Where, When, How and Why to Use Commas

How and Why to Use Commas

Using commas correctly is vital for good grammar and is often overlooked.

By Lisa Brown

Adding commas to your writing can change the outcome of a sentence very quickly. In the same way, using your commas incorrectly could have detrimental effects.

We know that commas are used to separate a series of words to make it sound more like a person talking. You want your writing to be relatable and engaging and using your commas correctly can create that.

If you use the best grammar check tool, you will probably receive some help, but what happens when punctuation software is unavailable?

Here are some of the basic rules of using commas correctly.

Connect independent sentences

You can use commas to connect two phrases that are completely independent. When it comes to writing, using short sentences are usually frowned upon.

You can quickly eliminate this issue by using a comma to lengthen the sentence while keeping your grammar in check.

If you are not confident in your writing yet, use punctuation checker software a few times until you get the hang of things. Here is an example of using a comma to connect independent sentences.

She ran very fast, but then went to get some water.

This is a great way of using commas because you can go from one point to another just by using it correctly.

Eliminate confusion

Writing without the use of commas can become a confusing read. Adding commas in the right place can eliminate this confusion.

As human beings, we do not speak nonstop without taking a breath. This is how you should look at your comma use.

The place you naturally take a breath should be the place you insert your comma. The structure and the meaning of a sentence can totally depend on the usage of commas. Let’s look at an example of how to eliminate confusion in your writing.

For many the end of the month seems far away.

For many, the end of the month seems far away.

Just by adding a comma in the right place, we are able to make the meaning of the sentence more clear to the reader.

Separate items

Use commas to separate several items in one sentence.

There has been some controversy about using commas to separate the last item in a sentence. Some believe it is completely unnecessary to use a comma before the last item if the word ‘and’ is included.

On the flip side, there are those who believe it is of complete importance to include a comma. Here is a demonstration of this controversy.

For my birthday I invited Jen, Ben and Sam to my party.

For my birthday I invited Jen, Ben, and Sam to my party.

I suppose the message would still be the same without the last comma, but this is just one example, and it may not be the same in another.

This is why it is so controversial because both parties seem to have a valid point. To be safe, I would just add the last comma depending on who you are writing for.

Introductory adverbs

There are many introductory adverbs that need a comma next to it to make the sentence flow better. These kinds of adverbs include the following.

Finally, I was able to go to the farm.

Instantly, there was a raccoon on top of our roof.

However, I believed that he was speaking the truth.

In our last example, we used the adverb “however” at the beginning of a sentence.

This is another controversial topic because many writers discourage the word to start off a sentence. The advice is to use the word within the sentence and not at the beginning.

If you are going to use the adverb to start a sentence, always use a comma next to it.

Address elements

When you are writing out an address, there are usually many elements that make up that address.

You have the street name or building name, the suburb and name of the city you have to take into consideration.

If you are writing a letter, then the elements are separated by a line, but when you are writing it out in one line, commas come in handy.

By using it correctly, you can easily eliminate any confusion by separating each element of the address.

Oxford Building Block 5 Tornado Street Birmingham 5000

Oxford Building, Block 5, Tornado Street, Birmingham, 5000

Very quickly each element is able to stand on its own and also allows the reader to get clarity on the address.

Full date

Just as with the address, writing out a full date needs to include commas in the right places. There is the day of the week, the month and the year you have to consider separately.

If you are only using the month and the year, it is acceptable to exclude any commas.

Monday September 12 2017 is going to include so much fun.

Monday, September 12, 2017, is going to include so much fun.

This is a great way to make your writing appear more neat and professional. By separating these elements, you are able to be clear about the separation that needs to take place in the sentence.

Conclusion

Commas are very important in our everyday writing as well as our professional writing. You want to communicate that you have good grammar and language skills and one way to do that is by using your commas correctly.

Without the use of commas, we would live in a confusing world because messages would be incorrectly interpreted.

Even if you are writing a quick note to someone, make sure to include commas if you want the note to be understood the way you meant it. Many people use commas incorrectly, but once you know the basic and fundamental rules, you can improve your grammar instantly.

There are many more rules pertaining to commas and you might have to do some research to get them all right. With time and practice, you will be able to write better and communicate more effectively.

Lisa BrownLisa Brown works as a content manager. She is specialized on writing useful articles for writers, students and people who want to improve their writing skills. Her hobby is reading, travelling and blogging. Lisa`s life motto is “Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching”.

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

3 thoughts on “Where, When, How and Why to Use Commas

  • What about the period? One or two spaces after?

    Reply
    • In the case of a full stop or period, when writing a book, it should be one space after, when writing a formal letter, it should be two spaces after.

      Reply
  • I think one space is accepted now for all writing. Two spaces go back to the old typewriter days.

    Reply

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