Comma Rules


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The Comma Rules, taught by Michael Plasmeier for Honors 9th Grade level class on 3/9/2006, postponed to 3/13/2006


Lesson Plan


After the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Correctly and successfully use commas in their everyday writing
  • Correctly and successfully identify and/or insert commas into a paragraph
  • Know the 10 or 11 rules for when commas are used


Instructional Strategies

  • Lecture / Present comma rules on PowerPoint slide show
  • Fix a paragraph on PlazWiki (solo activity) (in two shifts)
    • winner from each shift gets a "" T-Shirt!
  • Other Shift: Crossword Puzzle of Comma Rules

Assessment Techniques

  • Fix a paragraph exercise by self
  • Comma Rules memorization with crossword puzzle


  1. Introduce 10 (or 11) comma rules in PowerPoint slide show
  2. Fix a paragraph exercise
  3. (other shift): Crossword Puzzle


The Comma Rules

Word.PNGA Microsoft Word version of this work is available here: Image:The Comma Rules Handout.doc

Pdf.jpgA PDF version of this work is available here: Image:Microsoft Word - The Comma Rules Handout.pdf


  • The comma is a valuable, useful punctuation device because it separates the structural elements of sentences into manageable segments.
  • "comma" comes directly from the Greek komma, which means "something cut off" or "a short clause".
  • The rules provided here are those found in traditional handbooks; however, in certain rhetorical contexts and for specific purposes, these rules may be broken.

Before Coordinating Conjunctions for Compound Sentences

  • Use comma before an coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)
  • Used to connect two independent clauses in a compound sentence
  • Ex: Joe has seven chickens, but Jack has three.
  • Ex: I asked you to repeat that, yet you didn’t.

Set off an Introductory Phrase or Clause

  • Introductory clauses are dependent clauses that provide background information or "set the stage" for the main part of the sentence, the independent clause. For example:
  • If they want to win, athletes must exercise every day. (introductory dependent clause, main clause)
  • Because he kept barking insistently, we threw the ball for Smokey. (introductory dependent clause, main clause)
  • Clue: Introductory clauses start with adverbs like after, although, as, because, before, if, since, though, until, when, etc.
  • (We call this a complex sentence)
Important Exception
  • Ex: Because she fell, she was late to class.
  • Don’t put a comma when the dependent clause comes after the independent clause
  • Ex: She was late for class, because she fell.
  • Instead: She was late for class because she fell.

Transition/Introductory Words and Phrases

  • Use a comma to set off transition words from the rest of the sentence
  • Common introductory phrases that should be followed by a comma include participial and infinitive phrases, absolute phrases, nonessential appositive phrases, and long prepositional phrases (over four words).
  • Ex: Unfortunately, there is no free lunch
  • Ex: I don’t want to take the test, however, I need to.

Set off an Appositives and Parenthetical Phrases

  • An appositive is a noun or pronoun -- often with modifiers -- set beside another noun or pronoun to explain or identify it.
  • Parenthetical = (like Parentheses)
  • Only put commas before and after appositives when the sentence would make still sense without the appositive (non-restrictive)
  • Ex: Bill, my brother, got a job.
Don’t use a comma when...
  • after a brief prepositional phrase. (Less then five words)
  • after a restrictive (essential) appositive phrase.
  • to separate the subject from the predicate.
  • Ex: Preparing and submitting his report to the committee for evaluation and possible publication [x] was one of the most difficult tasks Bill had ever attempted.
  • To start a new business without doing market research and long-term planning in advance [x] would be foolish.
  • Extracting the most profit for the least expenditure on labor and materials [x] is the primary goal of a capitalist.

Separate Adjectives

  • Use a comma to separate two or more adjectives that describe the same noun
  • (coordinating adjectives) describe the same noun equally (Does it make sense to put in an and?)
  • Ex: I will go into the small, cramped room.
  • Not: The powerful [x] summer sun beat down upon them.

Quoted Words and Dialogue

  • Use a comma to set off quoted words and dialogue
  • Before the quote
  • Ex: I said, “go to the mall.”
  • After the quote
  • Ex: “Go to the mall,” I said.
  • Use a comma to set off the noun you are directly talking to.
  • Ex: Mom, go get me a soda.

Phrases that Express Contrast

  • Use a comma to set off phrases that express contrast or a distinct pause or shift
  • Ex: You need to pay attention now, not later.
  • Ex: The game is today, not tomorrow.

Mild Interjections

  • Use a comma to set off mild interjections!
  • Ex: Oh, it will freeze.
  • Ex: My gosh, that’s smart.

More Comma Abuse

  • Don’t use a comma to separate a subject from the verb
  • An ant, is the smallest bug.
  • Don’t put a comma between 2 verbs in a compound predicate
  • We put on our music, and began to study.
  • Don’t put a comma between 2 nouns (or noun phrases) in a compound subject
  • The music teacher, and the football coach are married

Separate Items in a Series or List

  • Use commas to separate items of three or more things
  • The last comma is sometimes left out (serial comma)
  • Ex: Milk, bread, and cheese

Dates and Years

  • Used to separating the day from the year when also writing the month.
  • Ex: March 19, 2005
  • Ex: June 17, 1905

Large Numbers

  • Used to present large numbers in more readable forms
  • Every 3 Places
  • Ex: 1,500,275 = One million, five hundred thousand, two hundred seventy-five
  • **Fun fact – In Europe and other countries, they use commas as decimal points and spaces for commas**

City and States

  • Used to separate the city from the state
  • Ex: Havertown, PA
  • Ex: Orlando, Florida

Names and Titles

  • Ex: Dr. Brown, PhD.
  • Ex: Mrs. Smith, R.N, B.S.
  • Also when using the last name first
  • Ex: Bond, James
  • Used often in books (and MLA)

And finally:

  • You have the power to put a comma in wherever necessary to prevent confusion or misreading
  • Ex: To George, Harrison had been a sort of idol.
  • (note how it still sort of fits one of our rules)

More Help

Exercise Instructions

  • Get laptops
  • Connect to the internet and go to
  • Hit “Log in” at the top right of the page
  • Type “Comma Rules” in to the search bar and hit “Go”
  • Find your number which I assigned to you and click on that
  • Hit edit at the top of the page
  • Edit the paragraph by inserting the commas where necessary. Fill in the total number of mistakes you found.
  • Hit “Save this page” and call me over.
  • The winner wins a “” T-Shirt


  • My notes from 8th Grade.
  • [1] (and other OWL pages)
  • "Comma (punctuation)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 3 Mar 2006, 19:32 UTC. 5 Mar 2006, 22:27 [2] (and other pages)

Fix a Paragraph Exercise

Plaz will post a paragraph with errors on PlazWiki. Students will register and log on to edit paragraph on their own page. The first person finished from each shift wins a t-shirt. Other shift does crossword puzzle on handout.



Feel free to post your questions here. Please add --~~~~ after your comment. Thanks --Plaz 21:41, 2 March 2006 (EST)