Many writers, including native English speakers, say that commas are confusing. They're not always sure when to use them or what purpose they serve. But there is no reason to be confused or intimidated by commas. Following a few rules will help you use these punctuation marks clearly and effectively. Read the rules listed on this page. Watch the video for an example of how to figure out if a comma is needed in a sentence. Finally, complete the exercises and place the commas in the correct locations.
People often think commas are tricky and mysterious, and while they may be tricky if we aren't familiar with the rules, they are not mysterious at all. They are not subjective, and no matter what your third-grade teacher told you, it's probably not a good idea to place a comma wherever you feel the need to take a breath. What happens if you have a stuffy nose from a cold? Your essay might be littered with unnecessary commas.

There are actually some pretty clear-cut rules regarding commas, and while some rules seem to be clearer than others, at least in terms of how much most people understand, there are some basic comma rules that can help you know when and when not to use a comma.

Tips from the Professor

Students often struggle with commas when it comes to using them correctly with the coordinating conjunctions – and, but, or, for, nor, so, and  yet.

The important thing to remember is that you have to keep in mind what else is around that conjunction. You can't assume that every time you use and you'll need a comma. Sometimes, you will, and, sometimes, you won't.

In this interactive video, the Grammar Professor will explain more about why you have to think about what surrounds your coordinating conjunction before you can decide whether or not you need that comma.

Find the missing commas in the following activities.

Source: Excelsior Online Writing Lab,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Last modified: Friday, May 21, 2021, 1:40 PM