Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts
Purdue University College of Liberal Arts
OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

1.4: Commas

This resource deals with punctuation, specifically, commas.


Some questions on the GED will ask you to correct punctuation errors. To prepare for these questions, review the punctuation rules below. Reviewing these rules will also help you edit your essay.


Most of the errors you will be asked to correct will involve comma use. You’ll notice that many of the rules discussed here relate to the information on sentence structure from Lesson 2. It might be useful for you look at both lessons and draw some connections between them.

Use a comma before a conjunction (and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet) to join two independent clauses:

  • I wanted to eat lunch with Melanie, but she had a stomachache.
  • Mike is playing drums in the band, and Todd is playing the guitar.
  • The potato chips from the picnic were pretty stale, so we just threw them away.

Use a comma after an introductory phrase. Also use a comma after a subordinate clause at the beginning of the sentence (see Lesson 2 for information about subordinate clauses).

  • To get a good grade in this class, you will have to study.
  • After the movie, we should go out for coffee.
  • Because I was annoyed with my boyfriend, I didn’t return his phone call.

Use a comma to separate elements in a list. Sometimes, writers will leave off the comma before the final element in a list. While this is acceptable, it’s generally included.

  • My favorite cities to visit are Chicago, Memphis, and Louisville.
  • The cookies were decorated with red, yellow, and blue sprinkles.
  • In my free time, I like to read books, drink coffee with friends, and watch movies.

Use a comma to set off information that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.

  • My sister-in-law, who is originally from Illinois, really likes to knit sweaters.
  • Ken’s apartment, a tiny little place over on Pine Street, is always a mess.

Use a comma between adjectives that are separate (meaning that each adjective independently describes the noun).

  • My uncle has always said he wants to marry a beautiful, smart, and funny woman.
  • I have no doubt that Jason’s wonderful, dependable car will get us to Daytona Beach just fine.

Use a comma after a transitional word or phrase (see Lesson 1 for a list of transitional words and phrases).

  • First, I’ll talk about commas. Next, I’ll discuss semi-colons and colons. Finally, I’ll review quotation marks and italics.
  • For example, pepperoni pizza is much higher in calories than plain cheese pizza.

Use a comma with a date.

  • April 5, 2002
  • Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Use a comma to separate a city name from a state name.

  • San Jose, California
  • Portland, Oregon

Comma Exercise 1

Place commas wherever they are needed in the following sentences.

1. There was no question that John's painting a huge colorful and ugly mural was the worst entry in the art exhibit.
2. Werner von Braun Willy Ley and Edward Teller noted authorities in the field of rocket development have done much to guide the missile program of the United States.
3. Mr. Cready's ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time is I believe amazing.
4. Running around the house the dog was abruptly stopped by a fence.
5. If the opposition should win our candidate would never have any political future.
6. Gracefully lightly and daintily the ballerina moved across the stage.
7. Glamour the woman's fashion magazine recently incorporated with Charm another fashion journal.
8. Joe was born on May 7 1955 and his best friend was born exactly two months later on July 7 1955.
9. Mr. and Mrs. Kwon my parents' best friends sat in front of us at the football game.
10. November 11 1918 the armistice ending World War I was signed.

Click here for exercise answers.

Comma Exercise 2

Place commas wherever they are needed in the following sentences.
1. We went to Bar Harbor but did not take the ferry to Nova Scotia.
2. The ginkgo tree whose leaves turn bright yellow in the fall came to this country from Asia.
3. The address for the governor's mansion is 391 West Ferry Road Atlanta Georgia.
4. The villagers enjoyed fairs festivals and good conversation.
5. When the intermission was over the members of the audience moved back to their seats.
6. Andy took the elevator to the third floor rushed into the office and asked to see his father.
7. When he stumbled over your feet William was clumsy not rude.
8. She listened to her favorite record with close careful attention.
9. Jillian who had worked in the dress shop all summer hoped to work there again during the Christmas holidays.
10. Go the first traffic light turn left and then look for a yellow brick building on the north side of the street.
11. Once she has graduated I do not know where she is going or what she is planning to do.
12. "Oh no," Max exclaimed "I think that Dr. Holmes was referring to Eliot the novelist not Eliot the poet."
13. Below the fields stretched out in a hundred shades of green.
14. To understand the purpose of the course the student needs to read the syllabus.
15. All students are eligible to receive tickets but must go to the athletic office to pick them up.
16. Thomas Paine's pamphlet appeared in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on January 9 1776.
17. You don't want any more hamburgers do you?

Click here for exercise answers.

Copyright ©1995-2019 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use. Privacy policy.