The Thorny Comma Issue, Part 2

Thirteen Basic Rules of Using Commas (Ohanenye)

  1.  Before a conjunction (FANBOYS—for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to separate two independent sentences/clauses: Angela received a pay raise, so she did her famous happy dance.
  2. To separate items in a series of three or more words: The snacks included soda, pretzels, and chips. (The Oxford Comma comes before the “and”.)
  3. To separate adjectives of equal rank: You have made a simple, polite request.
  4. To separate a series of adjectives before the noun it modifies (except the last adjective): An efficient, helpful, and interesting guide led our party on the tour.
  5. After an introductory word, phrase, or clause: Well, I need a minute to decide. Yes, my brother can play the harmonica very well.
  6. To set off parenthetical expressions, which is a word or phrase not essential to the rest of the sentence: Therefore, I believe, however, on the other hand. Consequently, but fearing retribution, James notified us of his decision.
  7. To set off nonessential expressions or appositives: Confucius, a Chinese thinker, taught the importance of tradition. The teacher, a rebel with a cause, decided to challenge the status quo.
  8. To set off dates and geographic names: Tom was born in Marietta, Georgia.  He will graduate from college on May 12, 2024.
  9. After each item in an address after the name, street, and city: She is writing her friend, Suze Jones of 32 Happy Trail, Jubilant, Mississippi 30127. (Notice that no comma separates the state from the zip code.)
  10. When an address is written on an envelope, only use a comma after the city:

Suze Jones

32 Happy Trail

Jubilant, Mississippi 30127

11. In a salutation in a personal letter and after the closing in all letters: Salutation–Dear Ann,








12. With numbers of more than three digits and adding a comma after every 3rd digit counting from the right to the left: 103,908 or 990,973,873 or 98,771

13. To set off a direct quotation from the rest of the sentence: Gordon murmured with a yawn, “This is a dull movie.”


For additional comma rules, please visit


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