Comma Use

Some simple guidelines for comma use

There are basically four occasions when you need to use a comma in your writing:


  1. With a coordinating conjunction to join/separate two independent clauses.  (Coordinating conjunctions typically include: and, but, yet, so, for, or, etc.)

“Death shut the door, and the house shuddered in relief.”

Two independent clauses joined/separated without the comma-coordinating conjunction combo are sometimes referred to as comma splices or run-on sentences.

“Death smashed the door down, he went inside.” [splice]

“Death smashed the door down and he went inside.” [run-on]


  1. To set off introductory phrases or (dependent) clauses in a sentence.

“Therefore, Death failed his algebra course.”

“Because I could not stop for Death, he ran on ahead to Cincinnati without me.”


  1. To set off nouns or noun phrases. (These typically occur between the subject and predicate.)

“Death, who once played for the Dodgers, jogged right by me.”

“Death, a listless, young reprobate with a predilection for punk rock, reclined on the sofa.”


  1. To set off items in a series.

“He found Death to be a wearisome, ungainly, disheveled, generally incompetent cribbage player.”

“In preparation for his trip, Death packed a pair of socks, his suit jacket, a bag of Skittles, and a breath of fresh air.”