The Proper Use of Commas

CommaThe rules for comma usage have changed a bit since many of us first learned about them.  Years ago they were inserted more often than they are now.  The Chicago Manual of Style is one authority, as is the AP Stylebook, the Associated Press journalist’s bible. 

An old quick tip was to insert a comma whenever you felt the need to take a breath while reading a sentence.  Here are some more informative tips for using commas correctly.

Commas to separate words.  Use commas to separate three or more words or word groups within a sentence.  Example:  I send holiday cards, get well cards and birthday cards to my employees. 
Once thought necessary, a comma after get well cards is now considered optional.

Commas for sentence flow.  Use commas to surround words or phrases that interrupt the flow of a sentence.  Example:  Greeting cards, as you know, are great marketing tools.

Commas to separate adjectives.  Commas are used between two adjectives when both adjectives modify the same noun.  Example:  I enjoy sending high-quality, personalized cards to my business associates.  Both the words “high-quality” and “personalized” modify the noun, cards.  Or try these tricks— substitute the word “and” for the comma or flip the two adjectives.  If the sentence still makes sense when you do this, then you do need the comma.  

Commas to connect clauses.  Perhaps you’ve heard of conjunction junction.  Use a comma after the words—and, or, but, for, nor to connect two strong clauses.  Example:  Get well cards are great when someone is not feeling their best, but thinking of you cards are welcomed anytime.

Commas to separate statements from questions.  Use a comma when you want to separate a statement from a question in the same sentence.  Example:  My top customers would enjoy receiving birthday cards, wouldn’t they?

Commas to separate introductory words.  If beginning a sentence with a single word like—now, yes, or well, use a comma to separate it from the rest of the sentence.  Example:  Yes, holiday cards are great for keeping in touch with customers, friends and family.

Do you have any other comma tips to add?  Or, if you have questions, let us know and we’ll do our best to answer them!  Did you notice the use of two of the above comma rules in that last sentence?!