The comma (,) is used to indicate a short pause in a sentence. This pause helps to make the meaning clear to the reader. There are many rules for using commas. Most academic writing tasks use the following:
- Use commas after sentence introducers
- Use commas with sentence coordinators
- Use commas for sentence inserters or interrupters
- Use commas as separators in lists
- Rules to avoid unnecessary use of commas
The comma rule
If you are joining independent clauses to write compound sentences, use a comma before ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘for’, ‘or’, ‘nor’, ‘so’, ‘yet’.
The semicolon and comma rule
If you are joining independent clauses to write compound sentences, use a semicolon before and a comma after connecting conjunctions like ‘also’, ‘however’, ‘instead’, ‘meanwhile’, ‘moreover’, ‘namely’, ‘now’, ‘otherwise’, ‘similarly’, ‘still’, ‘then’, ‘therefore’, ‘thus’.
The highest mountain, Kosciuszko, was covered in snow during the winter months. It was, however, a sea of wild flowers and native plants in summer. The great mountain climber, Jack Peterson, visited the area in all seasons.
The climbers, mostly from Victoria, faced the harshest conditions on their trek across the mountain peak.
The alpine rangers, who were really quite fearless, rescued many lost mountaineers. The conditions, which could be hazardous, did not daunt them.
You do not use a pair of commas if the information in the inserter is essential to the meaning of the sentence (restrictive element).
The project was supported by the local residents, district clubs and community groups, and the neighbourhood schools.
The local council set up a recycling program as part of its environmental rejuvenation project, which could work well if community members cooperate .
INCORRECT: Government policies about conservation in Australian states X , vary considerably.
CORRECT: Government policies about conservation in Australia states vary considerably.
INCORRECT: Many Australian politicians realise that some State conservation laws are ineffectual X , and that these laws would be more potent if they were moved to a Commonwealth jurisdiction.
CORRECT: Many Australian politicians realise that some State conservation laws are ineffectual and that these laws would be more potent if they were moved to a Commonwealth jurisdiction.
INCORRECT: Conservation laws were passed back to the Commonwealth X , because State laws were inconsistent.
CORRECT: Conservation laws were passed back to the Commonwealth because State laws were inconsistent.