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Between Independent Clauses: (IC)
When the independent clauses in a sentence are joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, or nor) use a comma to separate them. Note that the comma precedes the conjunction.
If the independent clauses are very short and very closely related, do not use a comma to separate them.
The carpet is beige and the drapes are brown.
In a Series: (SER)
Unless all the items are joined by conjunctions, use a comma after all but the last item in a series of three or more items.
When the series ends with etc., and so on, or a similar expression, use a comma before and after the expression. If the expression occurs at the end of a sentence, no comma follows it, of course.
You will find pens, pencils, notebooks, etc., in the stockroom.
Tables, lamps, chairs, and so on, will be on sale next week.
Do not use a comma before an ampersand (&), which is often used to join the parts of a firm name.
Davega, Moran & Lee is the leading architectural firm in this area.
Between Coordinate Adjectives (CA)
When two or more adjectives separately modify the same noun, use a comma after each adjective except the last one unless all the adjectives are joined by conjunctions.
This city has several long, narrow, dark streets.
Yesterday was a bright, warm spring day.
But: We had a brief and interesting but unproductive meeting yesterday.
To determine whether adjectives are coordinate and should be separated by a comma, say them in a different order and insert and between them. If the result makes sense, use a comma to separate the adjectives.
After Introductory Words (INTRO)
Use a comma after accordingly, consequently, yes, no, however, therefore, otherwise, or a similar word used to introduce a sentence or an independent clause within a sentence.
After Introductory Phrases
Always use a comma after an introductory infinitive or participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence or at the beginning of an independent clause within a clause.
Many writers use a comma after all introductory prepositional phrases. However, a comma is not necessary after a short introductory prepositional phrase unless it contains a verb form, unless omitting the comma would cause misreading, or unless the phrase is a transitional expression or an absolute phrase. An absolute phrase is one that has no grammatical relationship to the rest of the sentence..
At the end of its first year of operation, the company showed a small loss.
On June 15 you will receive the materials you requested. Or: On June 15, you will receive the materials you requested.
In order to succeed, we must work harder and smarter. (The phrase contains the infinitive to succeed.)
By ordering now, we should save a few hundred dollars. (This short phrase contains the gerund ordering.)
If done properly, the corrections will not be noticeable. (The phrase is short, but it contains the participle done.)
In my opinion, everyone deserves a three-week vacation with pay. (In my opinion is an absolute phrase. It has no grammatical relationship to any part of the rest of the sentence.)
Construction is three months behind schedule; as a result, we will be unable to move into the new offices until the end of May. (This phrase functions as a transitional expression.)
In the spring, rain may cause flooding. (The comma is necessary to prevent misreading. Not: In spring rain may cause flooding.)
With Parenthetic Expressions (PAR)
Use commas to set off a word, phrase, or clause that interrupts the main thought of a sentence and is not essential to the meaning or the grammatical completeness of a sentence. As illustrated below, such an expression sometimes qualifies or amends a statement, provides additional information, or contrasts with part of a statement. If the parenthetic expression occurs at the end of the sentence, do not use a comma after it.
However, do not use commas to set off an element that is essential to the meaning or grammatical completeness of a sentence.
Nothing that we heard produced any change in our opinion. (Our opinion was not changed by anything that we heard.)
The company which offers the best service at the lowest price is Timmons Associates. (But: Timmons Associates, which offers the best service at the lowest price, is the company awarded the contract.)
With Appositives (AP)
Use commas to set off a word or a group of words that is not essential to the meaning of a preceding noun or pronoun, such a word or group of words is a nonrestrictive appositive. The appositive usually restates or gives more information about the noun that precedes it in some way.
Dr. Pulaski, the principal speaker, is an industrial psychologist.
Her first book, Principles of Effective Management, was published in 1984.
He, Charles Houston, bought and renovated the building a few years ago.
If the word or group of words is essential to the identification or meaning of the preceding noun or pronoun (a restrictive apposition), do not use commas to set it off.
The word overdo should not be confused with the word overdue. (If the words overdo and overdue were omitted, the sentence would not make sense. In each instance, the appositive is needed to make the meaning of word clear.)
Have you seen the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark?
We members of the committee should try to obtain ideas and suggestions from others. (Members of the committee is necessary to clarify the meaning of the pronoun we.)
With Names in Direct Address (DA)
Use commas to set off the name or title of a person being spoken to directly.
For Indicating Omissions (OM)
Use a comma to indicate the omission of one or more words that can be easily understood from the context of the rest of the sentence.
Carol is our general counsel; Bob, our business manager.
The first conference was conducted by Paul; the most recent one, by Gina.
With Repeated Expressions (REP)
Use commas to separate words repeated for emphasis.
With Direct Quotations (DQ)
Use commas to set off a direst quotation from the rest of the sentence. A direct quotation is an exact repetition of spoken or written words. Note the placement of the commas in the following sentences. Periods and commas ALWAYS go inside the quotation marks.
With Titles, Degrees, and Seniority Terms
Use commas to set off titles and academic degrees following the names of persons.
O. J. Wilford, director of human resources, is reviewing the company’s employment policies and procedures.
Esther Perez, Ph.D., is an expert on Latin American Affairs.
Unless you know that the owner of the name uses a comma before Jr., Sr., II, or a similar seniority term do not use commas to set off the term.
Eric Gustafson Jr. and Jack Moulton II are among the stockholders.
If the owner of the name uses a comma before the seniority term, use a comma after the term except when it occurs at the end of the sentence.
Mr. and Mrs. Earl M. Lawton, Sr., contributed to the scholarship fund.
One of the leaders of the local chapter is Allison McRae, III.
However, if a seniority term, academic degree, or similar designation is in the possessive form, do not use a comma after it.
James Donaldson, Sr.’s opinion is that the expense is fully deductible. (Note that the owner of the name does use a comma before the seniority term.)
Are you sure that this Darrell Jenkins IV’s current home address? (Note that the owner of the name does not use a comma before the seniority term.)
Have you read either of Samuel Petrie, Ed. D.’s historical novels?
With Inc. and Similar Terms
Do not use a comma before or after Inc., Ltd., Limited, Incorporated, or a similar firm-name ending unless the official name of the organization (in the company's letterhead stationery) is written with a comma. If a comma is used before the term, use a comma after it except at the end of a sentence.
Within a sentence, use a comma before and after the year when it follows the month and day, do not use a comma before or after the year when it follows the month alone.
Do you have a copy of the February 3, 1986, issue of Business Week magazine?
The company was founded on June 10, 1955.
But: I think that the March 1985 sales figures should have been used in the comparison.
Also use a comma to separate a day of the week from the rest of a date, as illustrated in the sentence below.
She began working for our company on Monday, January 5, 1987, as a compensation specialist.
Within a sentence, use a comma after the name of the addressee (if included), the street name, the city name, and the state name unless it is followed by a ZIP+4 Code. Use a comma after--but not before--a ZIP or Zip+4 code.
Their stay in Niagara Falls, New York, was a very enjoyable one.
Please write to Ms. Audrey M. Greene, 2244 Lakeside Road, Rockford, Illinois 61102, as soon as possible.
Use a comma to separate thousands from hundreds, millions from hundred thousands, and so on, in numbers with five or more digits. Unless it is necessary for consistency in style within a particular passage, a comma is not necessary in a number with four digits.
Do not use commas in numbers that represent years, page numbers, house numbers, ZIP Codes, telephone numbers, serial numbers, and decimal fractions.
Between Consecutive Numbers
When two consecutive numbers are expressed in the same way (both in figures or both in words), use a comma to separate them.
In 1986, 12,357 members and associate members participated in the survey.
Of the four, two have been accepted.
With Weights, Measurements, Ages, and Similar Expressions
Do not use commas to separate the parts of one weight, one capacity, one age, or a similar expression.
The net weight is 2 pounds 5 ounces.
Their daughter is exactly 1 year 2 months 4 days old today.
When numbers are used with metric terms, use a space instead of a comma to separate thousands from hundreds, millions from hundred thousands, and so on.
12.320 km (kilometers) 68 100 m2 (square meters) 1 342 920 m3 (cubic meters)
©Division of Business,
Economics & Mathematics, WVUP, 2011.
Steve.Morgan@mail.wvu.edu ;Business Division Office: