Comma Cheat Sheet Use a comma: 1. Before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or nor, for, so, yet) joining independent clauses. Nearly everyone has heard of love at first sight, but I fell in love at first dance. 2. After an introductory word group. When Irwin was ready to eat, his cat jumped onto the table and started to purr. 3. Between all items in a series. Bubbles of air, leaves, ferns, bits of wood, and insects are often found trapped in amber. 4. Between coordinate adjectives not joined by and. Do not use a comma between cumulative adjectives. Coordinate Adjectives: Patients with severe, irreversible brain damage should not be put on life support. - Test for coordinate adjectives by inserting and between the adjectives. If the sentence sounds smooth it is a coordinate adjective. Cumulative Adjectives: Ira ordered a rich chocolate layer cake for his mother’s birthday dinner. 5. Use commas to set off nonrestrictive elements (adjective clauses, phrases functioning as adjectives, appositives). Ed’s country house, which is located on thirteen acres, was completely furnished with bats in the rafters and mice in the kitchen. (Adjective clause) The helicopter, with its 100,000-candlepower spotlight illuminating the area, circled above. (Phrase as an adjective) Darwin’s most important book, On The Origin of Species, was the result of many years of research. (Appositive) 6. To set off transitional and parenthetical expressions, absolute phrases, and contrasted elements. Minh did not understand our language; moreover, he was unfamiliar with our customs. (Transitional expressions: for example, as a matter of fact, in other words, etc) Evolution, so far as we know, doesn’t work this way. (Parenthetical expression) Elvis Presley made music industry history in the 1950s, his records having sold more than ten million copies. (Absolute phrase: phrase that modifies the entire sentence) The Epicurean philosophers sought mental, not bodily, pleasures. (Contrast) 7. To set off nouns of direct address, the words yes and no, interrogative tags, and mild interjections. Yes, the loan will probably be approved. The film was faithful to the book, wasn’t it? 8. To set off direct quotations. “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies,” wrote philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. 9. With dates, addresses, titles, and numbers. On December 12, 1890, orders were sent out for the arrest of Sitting Bull. John Lennon was born in Liverpool, England, in 1940. Please send the package to Greg Tarvin, at 12 Main Street, Washington, Illinois 61571. Sandra Barnes, M.D., performed the surgery. 10. To prevent confusion. To err is human; to forgive, divine. All of the catastrophes that we had feared might happen, happened. Patients who can, walk up and down the halls several times a day. Practice Time: Insert commas where needed, please note which rule applies to each example. 1. Your careless inconsiderate behavior could cause you serious problems. 2. Small farming a very important occupation is disappearing. 3. Oil which is lighter than water rises to the surface. 4. As a celestial goddess she regulated the course of the heavenly bodies and controlled the alternating seasons. 5. Mark Twain's early novels I believe stand the test of time. 6. Madame de Stael was an attractive gracious lady. 7. The closet contained worn clothes old shoes and dirty hats.
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