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Following are situations when commas are needed:
Use commas to separate items in a series if there are three or more items. Also, use commas for a list of adjectives which independently describe a noun.
- Last weekend we did some camping, fishing, and rock climbing.
- We enjoyed the warm, sunny, beautiful afternoon.
Use a comma with a connecting word (and, but, or, nor, so, yet) when you connect two ideas in a compound sentence.
- Sam was supposed to be here, but I haven’t seen him all day.
- She told me to check at the library, so I went there this morning.
Use a comma after the first thought in a complex sentence if the sentence begins with the connecting word. Some commonly used connecting words are if, because, as, when, while, after, before, unless and although.
- Unless you call me, I will expect to meet you at noon for lunch.
- Although I dislike crowds, I enjoyed visiting New York City.
Use a comma after an introductory word or phrase, or a transitional word or phrase.
- After using this product, I will never buy it.
- For about a week, they didn’t have telephone service.
- However, the package never arrived.
Exception to the rule above: If an introductory phrase is fewer than four words long, you can leave out the comma after it. (This does not apply to a transition such as therefore, which should have a comma.)
- On the bus there were about forty musicians.
Use a comma or a pair of commas to set off interruptions in a sentence, especially if the words give unnecessary information and could be left out.
- My dentist, Dr. Lin, has an office downtown.
- The weather, according to the TV forecast, is going to get worse tomorrow.
- Nothing can be done, I think, to save the kitten.
- They found the missing ring, fortunately.
- Our neighbor, who works fifty miles away, leaves at 5:00 every morning. (See also Relative Clauses.)
Use commas around a direct contrast (with not) or short question tagged onto a sentence.
- We should use the word “enthusiastic,” not “arrogant,” to describe the team.
- You got there on time, didn’t you?
Use commas around an expression such as “she said” or “we replied” when it is attached to a quotation.
- “You need to go home right away,” said Aunt Fiona.
- He remarked, “I’d rather not move to Boston, but I feel I have no choice.”