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Grammar Rules 1: Commas and Semicolons


To avoid confusion, use the Oxford comma to separate words and groups of words occurring in a series of three or more.
Example: My 10,000,000 estate is to be split among my husband, daughter, son, and nephew.
Note: Without the comma after son, this sentence would indicate that the son and nephew have to split one-third of the estate.


Use a comma to separate two adjectives when the word and can be inserted between them.
Example: He is a strong, healthy man.
Example: We stayed at an expensive summer resort. (no comma needed)


Use a comma before or surrounding the name or title of a person directly addressed.
Example: Please, Shirley, will you do that assignment for me?
Example: Yes, Doctor, I will.
Example: Donna, what do you think of these changes?


Use a comma to separate the day of the month from the year and after the year (you dont need a comma following a year if just the
year alone is used).
Example: Kathleen met her husband on December 5, 2003, in Mill Valley, California.


Use a comma to separate the city from the state (you dont need a comma following a state if just the state alone is used).
Example: I lived in San Francisco, California, for 20 years.
Wrong: I lived in California, for 20 years.


Use commas to surround degrees or titles used with names.

Example: Al Mooney, M.D., was the best doctor in town.


Use a comma after phrases of more than three words that begin a sentence.
Example: To apply for this job, you must have previous experience.


If something or someone is sufficiently identified, the description following it is considered nonessential and should be surrounded by
commas. Similarly, you can encase nonessential phrases and clauses (ones that might be included in parentheses) in commas.
Example: Freddy, who has a cast, was in an auto accident.
Note: Freddy is named so the description is not essential
Example: The boy who has a cast was in an auto accident.
Note: We do not know which boy is being referred to without further description; therefore, no commas are used.


Use a comma to separate two complete sentences joined by a coordinating conjunctionand, or, but, for, nor. You can omit the
comma if the sentences are short.
Example: I have painted the entire house, but he is still working on sanding the doors.

10. Use commas to introduce or interrupt direct quotations shorter than three lines.
Example: He actually said, I dont care.
Example: Why, I asked, do you always forget to do it?
11. A commas splice is an error caused by joining two sentences with only a comma instead of separating them with a conjunction,
semicolon, or period.
Incorrect: Time flies when we are having fun, we are always having fun.
Correct: Time flies when we are having fun; we are always having fun.
Correct: Time flies when we are having fun, and we are always having fun.
12. Use a semicolon to separate two complete sentences where the conjunction has been left out.
Example: Call me tomorrow; I will give you my answer then.
Example: I have paid my dues; therefore, I expect all the privileges listed in the contract.
13. Do not use a semicolon in front of words such as therefore and however if they do not connect two complete sentences.
Example: I would, therefore, like a response.
14. Use a semicolon to separate units of a series when one or more of the units contain commas.
Example: Everyone likes mixed-up ice cream flavors like pistachio, chocolate, and banana; blueberry and lemon; and
strawberry, cream, and iodine.

Grammar Rules 1Quiz 1

Correct any comma and semicolon errors. Some sentences need no correction.
1. I took Angie the girl with the freckles to the movie last night.
2. Bill, and I, have had our share of arguments.
3. You are I am sure, telling the truth.
4. Please Jack come home as soon as you can.
5. Although you may be right I cannot take your word for it.
6. I am typing a letter and she is talking on the phone.
7. She finished her work, and then took a long lunch.
8. Mae said Why dont you come up and see me sometime?
9. He seems to be such a lonely, quiet man doesnt he?
10. She wore a brightly colored dress.
11. Girls, who have read hair, are very lucky.
12. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are three guarantees granted to us by our forefathers.
13. I told you Jon, never to ask me that question again.
14. If you refuse to listen then I might as well not speak.
15. I walked all the way to the bus stop and waited for a bus for over an hour.
16. You asked for forgiveness, he granted it to you.
17. We ask; therefore, that you keep this matter confidential.
18. He has friends from Iowa and Nebraska and Illinois is his home state.
19. They built an adobe house however they decided to move.
20. I have been to San Francisco, California, Reno, Nevada, and Seattle Washington.