English on the Internet - Written English

Comma rules

We use commas in the following situations:

1. Items in series:

surprised, pleased, happy
Eat, drink and be merry.

2. Co-ordinate Adjectives:

a large, ugly snake

3. Nouns in Direct Address:

Please, Mum, can I go out?
Sally, what are we going to have?

4. Addresses:

Sherlock Holmes lived at 221b Baker Street, London.

5. Dates

I was born on November 23, 1975.

6. Interrupters:

Few people, however, have darkroom facilities for developing their own films.

7. Appositives and Non-restrictive clauses:

Mary, who used to work in London, sent me a letter.

8. Compound Sentences:

Americans use the word schedule instead of timetable, but Canadians usually use timetable.

Use a semi-colon when there is no conjunction:
Americans use the word schedule instead of timetable; Canadians usually use timetable.

9. Introductory Elements - adverbial clauses, participial phrases, prepositional phrases followed by an infinitive:

If someone makes a mistake, no one will know who did it!
Thinking he had drowned, we returned to our base.

No comma:
No one will know who did it if someone makes a mistake.

10. Quotations:

"I can take it home for dog," said the boy.
"I will come," she said, "when I am ready."

© October 1999 English on the Internet www.aj.cz