One thing I see often while edit­ing client doc­u­ments is that peo­ple don’t seem to know when to use a com­ma. I thought I’d take today’s post to quick­ly out­line when you should use the com­ma.

Here are 8 instances when you should use com­mas and a cou­ple of exam­ples for each. If you stick to these 8 cir­cum­stances, you may very well become an expert com­ma user.

1. Separating successive list items

  • I have a son, a daugh­ter, two sis­ters, and a broth­er.
  • My Pin­ter­est boards include pins on food, fash­ion, and fun.

2. Separating adjectives that modify the same noun

  • The quick, brown, sly fox jumped over the lazy dog.
  • My favourite piece of fur­ni­ture is a a green, over­stuffed, soft arm­chair in my liv­ing room.

3. Before conjunctions linking independent clauses

  • I need to buy some ice cream, but I don’t have enough mon­ey.
  • I am afraid of heights, so I avoid jump­ing off tall cliffs.

4. After introductory words or phrases

  • After sup­per, let’s eat dessert.
  • Before you enter the house, please remove your shoes.

5. Around nonrestrictive phrases

  • New York City, one of the largest cities in the world, is busy.
  • The dog I found, which was brown and had only three legs, was reunit­ed with its own­er tonight.

6. With dates and addresses

  • His birth­day is April 1, 1954. (Note: this is an Amer­i­can date for­mat.)
  • Leth­bridge, Alber­ta is one of the five cheap­est cities to live in Cana­da.

7. When directly addressing someone

  • Mary, do you still love me?
  • I’d like you, Jack and Jill, to take care of this pre­sen­ta­tion.

8. At the salutation and close of a letter

  • Dear  John,
  • Sin­cere­ly, Jane

Are you aware of any oth­er legit­i­mate time when you can use a com­ma? Share them in the com­ments below.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness. Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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