Punctuation: 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.

  • I enjoy golf, football and boxing.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • The lawn mower that is broken is in the garage.
    • (Restrictive: Indicates more than one lawn mower)
  • The lawn mower, which is broken, is in the garage.
    • (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.

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

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

  • The test, you may recall, was easy.
  • She said, “You know, Jan, that the test is today.”
  • “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.

  • The runner quit, having cut his toe on a broken bottle.
  • The judge, tired of the commotion in the courtroom, made everyone leave.
  • 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.

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

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

  • The mayor himself will be here today.

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

  • 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.
  • The mayor said, “John Smith is one of the worst candidates ever to run for office.”

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