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Also see nonrestrictive commas, missing commas exercise, common punctuation errors, and FAQ punctuation.

Comma rules
From the University of Minnesota Style Manual

Your Guides to Excellent Writing

 

TITLES, ADDRESSES, DATES

 

1. Use commas to set off a title following a name.

Mary Stephens, special assistant to the dean, wrote the report.

2. Use commas to set off individual parts of addresses and names of geographical places and political divisions.

John Blake lives at 1222 Juneau Avenue, Ellendale, Pennsylvania, in a large colonial house.
 

The fieldwork was done in Tel Aviv, Israel, under the supervision of several University faculty members.

3. Use commas around the year when it follows a specific date; do not use commas around the year when it is used with the month or season alone.

The committee agreed on December 12, 1979, as the next meeting date.
 

The report was issued in July 1975 and revised in spring 1979.

 

DEPENDENT PHRASES AND CLAUSES

 

Dependent phrases or clauses may be restrictive or nonrestrictive. A clause or phrase is restrictive when the meaning of the sentence is incomplete without it.

 

A clause or phrase is nonrestrictive if it is not essential to the meaning of the sentence and could be omitted.

 

4. When a dependent clause following a main clause is restrictive, do not set off the clause with a comma. When a dependent clause is nonrestrictive, set off the clause with a comma.

The dean was surprised when he heard about the proposal.


The dean voted for the amendment, although she knew it would be defeated.

5.  Use a comma after a dependent clause that precedes the main clause.

When she returned to school, Ann changed her major from history to sociology.

6. Use commas to set off an adverbial phrase placed between the subject and the verb.

Johnson, after typing the paper, returned to the library.

7. If an adjectival phrase or clause is restrictive, do not set it off with commas. If the phrase or clause is nonrestrictive, set it off with commas.

The book that was assigned was not available. (Answers the question which book?)


The book, which had been ordered late, did not arrive in time. (The only book in question.)

8. Use commas to set off a word, phrase, or clause that is in apposition to a noun unless it is necessary to complete the meaning of the sentence.

Her report, an analytical approach to the topic, was well received.


St. Paul, Minnesota, is on the Mississippi River.


We could not reach Miller, former director of the institute, for comment.


His son, Mike, was late. (his only son)


Her son Mike was elected president. (one of two or more sons)

 

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