How to Put Commas in English Writing

Mistakes in punctuation are widespread in literally every form of writing. Most of them are connected with usage of commas, as this punctuation mark is the most prevalent. From time to time you can feel yourself puzzled, thinking whether to put a comma here or there or not. If you make a mistake, then your text will be harder to comprehend.

To help you to feel more comfortable with the usage of commas, we have distinguished seven simple guidelines for you to follow.

    1. Commas are often applied after introductory words, phrases, or clauses. They help the readers to understand that the main subject and verb of a sentence come later. Introductory words are divided into three groups: small (one word), medium (from two to four words), and large ones (more then four words).

      a) Generally, I disagree with the idea that money should be the most important factor in choosing a career.
      b) Frankly speaking, this novel is not worth reading.
      c) As far as I know, he is still in the budget meeting.

    2. Commas should be put between items in a list. You do not need to put a comma between the last two items, if they are separated by “and”. But if the last item is long, a comma will be useful.

      My favorite sports are swimming, football and boxing.
      In a refrigerator were eggs, milk, butter and cheese.
      Yesterday I was wearing blue jeans, green cardigan, black shoes, and a brown and red cap.

    3. Commas are used to separate independent clauses when they are connected by any of these seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet.

      a) He didn’t want to go, but he went anyway.
      b) I want to work as an interpreter, so I am studying Chinese at a university.
      c) The student explained his question, yet the instructor still didn’t seem to understand.

    4. A pair of commas should be put in the middle of a sentence to separate words, clauses and phrases that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. To decide whether the statement element is essential or not, you can use these clues:

      • Leave out a word, clause or phrase. Does the sentence still make sense?
      • Does a word, phrase or clause interrupt the flow of words in the original sentence?
      • If you change a position of the element in the sentence, does the sentence still make sense?

      If your answer is “yes” to these questions, then the element is not essential and should beset off with commas.

      The Founders Bridge, which spans the Connecticut River, is falling down.

    5. Sentence adverbs (words like unfortunately, surprisingly, however) require two commas
      when they are placed in the middle of a sentence.

      We were, unfortunately, too late.

    6. Commas are applied after an adverbial clause when it is placed at the beginning of a
      sentence, but not at the end.

      If I win the lottery, I will buy a yacht.
      I will buy a yacht if I win the lottery.

    7. Commas should be put before or after direct speech.

      She said, “I didn’t recognize you”.
      I didn’t recognize you”, she said.

    8. Commas are used for two adjectives where we can use “and”.

      It was a short, simple movie (It was a short and simple movie).

Using commas within text can often be a difficult act. But we hope that with the help of these guidelines, you will not make mistakes in punctuation with regard to commas in the future.