Why do we need commas?  Wouldn't writing the English language be much easier without them?  Maybe, but reading the English language would be much harder!  

Commas make the writer's meaning clear.  When you speak, your tone of voice and pauses punctuate what you're saying, but when you write, your readers have only the printed page to use to understand your meaning.  Punctuation marks, like commas, help the reader get the meaning from your writing.

Not convinced? Try reading this passage with no commas.

As the sun crept over the horizon the black of night faded to grey and streaks of purple red orange and then finally yellow reached up from the hills and stained the edges of the glassy lake. With the coming of the day the calls of the waking birds broke the silence rousing the slumbering campers and filling the park with activity.  The campfires flickered to life lit the dawn and took the chill from the air. 

Not easy is it.  Without commas to break up the ideas and show you when to pause in your reading, you are forced to slow down and puzzle over the phrasing at times to figure out the meaning. 

For example, what are the colors that light the sky?  Are they purple red, orange, and yellow? How about purple, red orange, and yellow?  Maybe it is purple, red, orange, and yellow.  Properly placed commas would end that confusion.  The other two sentences in the passage can also be confusing in spots with no commas for clarity.

This is how the passage should be punctuated:

As the sun crept over the horizon,  the black of night faded to grey, and streaks of purple, red, orange, and then finally yellow reached up from the hills and stained the edges of the glassy lake. With the coming of the day, the calls of the waking birds broke the silence, roused the slumbering campers, and filled the park with activity.  Campfires flickered to life, lit the dawn, and took the chill from the air. 

Much easier to read, isn't it!  You can learn to use commas correctly to keep your work communicating clearly too. 

Here is an easy set of comma rules with which to start :

Use commas in dates, addresses, and letters.

  • When writing dates, place a comma between the day and the year.  If only the month and year are given, no comma is necessary.

July 4, 1776 December 10. 2003 April 1865
  • When the date falls at the beginning or in the middle of the sentence, add another comma  after the year to separate it from the rest of the sentence.
It was on January 14, 2001,  that my baby sister was born.

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed.

  • A comma is needed between the name of a city or town and the name of a state, district, or country.
      
Phoenix, Arizona       
              
Toronto, Canada                  
       
Boston, Massachusetts

         Berlin, Germany                     
  • Use a comma after each part of the address when it is used in a sentence.  Remember, there is never a comma between the name of a state and a ZIP code.
Send your contest entry form to Prize Bonanza, 219 Main Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 12345.

 

My new address will be 47 North Street, Adams, New York 54321
  • Use a comma after the greeting of a friendly letter and after the closing of a friendly or business letter.
Dear Sarah, Love,
Aunt Jo
Sincerely,
John Simmons
Dear Mr. Allen, Your friend,
Tom

Punctuation marks, like commas, help the reader get the meaning from your writing.  Commas make the writer's meaning clearer to the reader.

 

Click on the Chalk board to practice commas with dates, addresses, and letters!

 

 

There are many other important and useful comma rules that you should know to improve your communication when you write.  Follow the links below to the lessons that introduce them:

Commas With Interrupters

Commas
in a

Series

Commas in Compound Sentences


Commas in Direct Address

Commas With Adjectives

 

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