Punctuation

Punctuation primer: How to use commas properly

Although many of us often send daily emails, messages or texts to our friends and family (as well as subscribers), a great number of people still seem to be confused about the basic (proper) handling of commas.  We’re not talking about tricky punctuation here, but relatively simple rules which everyone should at the very least, be made aware of.  Anyway, here are a few obvious rules which you should check out if you’re at all confused about comma usage.

First off, always remember to use commas to separate two adjectives when you can place the word “and” between them, for example:

That big, ugly person over there is scaring me.

Conversely, you wouldn’t place a comma between the words “cheap” and “little” in a case like:

“I had an awesome meal at the cheap little restaurant down the street”.

Next, always remember to put a comma before a person’s name in an instance where they are being addressed (the same concept applies to titles as well, like Ms., Mrs., Mr., Dr., etc…):

“Please open that door for me, Kenneth”

Likewise, always place commas between series of words (some people like to place a comma before “and” as well), for example:

“My favorite colors are red, green and blue”

“My favorite colors are red, green, blue, purple and orange”

Traditionally, commas are also used to separate a specific day of the month from the year.

“It says here that the person was born on August 3, 1975.”

Similarly, it’s also practical to put a comma after the year as well (also, don’t forget to stick a comma between cities and states {but not if the state is abbreviated, i.e. – VA}):

“It says here that the person was born on August 3, 1975, in Redstone, Virginia.”

Commas are also used to separate individual utterances, statements or thoughts, for instance:

“In case you hadn’t realized, my toes are on fire, so I can’t talk right now!”

In situations where there are conflicting elements in a sentence, commas are also used to provide the proper pace and intelligible interpretation:

“That’s my homemade curry, not yours.”

“Quit asking if you can borrow my pants, get your own.”

When you have a statement as well as a question in the same sentence, a comma is to be used:

“You really believe that, don’t you?”

If you’re going to use “now”, “well” or “yes” to start a sentence, then you need to use commas after them:

“Well, at least they remembered to clean the bathroom before they left.”

“Yes, I do look incredible today, thanks for noticing that.”

Naturally, commas can also be used to add the correct pacing for any other form of introductory statement, for instance:

“As the angry mailman stumbled on the curb, he suddenly realized that everyone was staring at him.”

Lastly, use commas to clearly mark “parenthetical elements” (or, sections of a sentence which could be found between parentheses and might generally be considered of secondary importance with regards to essential meaning of the sentence):

“The actor from that last show we watched, which everyone seems to have hated, wasn’t very handsome or convincing.”