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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