“I met so many interesting people, including a writer, a photographer, and an aviator.” Words like “including” or “such as” are often used to introduce examples that further explain something mentioned in the sentence. They suggest that you are going to list just a few of the relevant items. If you removed the comma from the opening example, though, would it matter?
Actually, yes. There are certain grammar rules for when to use a comma with these example phrases and when to leave it out, depending on the context.
As with many comma related questions, the answer depends on whether the phrase in question is restrictive or non-restrictive. If removing the phrase would change the meaning of the sentence, then it is restrictive and a comma should not be used. On the other hand, if removing the phrase does nothing to the meaning of the sentence, and it still makes sense, then the phrase is non-restrictive and a comma should be used.
Restrictive ⇒ Don’t Use a Comma
Non-restrictive ⇒ Use a Comma
If the phrase led by “including” or “such as” introduces extra information about an already specific noun, it is of the non-restrictive variety, as in the opening example and those that follow.
I had to prepare a lot of technical documents, including a visa, statement of purpose, and resume.
My friend Sammy traveled to distant countries, such as Spain, Russia, and South America.
I love musicals, including Phantom of the Opera, Elisabeth, and Dracula, which have dark, sweeping scores.
Imagine deleting the phrases that begin with “including” or “such as” from the above sentences. Would the meaning be the same?
I had to prepare a lot of technical documents.
My friend Sammy traveled to distant countries.
I love musicals which have dark, sweeping scores.
The same ideas are communicated, with or without the examples. You prepared what? Technical documents. Sammy traveled where? Distant countries. You love which musicals? Dark ones. Since you can still tell what or which type of thing the sentences are about, you know the deleted phrases are non-restrictive and the commas are necessary.
Notice also that when a non-restrictive phrase comes in the middle of a sentence, it is set off by commas both before after the whole example phrase. Imagine that ending comma as closing the example phrase, returning the sentence’s train of thought back to the main independent clause.
In contrast, consider the following sentences:
I like artists such as K.Will, Bump of Chicken, and Jack Johnson.
The school required an application including my education history.
Send me a message including your plan for this evening.
If you removed the example phrases from these sentences, would the same meaning be communicated?
I like artists.
The school required an application.
Send me a message.
Without the example phrases, you can no longer tell which or what type of thing is being discussed. So, you like which artists? The school required what kind of application? What kind of message should I send? Because the nouns in these sentences are general, the example phrases restrict their meaning (restrictive) and commas are not needed because the information is essential.
Note however that different authors might disagree about just what is restrictive or non-restrictive in a specific context, so the grammar decision depends to some degree on your interpretation of the sentence.
Decide whether the example phrases in the following sentences are restrictive (R) or non-restrictive (NR) and place commas accordingly. Check your answers at the end of the page.
- I have hobbies including singing, dancing, and drawing.
- I have lots of creative, artsy hobbies including singing, dancing, and drawing.
- The road to school takes you past the city’s best sights including the park and the library.
- The plan including the transportation details was the best one.
- My school friends including Joey and Ben met up for lunch.
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- My hobbies include singing, dancing, and drawing. (R)
- I have lots of creative, artsy hobbies, including singing, dancing, and drawing. (NR)
- The road to school takes you past the city’s best sights, including the park and the library. (NR)
- The plan including the transportation details was the best one. (R)
- My school friends, including Joey and Ben, met up for lunch. (NR)