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Punctuation Commas

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Commas are rule-boundthey were invented to help readers.

Rick Michelson & Amy Mitchell


Commas should be used in the following circumstances

1.      Use a comma between coordinate adjectives not joined by and (but could be).
Example:  Mother has become a strong, confident, independent woman.
     Do not put a comma between cumulative adjectives.  Example:  Three large gray shapes moved slowly toward us.  (Note:  if you put an and in between these adjectives, it would not workthats the distinction.)

2.      Separating independent clauses before the coordinating conjunction (i.e., and, but, or, for, nor, yet, and so).  Example:  I do not like broccoli, nor do I like cauliflower.


3.      Use a comma between all items in a series.  Example:  For breakfast the children ordered cornflakes, English muffins with peanut butter, and cherry Cokes.


4.      Separating text that could be a parenthetical phrase
You can determine a parenthetical phrase with a simple test.  If you can cover it up or take it out altogether and the sentence still makes sense, then its a parenthetical phrase. 
Example:  I went to the store to buy some bread (even though we had some at the house), and my rotten little brother followed me.
     In deciding whether to use commas, ellipses, dashes--, or parentheses to assist your reader, keep in mind the amount of emphasis you wish to draw to the text that is offset.  Parentheses offer the most emphasis (and commas offer the least).


5.      Commas used in a date  (Note:  There is no comma after the 1996.) 
Example:  On
July 4, 1996 I went to the celebration.
     Also, another issue on dates.  You either write, July 4th or July 4, 1996.  You do not combine:  July 4th, 1996.


6.      Separating an introductory phrase from the rest of the sentence
A rule of thumb is, if after you read the introductory phrase (which wets your appetite as to whats to come), you feel like saying with anticipation, yeah. . . yeah?, then you use a comma.  (Note: An introductory phrase (such as: When you see Kay) cannot exist on its own.) 
Example:  When you see Kay, tell her Im very disappointed in her. 


7.      Transitional phrasesExamples of transitional phrases:  In other words, therefore, however, furthermore.  (Note:  When a transitional phrase is in the middle of a sentence, it is offset on both sides by a comma.  Example:   I think, therefore, I am.)  When a transitional phrase appears between independent clauses in a compound sentence, it is preceded by a semicolon and is usually followed by a comma:  Example:  Natural foods are not always salt free; for example, celery contains more sodium than most people would imagine. 


8.      Commas used in a personal quote (as in fictional language) and before quotation marks.
The comma usually comes after the tag.  Example:  He said, I want to go.


9.      Antecedents (the word that the pronoun refers to) joined by commas  (Example:  When drivers have been drinking, they are more likely to speed.)  The antecedent is drivers and the pronoun that refers to it is they.  (Note:  They can be substituted to avoid saying he or she.)

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