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The Comma

There are 11 simple rules that govern the comma in AP style. Be aware that this is a particular style. Other styles have different rules for comma use.

    1) When the last item in a series is connected by a coordinating conjunction (e.g., and, or, but, nor, for, yet, so), do not use a comma before the conjunction.

    1. I enjoy golf, football and boxing.

    2) Use a comma to separate two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction.

    1. The UO football team won the game, and the Ducks are going to the Rose Bowl.

    3) Remember: A compound predicate (two or more verbs serving the same subject) does not need a comma.

    1. The man voted today and hoped his candidate would win.

    4) Use commas following introductory clauses and phrases and other clauses and phrases that would be confusing without commas.

    1. In the hassles and headaches of daily life at the University, it is easy to forget how privileged we are to attend college.
    2. Although she had always been afraid to fly, she loved her flight in a small plane.
    3. Every day, journalists report the news.

    5) Use commas to set off non-restrictive (non essential) clauses, phrases and modifiers from the rest of the sentence.

    1. The lawn mower that is broken is in the garage.
      1. (Restrictive: Indicates more than one lawn mower)
    2. The lawn mower, which is broken, is in the garage.
      1. (Nonrestrictive: Adds non-essential information about the only lawn mower)

6) Use commas to separate descriptive modifiers of equal rank if the coordinating conjunction is missing.

  1. Tip: If you can use the adjectives interchangeably and can successfully insert a conjunction and between them, they require a comma.
    1. In an angry, blunt statement, President Clinton chided his opponents.

    7) Use commas to set off parenthetical expressions and nominatives of direct address.

  1. The test, you may recall, was easy.
  2. She said, "You know, Jan, that the test is today."
  3. "Jan, where's the car?" "Where's the car, Jan?"

8) Use commas to set off participial phrases that modify some part of the independent clause.

  1. The runner quit, having cut his toe on a broken bottle.
  2. The judge, tired of the commotion in the courtroom, made everyone leave.
  3. Driven by an unquenchable desire to win, Sally often cheated.

9) Do not use a comma to separate two independent clauses that are not joined by a coordinating conjunction. Do not use a comma to introduce a subordinate clause.

  1. The test was today, we all passed. (WRONG)
  2. We all passed the test because it was easy. (RIGHT)

10) Do not use a comma to separate a reflexive pronoun.

  1. The mayor himself will be here today.

11) Do not use a comma to precede a partial quotation.

  1. The mayor said that his opponent was "one of the worst candidates ever to run for office."

BUT: If the quotation is a full sentence, it should be preceded by a comma.

  1. The mayor said, "John Smith is one of the worst candidates ever to run for office."