Topic 9: Writing in Plain English, Part 2

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Punctuation Review: Commas


  • Use commas to separate clauses when they are joined by “and,” “but,” “for,” “or,” “nor,” “so,” or “yet”.
  • Use commas after introductory clauses, phrases, or words that come before the main clause.
  • Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off non-restrictive (unessential) clauses, phrases, and words. Such clauses and phrases often begin with the word “which.” Do not use commas to set off restrictive (essential) clauses or phrases, which often begin “that.”
  • Use commas to separate all but the final items in a series, as in “cats, birds and dogs.”
  • Use commas to separate two or more adjectives that describe the same noun. Do not use a comma between the final adjective and the noun itself.
  • Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), addresses (except the street number and name), and titles in names.
  • Use a comma before and after a quotation.
  • Use commas as needed to prevent possible confusion or misreading.