Some simple guidelines for comma use
There are basically four occasions when you need to use a comma in your writing:
- 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]
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”