Learn where to put that crucial comma in my third and last lesson on commas. This time, we focus on quotes, titles, and numbers.
That Crucial Comma – Part 3
Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate contrasted coordinate elements or to indicate a distinct pause or shift / to offset negation in a sentence
Example: I read a romance, not a thriller, last weekend.
In this case, you still need the comma if the negation occurs at the end of the sentence.
Example: I read a romance, not a thriller.
Use a comma to separate a statement from a question.
Example: I can write, can’t I?
Use a comma to separate contrasting parts of a sentence.
Example: That is my book, not yours.
Also, use commas when any distinct shift occurs in the sentence or thought process.
Example: That was a fantasy story, perhaps even a dark fantasy one.
Use commas to set off expressions that interrupt the sentence flow (nevertheless, after all, by the way, on the other hand, however, etc.).
Example: I am, by the way, sure about this.
Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), and addresses (except the street number and name)
Example: September 11, 2001, was a scary day.
Even if you add a weekday, keep the comma after 2001.
Example: Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was a scary day.
Example: Tuesday, September 11, was a scary day.
You don’t need to add a comma when the sentence mentions only the month and year.
Example: September 2001 was a scary month.
Example: I work at 666 Park Ave. South, New York, N.Y. 60606.
Example: Portland, Maine, is a wonderful city.
Use a comma to shift between the main discourse and a quotation
If attribution comes before the quote, place the comma outside the quotations marks.
Example: The reader said, “I read a book.”
If attribution comes after the quote, put the comma inside the quotation marks.
Example: “I read a book,” said the reader.
If the attribution is within the quote, put the first comma within the first quotation marks and the second comma immediately after the attribution, outside of the second quotation marks.
Example: “Why,” I asked, “won’t you tell me?”
If a quotation functions as a subject or object in a sentence, it might not need a comma.
Example: Is ‘I don’t mind’ all you can say to me?
If a quoted question ends in midsentence, the question mark replaces a comma.
Example: “Will you still be my friend?” she asked.
Use commas wherever necessary to prevent possible confusion or misreading
Example: I called you my darling.
Example: I called you, my darling.
Use a comma after certain words that introduce a sentence, such as well, yes, why, hello, hey, etc.
Example: Why, I can’t believe you!
Example: No, you can’t have a raise.
Use a comma before and after certain introductory words or terms, such as namely, that is, i.e., e.g., and for instance, when they are followed by a series of items.
Example: You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bag, tent, and a mat.
A comma should precede the term etc. Many authorities also recommend a comma after etc. when it is placed midsentence.
Example: You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bag, tent, mat, etc.
(Please note there is no extra full stop when the sentence ends with an abbreviation ending in a full stop)
Example: Sleeping bag, tent, a mat, etc., are required.
Use a comma to set off the name, nickname, term of endearment, or title of a person directly addressed
Example: My boss often asks, “Jody, is that article up yet?”
Example: Will you, Aisha, do that assignment for me?
Example: Yes, old friend, I will.
Example: Good day, Captain.
Traditionally, if a person’s name is followed by Sr. or Jr., a comma follows the last name.
Example: Martin Luther King, Jr.
This comma is no longer considered mandatory. However, if a comma does precede Sr. or Jr., another comma must follow the entire name when it appears midsentence.
Correct: Al Capone Sr. is here.
Correct: Al Capone, Sr., is here.
Incorrect: Al Capone, Sr. is here.
Similarly, use commas to enclose degrees or titles used with names.
Example: Al Mooney, M.D., is here.
Use commas before every sequence of three numbers when writing a number larger than 999
(Two exceptions are writing years and house numbers)
Example: 10,000 or 1,304,687.
Have a Wonderful Writing Weekend!