1. Series of Adjectives
Use a comma when a series of three or more adjectives modify a
Sal’s band plays loud, abrasive, complex music.
2. Series of Items
Use a comma to separate three or more items in a series.
Anna’s grandmother is good at making fudge, nursing hurt animals, tending fruit trees, telling stories, and playing Scrabble.
3. FANBOYS – For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So
Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction that joins two complete sentences.
Glenn was craving Krispy Kreme donuts, but he knew it was a bad idea to eat too much sugar before going to bed.
4. Introductory Clauses
Use a comma after material that introduces a complete sentence. NOTE: There are six types of
Since my parents enjoy watching movies, they go every weekend. (Dependent word)
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a traditional holiday. (Preposition)
To learn ballroom dancing correctly, you should take lessons. (Infinitive verb = “to” + verb)
Walking home from school, the young boy found a fifty-dollar bill. (Present participle)
Dr. King said, “At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.” (Signal verb)
Elaine caught the flu. Therefore, she had to miss her cousin’s wedding. (Transitional word)
5. Nonessential vs. Essential Clauses
Use commas around a “nonessential clause,” which is material that is extra information and does not change the meaning of the sentence when taken out.
My brother, who is single, lives in New York City. (nonessential)
My brother who is single lives in New York City. (essential)
Use commas to set off information that “interrupts” the flow of a sentence. Interrupters can be emotional interjections (oh, well, wow), parenthetical expressions (to be exact, in fact, it seems), and transitional words (moreover, however, therefore).
People think my English accent sounds fake. My girlfriend, however, thinks it’s attractive.