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When to use commas (Comma Rules) :

1. Use a comma to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series. (A comma is necessary before the last 'and.')
Example: The Constitution establishes the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.


2. Use a comma after transition words and phrases that begin a sentence: however, therefore, on the other hand, for example, etc.
Example: Today is a national holiday. As a result, most stores are closed. (phrase)

3. Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off transition words and phrases as well as clauses that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence.
Example: I appreciate your hard work. In this case, however, you seem to have over-exerted yourself. (word)
This restaurant has an exciting atmosphere. The food, on the other hand, is rather bland. (phrase)
Next Tuesday, which happens to be my birthday, is the only day I can meet. (clause)

4. Use a comma to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of these seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so [FAN BOYS].
Example: The game was over, but the crowd refused to leave.

5. Use a comma after a dependent clause when it comes before the independent clause.
Example: While I was eating, the cat scratched at the door. Because I was late, I had to sit in the back.

NOTE: Do not use a comma if the order is reversed (the independent clause comes before the dependent clause), except for cases of extreme contrast. A dependent clause provides additional information about the independent clause and establishes the relationship of this information to the independent clause. The most common subordinating conjunctions are: after, although, as, as if, because, before, even though, if, since, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, where, whether, and while.
Example: She was late for class because her alarm clock was broken.


6. Use a comma to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), addresses (except the street number and name), and titles in names.
Example: Birmingham, Alabama, gets its name from Birmingham, England.


7. Use a comma to shift between the main discourse and a quotation.
Example: John said without emotion, "I'll see you tomorrow."

8. Use a comma wherever necessary to prevent possible confusion or misreading.
Example: To George, Harrison had been a sort of idol.
When to use commas:

Rule #1: Use Commas to Separate Items in a List.
This probably the first use of commas you learned in school: separating items in a list of three or more things.
Example: The cake mix requires flour, sugar, eggs, and butter.

Rule #2: Use a Comma After an Introductory Word or Phrase.
When a word or phrase forms an introduction to a sentence, you should follow it with a comma, as recommended by Purdue OWL.
Example: However, she didn't love him back.

Rule #3: Use a Comma Before a Quotation.
You should always put a comma immediately before a quotation:
Example: John Smith told us, "You can't come in after ten o'clock."

Rule #4: Use a Comma to Separate a Dependent Clause That Comes BEFORE the Independent Clause.
A dependent clause, or subordinate clause, is one that can't stand alone as a whole sentence. It should be separated from the independent clause that follows it using a comma:
Examples: If you can't make it, please call me.
After the race, John was exhausted.

However, it's normally not necessary to use a comma if the independent clause comes first:
Please call me if you can't make it.
John was exhausted after the race.

Rule #5: Use a Comma to Join Two Long Independent Clauses
Normally, you should put a comma between two complete sentences that are joined with a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, for, nor, so, yet) that creates a single sentence with two independent clauses:
Example: Sue didn't know whether she had enough money in her account to pay for the groceries, so she went to an ATM to check her balance.

You don't need a comma if both the independent clauses are relatively short and similar in meaning:
Sue went to the shops and John went home.

Rule #6: Use Commas to Set Off an Nonessential Element within a Sentence
Sometimes, you might want to include extra information within a sentence that isn't essential to its meaning. You should set this information off using a comma before and a comma after it:
Example: John went for a jog, which took half an hour, before having a long hot shower.

You could also use dashes in this context:
John went for a jog - which took half an hour - before having a long hot shower.

Dashes are useful if you want to imply a longer pause, or draw more attention to the nonessential element of the sentence. They're also useful if you have several other commas in the sentence, to help avoid confusion.

Rule #7: Use Commas to Separate Coordinate Adjectives
When you're describing something with two or more adjectives, you can use a comma between them if those adjectives are coordinating. (They're coordinating if you could place "and" between them.) You shouldn't put a comma after the final adjective.
Examples: He's a cheerful, kind boy.
A comma is used here, because it would also make sense to say, "He's a cheerful and kind boy".

There's a blue bath towel on your bed.
Here, "bath" is acting as an adjective to modify "towel", but it's not coordinate with "blue". It wouldn't make sense to say, "There's a blue and bath towel," so no comma is used.


Rule #8: If You Use a Serial Comma, Use it Consistently
A list of items can be punctuated like this:
Example: We need bread, milk, cheese, and eggs.


Rule #9: Don't Use a Comma Between Two Independent Clauses (Without a Conjuction)
If you have two independent clauses, you can't just use a comma to join them. You can use a semi-colon, or you can use a conjunction plus a comma.

Incorrect: There were no clouds in the sky, I went for a jog.
Correct: There were no clouds in the sky; I went for a jog.
Correct: There were no clouds in the sky, so I went for a jog.
The incorrect version is called a "comma splice".

Rule #10: Don't Separate a Compound Subject or Compound Object With Commas
If you have a compound subject or a compound object in a sentence that consists of two nouns, you shouldn't separate the parts of it using commas.

For instance:
Incorrect: The rain poured down on John, and Sue.
Correct: The rain poured down on John and Sue.
Incorrect: The rain, and the wind battered the house.
Correct: The rain and the wind battered the house.