Comma rules

These comma rules come from my high school English teacher.

Comma Rules by Mike Cullinan

C-1. Prevents confusion, especially reading aloud. (Behind, the car was a mess)
C-2. Joins two sentences with a coordinating conjunction. (eg – and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet)
C-3. Placed within series of three or more; put the comma BEFORE last in series. (Our flag’s colors are red, white, and blue.)
C-4. Placed between coordinate consecutive adjectives modifying same noun. (She is a poised, elegant, gracious lady.)
C-5. Follows introductory dependent clauses. (When you have finished, you may leave.)
C-6. Follows introductory phrases. (Stopped by a frustrated Sancho, Don Quixote decided to rest.)
C-7. Follows transition/connecting words or phrases. (furthermore, in consequence, therefore, indeed, and so forth.)
C-8. Sets off parenthetic elements NOT ESSENTIAL to the sentence. (therefore, I hope, naturally, in the first place, by the way, after all, of course, on the other hand)
C-9. Sets off non-essential modifiers: clauses, phrases, appositives. (John Smith, Jr.)
C-10. Sets off expressions of contrast. (Tom, not Fred, brought the candy.)
C-11. Indicates understood words or the omission of words. (She went skiing; I, skating.)
C-12. Sets off short direct quotations, dialogue, and so forth. (Keats said, “Let’s go sailing.”)
C-13. Sets off direct address. (Boys, here it is.)
C-14. Sets off a mild interjection or exclamation from the beginning of the sentence. (Ah, I guess so. Yes, he can go.)
C-15. Sets off an echo question. (It is good, isn’t it?)
C-16. Placed between duplicate words used for effect. (Methuselah went slowly, slowly down the mountain and was very, very careful not to break his old, old bones.)
C-17. Sets off year when using month, day, and year in dates. (April 21, 1989, was a good day.)
C-18. Sets off elements in an address except state and zip. (Austin, Texas, is a great place to visit.)
C-19. In letters, sets off an official title following a name when both are on the same line. (John Adams, President), follows complimentary closes (Sincerely, Cordially, Yours truly, ), and follows an informal salutation (Dear Igor, Dear Friends).
C-20. In numbers, follow a consistent pattern of usage.

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3 Responses to Comma rules

  1. sajmani says:

    Wow, I remember these! Do you have his semicolon rules, too? -Sameer, SJS’94

  2. Beth Rivera says:

    Dear Ivan,
    Thank you so much for posting these! After all these years, I had a dream about the famous Comma Rules and went searching for them to show my kids. We’ll see how that goes.
    For Sameer, the 3 semicolon rules I remember are:
    1. It can separate 2 short independent clauses without a conjunction (Don’t ask me; go ask your mother.)
    2. It can unite lists of independent clauses with a conjunction (They pitched their tents; they hung up their trash; and they hit the hay.)
    3. It can be used instead of multiple commas to join complex sentences (Deploying the Scholar’s Mate, Griselda was sure she had checkmate; however, Georg was able to distract his hungry opponent with a plate of Turkish Delight while he plotted his defensive move.)
    By all means, gentlemen, please correct me if I’m wrong.
    Meanwhile, Mr. Cullinan remains the eminent ruler of the comma!
    Beth Miller Rivera SJS ’84

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