standard comma rules, in a dialogue, when the speaker is identified, their name or the noun or pronoun used to refer to the speaker, and the verb referring to their speaking is enclosed between commas.


  1. Robert said, “I dislike Mexican food because it is too spicy”.
  2. “I dislike Mexican food because it is too spicy”, Robert said.
  3. “I dislike Mexican food,” Robert proclaimed, “because it is too spicy”.
  • Use of commas with addresses, dates, numbers and titles

Till now, we discussed how to use commas for different sentence structures. Now let’s discuss the use of commaswith addresses, dates, numbers and titles.

  • Comma rules for addresses:

Different elements of a place name or an address Are separated by using commas. However, a zip code does not need the use of commas.


  1. Swami Vivekananda was born in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, in 1863.
  2. Please send the package to John Brown at 675 Spring Street, Washington, IL 615461.
  • Comma rules for dates:

If you are wondering when to use commasin a sentence that mentions a date, keep in mind that the year is set off from the rest of the sentence using commas.


  1. On January 12, 1863, Swami Vivekananda was born in Kolkata, India.
  • Comma rules for numbers:

When the numbers are four digits long or more, make sure to use commas for separating the numbers into groups of three. And while doing so, always start from the right. However, for numbers that are four digits long, the use of commas is optional.


  1. 4,500 [or 4500]
  2. 200,000
  3. 6, 000,000
  • Comma rules for titles:

In a sentence, if a title is followed by a name, the title is separated from the rest of the sentence with a pair of commas.


  1. Sarah Macpherson, MD, is the new Head of the Department.
  • Use of Comma Before “And”

Whether you put a comma before and relies upon how you're utilizing "and" in the sentence, there's no single standard that applies to all circumstances. You typically put a comma before and when it's combining two independent clauses. It's quite often discretionary to put a comma before and in a list.

When to use semicolons and commas?

Now that you have learned how to use commas in a sentence, let's discuss two fundamental rules of using a semicolon:

Rule 1- Semicolons are used between two complete sentences which are not joined by coordinating conjunction like and, for, so, but, yet, or.


I do not like to eat icecream. Pizza is my favourite.

This can be rewritten like:

I do not like to eat ice cream; Pizza is my favourite.

Rule 2- You can use a semicolon between two complete sentences linked by transitional words like- Similarly, meanwhile, next, for example, in conclusion, etc. A comma often follows the transitional words in a sentence.


I do not like to take a cab. However, I need to get one if I need to reach the theatres in time.

This can be rewritten like:

I do not like to take a cab; however, I need to get one if I need to reach the theatres in time.

When to use parentheses and commas?

Parentheses and commas are often used together, however, serving different purposes within the sentence. Thus, commas are used with parentheses only if the sentence requires a comma without the parentheses.



  • Rachel completed her assignments before going out with her friend Sarah.
  • Rachel completed her assignments (grumbling all the while) going out with her friend Sarah.


  • Rachel completed her assignments (grumbling all the while), going out with her friend Sarah.

Final Words

Commas are important but tricky. But that does not mean you cannot master the art of inserting perfect punctuations. With a bit of patience and practice, you will ace your writing eventually.


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