Commas, Commas, Commas

Correct Use of Commas

To separate the terms of a series:

red, white, and blue

To enclose parenthetic expressions:

The report, now compiled once a year, will soon be available every month.

Before a conjunction that introduces an independent clause:

Most of the new system is installed, but the printer isn’t connected yet.

In a string of adjectives to call attention to each:

They replaced the old, noisy, slow printer.

To set off modifiers that apply to a sentence:

However, the web page isn’t finished.

After a long introductory phrase before the subject of the sentence:

Knowing the readers aren’t technical experts, the writers don’t use jargon.

To contrast elements in a sentence:

They need to add people to the testing team, not push back the schedule or eliminate testing.

Incorrect Use of Commas

To break up long groups of words:

WRONG:  You can press the ESC key, to return to the menu, and not save changes.

To set off restrictive modifiers:

WRONG:  People, who live in glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones.

Between a conjunction and the words it introduces:

WRONG:  We need a writer but, we can’t get the funding.

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