8 Simple Comma Rules — Remember Them Like Your Own Birthday

Carly Mae

Most people have no clue there are eight comma rules. There really are only eight! And no, one does not involve putting a comma in when you naturally pause. Maybe if you are transcribing speech… but even then there’s a 99.9% chance that’s incorrect placing.

You might care about this, you might not. Either way, these comma rules are supposed to guide writing.

I italicized that because I don’t know a single person that is not flawed enough to adhere to every single rule.

It can also get confusing when you’re writing sentences that have multiple elements in them that would constitute a comma. I just like to keep it simple. If it covers more than one of these rules, I go with my gut on which rule takes higher precedence.

In all actuality, I have comma fever. I love commas. I have a problem…

Okay! Here are the rules!

ONE:

Let’s start simple. Use a comma in your dates to separate date and year. Or to separate days of the week and the date.

Example: Monday, January 2nd

Additional Example: June 22, 1993

TWO:

Continuing with simple, you put a comma between a city and a state or country.

Example: Santander, Spain

Additional Example: Port Angeles, WA

THREE:

You have the option of putting a comma after an introductory element. I personally think this is completely unnecessary, but what do I know. It works well if someone is pausing and you are quoting direct speech while trying to get a meaning across.

Example: Hi, how are you today?

Overworked and underpaid, how are you?

FOUR:

Hopefully you know this one by now. Put a comma to separate quotes. Don’t be lazy.

Example: “I told you to rinse the dishes in the sink because you tend to let milk dry,” she yelled from the kitchen to his office.

Additional Example: “Oops,” he breathed heavily walking into the kitchen, “I’ll remember next time I promise.”

FIVE:

You should also know this one. Any bit of information unnecessary to the conversation is separated in commas.

Example: The bearded man, Ron Swanson, stores bacon in various parts of his office.

SIX:

This is where the grammar elements get tricky. I didn’t learn what a dependent clause was until it was an age that brought embarrassment. So here. Let me save you if you don’t already know.

Dependent clauses are incomplete (or incomplete thoughts) that cannot function on their own. They might be missing a verb or a subject. They can be prepositional phrases.

Anyway.

Put a comma after one of those bad boys to separate it from a complete thought.

Example: When I was younger, I had a cat named Whiskers the Magical Cat. He went by DC for Danger Cat though.

SEVEN:

Remember dependent clauses? They have a friend. A more independent one that owns its own apartment and smokes imported cigars over glasses of straight brandy.

Those are independent clauses. They are essentially sentences that can function on their own. Yes. Use a comma with those bad boys. These ones are typically a bit more challenging because with them comes that annoying party girl that “whoos” loudly when they’ve had too much to drink. Those are called conjunctions.

Conjunctions connect two independent clauses. There are six of them.

FOR, AND, NOR, BUT, OR, YET, SO (FANBOYS).

Example: I hate me job, yet I cannot leave it because it pays the bills.

Additional Example: My dog is incredibly cute, but not when she chews on my houseplants.

EIGHT:

Last but not least, use a comma to separate three or more items. You can use two commas for three items, or if you’re like me you obsess over the Oxford Comma. That’s the little comma that can be arguable both necessary and unnecessary, and is after the last item listed in the series. I think it’s crucial.

Example: Growing up I had goats, chickens, turkeys, and geese.

See? Simple enough.

To know them…. Using them and remembering them is harder. It’s okay, I don’t judge your grammar errors.

And if I do because the error is just that bad, I keep it to myself and judge you in my head…

And to my dog…

But she can’t understand what I’m saying anyway.


Thank you for your time, your support, and for being a part of my journey!

Carly Mae

Written by

Carly Mae

A conversationalist on Creativity, Education, Self-Care, Life Lessons, and Writing. "No good fish goes anywhere without a porpoise."

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