Grammar Basics: How to use Commas Correctly

The comma is an often misused or underused element of grammar. Language arts teachers often smile at their student's 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:


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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