Grammar Basics: How to use Commas Correctly

10 Quick Lessons on
This Element of
Punctuation

The comma is an often misused or underused element of grammar. Language arts teachers often smile at their students use of commas as a kind of  “decoration” on sentences, perhaps placed in various locations in hopes that the students will get some kind of credit for inserting them. And sometimes teachers get a laugh when students don’t use commas at all!

Consider these examples:

Incorrect: Let’s sit down and eat Dad.

Correct: Let’s sit down and eat, Dad.

The incorrect example could have disastrous consequences. 😉 So let’s take a look at a few correct ways of using commas.

1. Use commas in lists:

Tom, Mary, and Joe are going to the opera this Saturday.
We will need sandwiches, fruit, cookies, and lemonade for our picnic.

2. Use a comma to separate a city and state:

Lincoln, Nebraska
San Diego, California

3. Use a comma in the salutation of  a letter or email:

Dear Mr. Williams,

4. Use a comma in the closing of a letter or email:

Sincerely,

5. Use a comma after an introductory phrase:

After going to the grocery store, Tom headed home for the day.

6. Use a comma in dialogue:

“Don’t forget to study for your spelling test,” Nancy reminded.

7. Use a comma to separate adjectives:

The tall, athletic boy walked across the football field.

8. Use a comma to set off appositives (words or phrases that define another word):

On my hike I saw an osprey, a kind of bird.

9. Use commas to interrupt a sentence:

The puppy I told you about, with the soft brown hair, is available to adopt.

10. Use commas in dates and addresses:

We are going to Disneyland on August 24, 2020.
I live at 234 Mulberry Street, Ashton, Florida.

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