Answered By: Rachel Willard
Last Updated: May 02, 2017     Views: 817

There are a variety of ways and reasons to use a comma. You can see the full list of comma uses on the comma page of the Writing Center's website. Commas are most commonly used in the following situations:


To separate parts of a sentence

The different parts of a sentence are called clauses or phrases. (See "What is a phrase?" or "What is a clause?") There are several rules about using commas to show where one clause or phrase ends and another begins.

Example: Walden University, established in 1970, offers many degree programs.

Example: Smith (2001) conducted the research, and Heller (2008) commented on the results.


In serialized lists

In a list with three or more elements, use commas to separate all of the elements of the series.

Example: In this paper, I will discuss the effects of meditation on a pregnant woman before, during, and after the birth of her child.

Note the serial comma after the word during, which is required by APA style rules. See more tips on serial commas.


In dates

Use a comma to set off the year in exact dates.

Example:  The hospital's pursuit of Magnet status was successful (R. Jones, personal communication, September 18, 2009).


In in-text citations  

Use commas to set apart the elements of an in-text citation.

Example:  The research was "inconclusive in its implications" (Sanders, 2009, p. 45).



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