To Comma or Not to Comma; that is the question. (Seven of the myriad guidelines.)
- You have a series of items:*
- The American Flag is red, white and blue. (No comma is necessary for the readers to understand.)
- The author’s books contained drama, romance, and history. (You don’t know if ALL the books contained all three; therefore, the comma is necessary for clarity.)
- The will said the estate is to be equally split between Martin, Pat and Susan. (This could be interpreted that Martin gets ½ and Pat and Susan split the other half.
NOTICE the word “between” – means only two parties. “Among” means more than two; therefore, rewrite:
- The will said that the estate is to be equally split among the siblings, Martin, Pat, and Susan. – (No conflict.)
* Another rule recommends the comma before the “and” in a series. Be consistent in the way you use the comma in a series, and be certain there’s no confusion or misinterpretation.
- Comma, parenthesis or em-dash
- Please meet Jerry, my husband. (Equal emphasis)
- This is Jerry (my husband). (Parenthesis equalslesser information)
- Please meet Jerry – my husband. (Em-dash – more important information.)
Comma – page two
- Comma with appositives
- My friend Sarah is going to Europe. (You have more than one friend; no need for a comma. This is a restrictive)
- My cat, Sassy, is pregnant. (This is non-restrictive, you have only one cat; use a comma.)
- My computer, a new PC, is already on the blink. (This defines the computer; it’s non–restrictive, use a comma.)
- Comma with “That” or “Which”
- The extra workbooks, which took us weeks to complete, can be given away. (“Which” is non-restrictive – an implication that the information is unimportant. It doesn’t identify the workbooks; therefore, separate with commas.)
- The extra workbooks that are on the back table can be given away. (That is restrictive, meaning only the workbooks on the back table should be given away; no commas necessary.)
- Comma with conjunctive adverbs. (also, consequently, further, furthermore, hence, however, moreover, nevertheless, otherwise, then, therefore, thus, and too. These function as conjunctions.) Use a semi-colon before and a comma after these conjunctions.
- The lights went out; therefore, we have to study by flashlight.
- Monday was a holiday; however, we went to the office anyway.
- Jane received the sales award; nevertheless, she was back on the phones a few hours later.
5a. A comma splice: – using a comma instead of a period or
semi-colon; it’s wrong.
- She went to the meeting, however, she was 20 minutes late.
- I didn’t like the speaker, she was too boring.
- She went to the meeting; however, she was 20 minutes late.
- I didn’t like the speaker; she was too boring.
Comma – page three
- Comma and quotation marks: Periods and commas always stay inside the quotation marks.
- Terri’s new car, “the third child,” was his pride and joy.
- The team completed the sections, “Body Language, Humor, and Story,” before their presentations.
- Comma with a salutation
Use a comma after an informal salutation: (friends, family, equal co-worker)
- Dear Nanna,
- Hi Steve,
- Greetings my friend,
Use a colon after a formal salutation:
- Dear Colleagues:
- Dear Committee Members:
- Dear Dr. Francis:
- Dear Emily: (If Emily is a client, a prospect, a superior, an unknown – cover letter – a business associate.)
These are only seven of dozens of uses of the comma. The seven are the most common and most misused.