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Comma: Nine Rules

Comma is one of the most widely used punctuation marks (after ‘period’ of course), and easily the one that creates a lot of confusion for many. There are a set of commonly committed errors while using a comma, which may lead to incorrect interpretation of the sentence.

Let’s look at the errors and how to write a correct sentence so as to avoid them.

Comma - Nine Rules

Rule 1:

Between items in a series as well as before the conjunction (i.e., and, but, or) preceding the last item (Also called the serial comma rule).


(A) The father gave $100 each to Harry, James, Sally, and Tom.

(B) I had the option to study economics, humanities, or management.

Rule 2:

Between consecutive adjectives to define qualities of an object.


(A) The bed was soft, warm, and cozy.

(B) The police found the car in a burnet, broken, and ricked condition.

Rule 3:

Before conjunctions (and, but, nor, or, for, and sometimes yet and so) when they join independent clauses:


(A) He likes oats and corn, but he does not like beans or salads.

(B) Though the soldier was tired, and he would not budge from the couch.

Rule 4:

After introductory expressions:


(A) Happily, we were able to make the connection.

(B) In response to her request, they cancelled her subscription.

Rule 5:

Between Flip-flop phrases (sentences when flipped, retain the same meaning):


(A) Having been a quarterback in college, he was eager to play again.

This could be rewritten as

He was eager to play again, having been a quarterback in college.

Rule 6:

To enclose name of places, addresses and locational or time details. Also, to write dates that include both, day and year viagra a montreal.


(A) Susan was born in Kozhikode, Kerala, but now lives in Mumbai.

(B) The terrorist attacks in Mumbai happened on November 26, 2011.

Rule 7:

After an abbreviation following a name only if a comma was used before the abbreviation.


(A) Mr. John Jones Jr. was found murdered or Mr. John Jones, Jr., was found murdered whichever you prefer, but do not write Mr. John Jones, Jr. was found murdered.

Rule 8:

Use before a direct quotation and after it unless the sentence ends with a period, exclamation point or question mark.


(A) Noted American playwright William Tennessee once said, “Make voyages! Attempt them… there’s nothing else,” but critics would ask, “Did he mean literal, or philosophical?”

Rule 9:

Use a comma to clarify sentence structure and pauses and to set a verb and noun combination apart from another verb, so that the reader can better understand your meaning.


(A) After we had eaten the cat jumped in my lap

This should be re-written as: After we ate, the cat jumped in my lap.


Keep watching this space for similar rules.