“Ah, the comma. Of all the punctuation marks in English, this one is perhaps the most abused and misused. And it’s no wonder. There are lots of rules about comma usage, and often the factors that determine whether you should use one are quite subtle. But fear not! Below, you’ll find guidance for the trickiest comma questions.
What Is a Comma?
While a period ends a sentence, a comma indicates a smaller break. Some writers think of a comma as a soft pause—a punctuation mark that separates words, clauses, or ideas within a sentence.
Comma with Subjects and Verbs
With few exceptions, a comma should not separate a subject from its verb.
My friend Cleo, is a wonderful singer.
Writers are often tempted to insert a comma between a subject and verb this way because speakers sometimes pause at that point in a sentence. But in writing, the comma only makes the sentence seem stilted.
My friend Cleo is a wonderful singer.
Be especially careful with long or complex subjects:
The things that cause me joy, may also cause me pain.
The things that cause me joy may also cause me pain.
Navigating through snow, sleet, wind, and darkness, is a miserable way to travel.
Navigating through snow, sleet, wind, and darkness is a miserable way to travel.
Comma Between Two Nouns in a Compound Subject or Object
Don’t separate two nouns that appear together as a compound subject or compound object.
Cleo, and her band will be playing at Dockside Diner next Friday.
Cleo and her band will be playing at Dockside Diner next Friday.
Cleo will wear a sparkly red blazer, and high heels.
Cleo will wear a sparkly red blazer and high heels.
When a subject or object is made up of two items and the second item is parenthetical, you can set off the second item with commas—one before it and one after it. But you don’t need a comma when you’re simply listing two items.“
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