Eastfield College Logo
The mission of Eastfield College is to provide excellence in teaching and learning.

Summary Use of the Comma

Use commas to separate items in a series—words, groups of words, phrases, and short independent clauses—unless the items are separated by conjunctions.

  • We picked up apples, bananas, and coconuts for drinks.
  • Harry and Sally watched a movie and ate popcorn.  [two items do not make a series]
  • Harry and Sally watched a movie, ate popcorn, and lounged on the couch.

Use a comma to separate two or more adjectives that come before a noun.

  • The tall, thin boy lined up before the race.

Use a comma after certain introductory elements.    

(1) Use a comma after an introductory participial phrase.

  • Living in Dallas, most residents will experience road rage.

(2) Use a comma after two or more introductory prepositional phrases.

  • After the final on Tuesday, we can relax for a week.

(3) Use a comma after an introductory adverb clause.

  • If it rains today, the baseball game will be cancelled

Use commas to set off expressions that interrupt the sentence.

(1) Appositives and appositive phrases are usually set off by commas.

  • Tina’s father, Jerry Smith, works at the planetarium.

(2) Words used in direct address are set off by commas.

  • I hope, Lisa, that you’re going to show up for class today.

(3) Parenthetical expressions are set off by commas.

  • The teacher was, of course, serious about the test scores.

(4) Words such as well, yes, no, and why are followed by a comma when they begin a sentence or remark.

  • Yes, copies are in the office.
  • Well, he did say he’d be here

Use commas to set off nonessential clauses and nonessential participial phrases.

  • The dress she wore, which she bought a year ago, looked great on her at her graduation.

Use a comma before and, but, or, for, so, nor, and yet when they join independent clauses in a compound sentence.

  • Sue and Bill went for a walk, and they watched the most amazing sunset.

Use a comma in certain conventional situations.

(1) Use commas to separate items in dates and addresses.

  • January 14, 2005
  • 12345 South Second Street, Anyplace, Texas

(2) Use a comma after the salutation of a friendly letter and after the closing of any letter.

  • Dear Bob,
  • Sincerely,

(3) Use a comma with direct quotations.

  • One teacher told me, “You should always attend class.