Top Ten Uses for Commas


  1. TO SEPARATE INDEPENDENT CLAUSES JOINED BY A COORDINATING CONJUCTION (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).
  2. Example: Our galaxy contains more planets than can be easily counted, but we can only see a few of them from Earth.

  3. TO SEPARATE A DEPENDENT CLAUSE FROM THE MAIN (INDEPENDENT) PART OF THE SENTENCE. Some words that serve as clues to the presence of a dependent clause are after, since, before, if, as, and when.
  4. Example: Because no more plasma missiles were on board, the captain surrendered the ship.

  5. TO SET APART AN INTRODUCTORY PHRASE.
  6. Example: In the deepest depths of space, a traveler is at the mercy of an unforgiving environment.

  7. TO SET APART NONRESTRICTIVE CLAUSES (NON-ESSENTIAL INFORMATION).
  8. Example: The Galactic Coalition, which hoped to avoid an adverse political situation, contracted bounty hunters to capture the stolen ship.

    Note, however, that no comma is used with a restrictive, or essential, clause.
    Example: The ship that contained the incriminating documents was nowhere to be found.

  9. TO SEPARATE ELEMENTS THAT INTERRUPT A MAIN CLAUSE.
  10. Example: The Galactic Coalition, however, has no responsibility to govern the outer planets.

  11. TO SET APART TRANSITIONAL ELEMENTS, such as first, second, third, then, next, finally, and in addition.
  12. Example: Suddenly, the space dementia set in, and the prisoners in the brig became dangerously unstable.

  13. WHEN CREATING A LIST OF THREE OR MORE ITEMS (may be words, phrases, or clauses). Place a comma after each item in the series and before the conjunction that precedes the last item in the list.
  14. Example: When preparing for an extended journey into space, don’t forget to pack the survival essentials, such as food, water, fuel, and a proton blaster.

  15. WHEN TWO OR MORE ADJECTIVES MODIFY THE SAME NOUN AND ARE COORDINATE (meaning they could be separated by and or or), separate then with a comma.
  16. Example: The Wing Commander was a brave, honorable, ambitious officer.

  17. TO SET OFF NON-RESTRICTIVE APPOSITIVES (nouns or noun phrases that are used to rename).
  18. Example: The fastest ship in the fleet, The Corsair, took heavy damage in the laser battle.

  19. TO SET OFF A CONTRASTING OR EMPHASIZED POINT.
  20. Example: The commander of The Archon earned the Golden Trident, the Galactic Coalition’s highest honor.

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