12 Comma Rules Everyone Should Know

Memorize these comma rules before you write your next essay, letter, or email!

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comma before conjunction linking two independent clausesPhoto: Shutterstock

Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction that links two independent clauses

Example: I went to the beach, and I got a sunburn.

The two independent clauses in this sentence are “I went to the beach” and “I got a sunburn.” The coordinating conjunction is “and.” Other coordinating conjunctions can be: but, for, or, nor, so, yet, and. After you memorize these comma rules, brush up on these spelling and grammar mistakes spell check won't catch.

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comma after introductory wordPhoto: Shutterstock

Use commas after introductory words

Example: Finally, I went to the beach.

It’s common to use adverbs to start a sentence. Always add a comma after adverbs that end in “-ly.” Other introductory words or phrases that require a comma after them include "however," "on the other hand," and "furthermore." Now that you know this comma rule, check out the 11 little-known punctuation marks we should be using.

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comma when the sentnece begins with yes or noPhoto: Shutterstock

Use a comma when the sentence begins with “Yes” or “No”

Example: No, I did not apply enough sunscreen at the beach.

A clue that lets you know that a comma is necessary is that the "Yes" or "No" could be a sentence of their own. Check out these weird facts about punctuation marks you see everywhere.

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comma after a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentencePhoto: Shutterstock

Use a comma after a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence

Example: When I went to the beach, I got a sunburn.

The dependent clause in this sentence is, “When I went to the beach.” It contains a subject and verb but it can’t stand on its own, therefore a comma comes after it.

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comma to separate itemsPhoto: Shutterstock

Use commas to separate items

Example: When I was at the beach I went swimming, fishing, and on a walk.

This is one of the comma rules that can cause some controversy. Some people argue that the last comma before the word "and," also known as an Oxford comma, is unnecessary. In case you were wondering, here's when to use "e.g." instead of "i.e."

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comma before or after quotesPhoto: Shutterstock

Use a comma before or after quotes

Example: My mom said, “Put some aloe on your sunburn.”

If the attribution comes after the quote, then place the comma inside the quotation marks at the end. For example: “Put some aloe on your sunburn,” said my mom.

Check out these 20 jokes ever grammar nerd will appreciate!

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comma between city and statePhoto: Shutterstock

Use a comma between a city and province (or city and state)

Example: The beach I went to is in Long Point, Ontario.

Also, use commas to separate each element in an address. For example: “The address of the beach is 100 Austin Parkway, Long Point, Ontario N0E 1M0.”

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comma to separate negation in a sentencePhoto: Shutterstock

Use a comma to separate negation in a sentence

Example: I wore Banana Boat, not Neutrogena, sunscreen when I went to the beach.

If the negation occurs at the end of the sentence, you still need to separate it with a comma. If you already know all of these comma rules, you'll probably know which letter starts the fewest words in the English language.

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comma to separate the elements in a full datePhoto: Shutterstock

Use a comma to separate the elements in a full date (weekday, month and day, year)

Example: Friday, June 8, 2018, was a great day to go to the beach.

Don’t forget to also add a comma after the date to separate it from the rest of the sentence. If just the month and year are mentioned in the sentence there does not need to be a comma.

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comma between two adjectives that modify the same nounPhoto: Shutterstock

Use a comma between two adjectives that modify the same noun

Example: The big, hot sun had no mercy on my pale skin.

When the two adjectives are coordinate adjectives—meaning they can be reversed or the word “and” can be added between them and the sentence will still make sense—a comma must separate them.

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comma for direct addressPhoto: Shutterstock

Use a comma for direct address

Example: I’m going to the beach today, Mom.

Always use a comma before directly addressing someone or something in a sentence.

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comma before every sequence of three numbersPhoto: Shutterstock

Use a comma before every sequence of three numbers

Example: The temperature outside felt like it was 235,000 degrees.

This rule does not apply to house numbers or years. Now, make sure you never, ever say these words and phrases that make you sound stupid.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest