An Easy Guide to Using a Comma Before And – INK Blog

1. Comma Before ‘And’ in a List

1.1 Lists of Two Items

Do not use a comma before “and” if a list contains two items or groups of words:

They like watching dolphins and whales

They like watching dolphins, and whales

I hate doing laundry and cleaning bathrooms.

I hate doing laundry, and cleaning bathrooms.

A list can contain longer groups of words. In such a situation, you can add a comma to clarify so that the reader can spot the two elements more easily. For example:

England and Denmark and Italy and Spain will play for a place in the final.

England and Denmark, and Italy and Spain will play for a place in the final.

Three more examples where no comma is required:

I love cats and dogs.

My sister is very intelligent and competent.

High and increasing public debts are only sustainable in a low-interest rate environment.

1.2 Lists of Three or More Items

Using a comma before “and” in a list of three or more items is often optional.

I had bacon, eggs, and a cup of coffee.

I had bacon, eggs and a cup of coffee.

This comma is known as the Oxford comma or serial comma. Many fiction and nonfiction authors prefer the Oxford comma.

The young man loves watching dolphins, seahorses, and whales.

By contrast, a wide range of magazines and newspapers tend to omit it.

The suspect went to the mall, ate at the food court and went home.

It is a stylistic choice whether to use the Oxford comma. However, it is important to be consistent and avoid switching back and forth, except when the omission of the Oxford comma could cause uncertainty or confusion

The ingredients of my recipe are eggs, chocolate and peanut butter and sugar.

The ingredients of my recipe are eggs, chocolate and peanut butter, and sugar.

The comma after “butter” makes clear that “chocolate and peanut butter” represents a unit (a previously prepared ingredient).

Comma before “or”

Video

Should I use a comma after a time phrase such as “in the meantime”?

A time phrase is something that gives details of the time that something happened. It might be a single word or a complete phrase. Some examples of time phrases are tomorrow, at 2pm, five hundred years ago, and in the meantime.

When a time phrase adds information to an independent clause or sentence that follows it then it should be followed by a comma. If the phrase or sentence comes before the time phrase then it shouldn’t have a comma before it.

Correct: Five hundred years ago, there were no grammar books.

Incorrect: Five hundred years ago there were no grammar books.

Correct: There were no grammar books five hundred years ago.

Incorrect: There were no grammar books, five hundred years ago.

Correct: Yesterday, there was no new news.

Incorrect: Yesterday there was no new news.

Correct: There was no new news yesterday.

Incorrect: There was no new news, yesterday.

Should I use a comma before or after “please” in a sentence?

If please comes at the end of a sentence then you should almost always use a comma before it. The only exception is when you are not using it to ask nicely, but as part of the sentence, e.g. You can do as you please.

Correct: Can you help, please?

Incorrect: Can you help please?

Correct: Do as you please.

Incorrect: Do as you, please.

When please is used at the start of a sentence then you can choose to use a comma depending on if you’d like to emphasize it.

Correct: Please, can you help? (emphasis)

Correct: Please can you help? (no emphasis)

Please can appear in the middle of a sentence. This is quite unusual. It might appear as:

  • part of a phrase no commas needed, e.g. Don’t forget to say please and thank you.
  • as a verb with no commas needed, e.g. He wants to please us.
  • after a conjunction or at the start of a clause where you should use a comma after it if you want to emphasize it, e.g. You can go, but please, be careful. or If you go, please be careful.

Rule #7. You should use a comma with direct quotatio

It is a simple rule many people often forget to follow. When you see a direct quotation, be sure to use a comma.

“I’d rather die than accept this job offer,” she told her friend.

Exact punctuation here is a matter of style, similar to the Oxford comma. In the American and Canadian English, it is common to put the comma inside the quotation mark, while the British style accepts placing the comma after it.

Make the meaning clear with a comma

Distinguish a verb from a noun with a comma

TWO COMMAS ONE COMMA NO COMMAS

When each item is separated by a comma, the reader can expect that the items are the same (parallel) word forms.  For example, below the person does three activities; two commas separate three verbs.

For words in which the verb form is the same as the noun form, a comma separates like (same form) elements.  Below, the person performs two activities; one comma separates two verb phrases.

The same sentence can be written without any commas; no list items exist. It is a clause with one verb and two coordinated (and) items. The person perfoms one activity on two  items.


He kicks, rocks, and rolls.   verb + verb + verb. rock(V) – perform dance or music  

kicksHe kicks rocks, and rolls. [verb phrase] + verb. This sentence is silly or nonsense.

kicksHe kicks rocks and rolls. verb [noun + noun]. rock (N) – stone; rolls (N) – bread

watersHe waters, weeds, and plants. verb + verb + verb. weed (V) – remove ugly plants

watersHe waters weeds and plants. [verb phrase] + verb. (nonsense) weed (N) – unwanted plant growth

watersHe waters weeds and plants. verb [noun + noun]

performsHe performs, flips, and spins. verb + verb + verb.

performsHe performs flips and spins. [verb phrase] + verb. flip (N) – 360 turn-over

He performs flips and spins. verb [noun + noun]

nonsense (N) – Something that is silly (playfully illogical) or not logical

Rule #4. You should use commas after introductory words

Sometimes you need an introductory word (“however”) or group of words (“on the other hand”) to start your sentence. There might be different reasons for it, including providing more information and preparing the reader to the main part of a sentence. The rule is that a comma should follow such words and group of words.

Finally, I had enough money to buy this car.

Tip: it is common to use adverbs as introductory words, and lots of them end in “ly.” So, if you have a word ending in “ly” at the beginning of your sentence, be sure to put a comma after it.

No Comma Necessary for Short Clauses

  • Craig joined the Army and Darren joined the Marines. Craig joined the Army, and  Darren joined the Mari
  • Craig joined the Army, and Darren joined the Marines.
  • (Both versions are acceptable.)

Commas Before And: An Overview

Commas Before And are used primarily in two specific situations:

1. Joining Independent Clauses With a Conjunction

An independent clause is a phrase that expresses a complete thought. It must have both a subject and a verb. In other words, it can stand alone as a sentence.

A sentence can contain two independent clauses if they’re linked by a conjunction such as and, or, and but. (Without the conjunction, two independent clauses typically form a run-on sentence). A comma is required after the final word of the first clause, before and (or whatever conjunction you’re using).

Take these two independent clauses:

Peter often went to sci-fi conventions.

He always dressed in costume.

If you join them together with only a comma, they form a comma splice.

Peter often went to sci-fi conventions, he always dressed in costume.

If you add an and after the comma, the sentence becomes grammatically correct.

Peter often went to sci-fi conventions, and he always dressed in costume.

A sentence can contain two independent clauses if they’re linked by a conjunction such as but. Without the conjunction “but,” the two independent clauses linked only by a comma will result to a run-on sentence which is grammatically incorrect.

Exceptions to the rule:

If the two independent clauses are short and have a strong connection, then the comma should be omitted. Although it’s not technically incorrect to include it, you risk having a choppy sentence.

Peter wrote and Jonathan illustrated.

2. Before the Next-To-Last Item in a List

Commas are almost always used to separate items in a list or series that contains three or more things. More specifically, some lists contain a comma that’s known as the Oxford comma. This punctuation sits immediately after the list’s next-to-last item, just before the and or the or.

Animal-loving Judy always had a house filled with dogs, cats, birds, and hamsters.

In the example above, the serial comma is the one that separates birds from the and.

Exceptions to the Rule: In simple lists, a comma before and isn’t always necessary and doesn’t actually enhance a sentence. Sometimes, the omission of this serial comma is even advisable.

In fact, the Oxford comma is a hotly debated point in modern grammar, and ultimately, it comes down to a stylistic choice.

Carol likes to mix peas, corn, and carrots.

Carol likes to mix peas, corn and carrots.

Certain style guides, such as the AP Stylebook, don’t advocate using this serial comma unless it’s absolutely necessary for preserving a sentence’s meaning.

Subordinate clause followed by comma

When a subordinate (or dependent) clause is used to start a sentence, a comma after the clause indicates a slight pause and improves readability.

Examples
  • find shelter.
  • , his eyeballs explode.
  • , you must leave him.
  • , she won’t stop trying.

The comma is generally omitted if the independent clause comes first.

Examples
  • if it starts raining frogs.
  • when he gets angry.
  • because you love him.
  • until she stands on Everest’s summit.

Comma before contrast clauses

Insert a comma before contrast clauses. These clauses imply contrast and begin with words like although, though, whereas, while, and even if. (The slight pause lent by the comma emphasizes the contrast.)

Examples
  • She speaks our language, .
  • Maya likes tea, .

Of course, when while means “at the same time as” rather than “whereas,” no contrast is implied, and the comma should be omitted.

Example
  • Nothing had changed .

Renaissance Man

Read for Errors

Read for Errors

As a teacher astronomer inventor father, Albert is frequently called a Renaissance man. He adores his four children: Anna Haley Nina Milo. He loves spending the weekends with his children showing them the stars teaching them all he knows. They often go on field trips visit planetariums and observatories look at the stars together.

Albert has written astronomy stories for children: "Astro Anna" "Haley’s Comet" "Nina’s Nine Planets" "Milo the Moon Mouse".

Albert likes to name the stories after his children because it amuses it honors it inspires them. Albert teaches physics astronomy mathematics at a nearby university. His students like his ability to explain complex things in simple ways to inspire their love of learning to listen to their ideas. Last year, his students won first prize for the most creative innovative promising new inventions.  More than anything, Albert loves to spend his time sitting reading thinking.

astronomy (N) – the scientific study of the stars and planets

comet (N) – a body that moves around the sun with a central mass surrounded by dust and gas, usually with a  tail.

complex (n. / adj.) – complicated, having many parts

field trip (N) – a lesson in which the class goes  outside of the classroom to learn

innovative (Adj)  – new, creative, original thinking

inspire (V) – affect someone with a feeling of wanting to do something great, influence, move someone to action with a feeling

inventor (N) – person who has original ideas and creates new things

observatory (n) – a building equipped with a large telescope for viewing stars, planets, and the moon

physics (N) – the science concerned with the study of physical objects and substances, and of natural forces such as light, heat, and movement

planetarium (N) – a theater with a dome ceiling for showing the movement of the stars and the planets

promising (Adj) – having a very good possibility of success

Renaissance man – a person with expertise, knowledge, in many fields, an enlightened person

Edit the sentences for commas

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Commas in dates

In American usage, commas set off the year in an exact date.

Examples
  • Maya was born on July 18, .
  • It was on September 23, , that a spaceship landed on a glacier in Greenland.
  • On December 22, , Farley was abducted by aliens.
Tip

Don’t use commas when you mention only the month and year. Examples Poor: We visited Greenland in . Preferred: We visited Greenland in .

Note

In British English, commas are often omitted because the day comes before the month, and typographical separation is not necessary between day and year. Examples The war ended on . Farley went missing on and reappeared on , not having aged a single day.

“And” at the end of a list – English teachers say no comma!

Let’s start things off with a list.

When this list consists of just two items, you wouldn’t ever need to put a comma before the “and”. No Brit would ever say “Fish and, chips”, we just say “Fish and Chips”. But what about when this list consists of more than one item.

Most English teachers will tell us that you shouldn’t put a comma before “and” at the end of a long list. They will tell you off if you write, “I got eggs, milk, and bacon”.

And just to be clear, lists can also consist of phrases as well as words.

“I went shopping, walked the dog, and took out the bins” is equally incorrect- according to English teachers.

The Oxford Comma debate

However, language changes and evolves all the time, and there is now a valid argument for using the “oxford comma”.

Let’s say you’re describing your family, and you say…

“In my family, there are my parents, my brother, and my sister”. So far, that looks like a regular list, but when we drop the comma…

“In my family, there are my parents, my brother and my sister”. It now looks as though the items listed after the comma are examples of the speaker’s parents. Meaning that he is a result of sibling incest.

Examples of “And” and the end of a list

Take a look at these lists, half with, half without the oxford comma. I’ll let you decide whether or not it should remain.

With

“Apples, oranges, and pears”.

“I’ve cooked dinner, done the washing up, and ate a pie”.

“I have a head, two legs, a heart, 3 lungs, and a beard”.

“You’ve saved the castle, rescued the princess, and slain the dragon!”

Without

“Three, four and five”.

“To survive, you need water, oxygen and love”.

“Wash your hands, keep six metres apart and don’t touch your face”.

“My favourite rulers are Henry VII, Julias Caesar and Batman”.

A More Complicated Example

  • Applicants must be able to tell jokes and sing, and they must be able to dance.
  • (NB: The first “and” is just a conjunction in a list.)
Applicants must be able to tell jokes and sing, andthey must be able to dance.

What are the 8 Commas Rules?

Whether it comes before and or elsewhere in a sentence, following basic comma rules can make using this misunderstood punctuation mark a breeze. In a nutshell, we use commas to:

  • list items,
  • separate adjectives,
  • join independent clauses,
  • offset introductory and nonessential phrases,
  • introduce quotations, and
  • maintain flow.

Whew! Take a breath. Let’s take a closer look at each of these rules.

Rule 1: Use a Comma in a Series or List

When creating a list of three or more simple words, items, or concepts, use a comma to separate each word or word group.

She made a casserole out of chicken, pasta, and leftover broccoli.

Note: Using a comma after the next-to-last item in a list is a stylistic choice and may depend on the style guide you’re following.

Rule 2: Separate Adjectives With a Comma

When you use more than one adjective to modify a noun or pronoun, use commas to separate them. This is only true if the adjectives’ order is interchangeable.

She had a happy, healthy baby.

Note: This could easily read: She had a healthy, happy baby.

Rule 3: Use a Comma When Joining Two Independent Clauses

When a conjunction (for example: and, or, and but) links two independent clauses, you need to put a comma before the conjunction.

He walked through the building, but he didn’t turn on any lights.

Note: An independent clause must have a subject and verb. It should express a complete thought.
A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are joined together using only a comma.

Rule 4: If a Sentence Begins With a Dependent Clause, Use a Comma After It

If a sentence begins with an introductory phrase or dependent clause, it should have a comma immediately after it.

If you’re going to the store, pick me up a gallon of milk.

Rule 5: Offset Nonessential Words, Phrases, or Clauses With Commas

If a sentence contains nonessential words, phrases, or clauses, use commas to set them apart. These nonessential sections often begin with words such as who or which. They may be removed from a sentence without altering its meaning.

Adam, who had loved Marybeth since he was in elementary school, knew it was time to let her go.

Rule 6: Commas Introduce Direct Quotations

Direct quotations, such as dialogue, should be preceded by commas.

When she brought her dog to Florida, her aunt warned, “Watch out for those toxic cane toads!”

Commas may also be used to express interruptions to direct quotations.

“Never,” she responded, “would my dog go after anything bigger than a fly.”

Rule 7: Commas Set Off Phrases That Interfere With Sentence Flow

Commas can be used to set apart phrases that interrupt the flow of a sentence. These may include expressions such as by the way, after all, and nevertheless.

That store clerk, by the way, was once an executive at an international bank.

Commas are used to set apart interrupters or phrases that interrupt the flow of the sentence.

Rule 8: Commas Set Off Names, Nicknames, and Titles

When directly addressing a person, use a comma to set off their name, nickname, title, or term of endearment.

I didn’t mean to say that, sir.

Will you, Elizabeth Pruitt, marry me?

Sleep well, Love Bug!

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