Writing Boot Camp


Listing Comma 


Comma to separate elements in a series of words, phrases, or independent clauses.

We had a big meal of salad, soup, pasta, and ice cream.

She hit the ball, dropped the bat, and ran to first base.

Jane will bring the pizza, Mark will bring the beer, and I will make some snacks.



Comma with Clauses


Use a comma between two independent clauses in one sentence; with equal elements.

He walked home. He shut the door.  (two sentences. OK)

He walked home, and he shut the door.  (compound sentence with two independent clauses. OK)

He walked home and shut the door.  (single subject with compound verb. OK)

He walked home, he shut the door.  (run-on sentence, NOT OK)


Place comma before the conjunction (and, or, but, for, nor, yet, so)

She hit the ball, and then she ran to first base.

Mike drove to the concert, but he was stopped at the gate because he had forgotten to bring his ticket.

Zelda's car was out of gas, so she had to walk to school.


But no comma in a sentence that with a single subject and compound verb.

She hit the ball and then ran to first base.

Mike drove to the concert but was stopped at the gate because he had forgotten to bring his ticket.

No comma for restrictive clauses (information essential to understanding the sentence).

The students who are majoring in journalism are eager to work on the campus newspaper. (not all students; just journalism majors)

Books that are rented usually are returned in good condition.  (That always introduces a restrictive clause, thus no comma)


Use comma with nonrestrictive clauses (nice-to-know but nonessential information).

These two books, which are rented, were returned in good condition. (which introduces a nonrestrictive clause, so use comma)

Joe's class, which meets in Ketchum, is required for seniors.


Context is important in identifying restrictive versus nonrestrictive clauses.

The book that has black-and-white photos is used in class. (Tells readers which of more than one book, but only one with BW photos))

The book, which has black-and-white photos, is used in class. (Simply adds information about the book)



Comma with Adjectives


Comma to separate adjectives to replace and when the order of the adjectives is interchangeable (coordinate adjective)

I want a cup of hot, rich coffee.  I want a cup of rich, hot coffee.

Who is the tall, beautiful blonde who just came in?  Who is the beautiful, tall blonde who just came in?

Her poetry focuses on ethnic pride, intercultural understanding, and personal growth.

Daily training involves running 10 miles before breakfast, swimming an hour before lunch, and working out for an hour in the gym.


But no comma if the adjectives would not use and (cumulative adjective)

I ordered a warm cherry cheesecake for desert.

He drives an old blue Ford.

My grandmother is the typical little old lady. 



Comma with Introductory Elements


Comma after introductory phrase (which describe when, where, why, how, under what conditions)

Beside the car, two people sit on the bench.

To Martin, French is a useful language to know.

Between now and the end of the semester, I have a lot of work to do.

In the documentary, racial justice is seen as the goal.

In fact, nurses earn more than teachers.


Comma after introductory clause

When I go to the store, I ty to bring my own recycle bags.

While I was taking the test, I realized I should have studied more.

Although I was tired, I finished the paper before the deadline.


Comma after introductory adverb.

Quickly, I ran to the scene of the accident.

Unfortunately, she didn't pass the test.

However, we still went to the party.

Exception. The comma is optional with a short adverb clause or phrase.

Later I moved to the suburbs.


Comma with Parenthetical Elements

Parenthetical = can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

The Peace Bridge, which connects Canada and the U.S., is a toll bridge.

Mel's best friend, Frank, plans to attend summer school.


Comma with appositive

Marian's goal, to graduate next December, seems unlikely now.

Her boyfriend, Marvin, can't seem to hold a job.

Matilda Smith, a professor of communication, is leading this workshop.


Beyonce's video "Formation" has received many positive reviews. (more than one video, so name must be included)

Beyonce's first video, "I Got That," is still one of my favorites. (only one first video, so name is optional)


I'll give the book to my brother Mark. (more than one brother, so name must be included with no comma)

But: I'll give the book to my brother, Mark. (only one brother, so name is optional with comma)


Miscellaneous uses for comma


With city and state/country.

Buffalo, New York, is an interesting city.

Paris, France, is called "The City of Lights."


With interjection or tag.

Yes, Juanita, I know you are hungry.

This, of course, will be on the exam.

I would liked to buy this ring, please.

That concert was pretty dull, wasn't it?


With dates. 

We leave on June 16, 2016, at 6 a.m.

But no comma without specific date.

We will arrive sometime in June 2016 and stay through August.


To prevent confusion.

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

During a snowstorm, students who can, come to class even if they are late.


Do not use a comma after such as or like

Food such as chili and and pineapple give me heartburn.



Comma with Quotes


Use comma to set off quoted material.

Place a comma or period before the closing quotation mark.

The brochure says, "Communication is the largest department on campus."

"The purpose of this assignment," explained the professor, "is to learn how to research a topic."

"Barbara is the best player on the team," said the coach.


But no comma with the word that without a direct quote.

The brochure said that Communication is the largest department on campus.


Alternative: Use a colon to introduce a lengthy section of quoted material.

The brochure says: "Communication is the largest department on campus. In fact, it is one of the largest departments at any of the 13 SUNY colleges and four university centers."


Don't double up on punction by using a comma with a quote that includes a question mark or exclamation mark.

"When will this skirt go sale?" asked the customer. (no comma because question mark is stronger)

"Barbara is the greatest!" said the coach. (no comma because exclaqmation mark is stronger)



Other Punctuation

Quotation Marks

Use full quotation marks around TV episodes, book chapters, music videos, and other works of art.

I just watched the latest episoce of "Scandal."

Use full quotation marks around aquoted sentences, with single quotation marks around works of art mentioned within the quote.

"Did you see the latest episode of 'Scandal' last week?" she asked.



Use a hyphen with a compound adjective.

She's a real back-seat driver.

William has this I-don't-care attitude that drives me nuts.



Use a colon to introduce a list.

The recipe calls for the following: eggs, milk, cinnamon, parsley, and cheese.

But no colon with a listing that is part of the sentence.

The recipe calls for eggs, milk, cinnamon, parley, and cheese.



Use a semicolon in place of a period to connect short two independent clauses without a conjunction.

Matt came home late; Martha was furious.



Use an apostrophe to indicate missing letters, as in a contraction.

We should not argue. We shouldn't argue.

It's going to rain tomorrow.

They're going to see their new friends in the park over there.

Use an apostrophe to show possession.

This is Marvin's new car.

Texas's weather is varied.  Will you bring the boss's briefcase that she forgot?

John and Mary's new car is a Honda.

The dog's leash is stuck in the fence. The dogs' vaccination papers are in the desk.


Self Quiz: Punctuation

  1. My password includes my address so its easy to remember. (2)

  2. I cant seem to remember whos on the teams roster. (3)

  3. Thursday May 5 2016 is my last class ever. (3)

  4. She said you guys need to be on time from now on. (2)

  5. No Harvey you cant always trust what you see in the rear view mirror. (4)

  6. Wherever you go people seem to recognize you. (1)

  7. My best friend who also is Joes brother in law is having some problems with his girlfriend. (5)

  8. I asked my friend Fernando did you really ask for your ring back. (4)

  9. Martin my friend from Erie Pennsylvania wont be joining us. (4)

  10. Nguyen said shes been studying over the break so she isnt worried about the exam. (3)

  11. The most up to date production houses are in Nashville Tennessee and Atlanta Georgia. (5)

  12. Community colleges which didnt exist before the 1950s are very popular. (3)

  13. He called his boss to say hes not feeling well today but she didnt answer so he left a message. (3)

  14. Anyhow I wont be attending the party with you Mark and James. (3)

  15. The road that goes across Grand Island is being repaired this summer. (0)

  16. She has taken several required courses speech, intro, writing and internship. (1)

  17. MediaWriting is the title of the textbook in Professor Jones class. (1)

  18. Because Im not feeling well Im staying home this morning. (3)

Answers: 1 address,/it's. 2 can't/who's/team's. 3 Thursday,/May 5,/2016. 4 "you/on." 5 No,/Harvey,/can't/rear-view. 6 go,. 7 friend,/Joe's-brother-in-law. 8 Fernando,/"did/back?". Martin,/Erie,/Pennsylvania,/won't. 10 she's/break,/isn't. 11 up-to-date/Nashville,/Tennessee,/Atlanta,. 12 colleges,/didn't/1950s. 13 he's/today,/didn't. 14 Anyhow,/won't/you,. 16 courses:. 17 Jones'. 18 I'm/well,/I'm




Online Resources

Purdue Online Writing Lab


Northern Illinois University

Georgia State