We lost our director, but Joe quickly filled the
For a comma to be needed with a coordinating conjunction, complete sentences should appear on either side of the connecting word. The following sentences do not contain two complete thoughts that can stand alone; therefore, no comma is necessary in either.
Everyone is asked to bring his music and join the mass
Items in a series
A comma is not necessary between the next to last and last item in a series (for example, red, white and blue) unless the meaning is unclear. However, for many years, writers were required to insert a comma before the conjunction as a way of clearly distinguishing that three (or more) separate items are involved in the series. Whatever choice the editor makes, he should consistently apply it throughout the bulletin.
Caution: Some modifiers are so closely linked that a comma is not needed even if they do make up a series. Notice the differences in the following sentences:
The baritone is the tall, slender one on the left.
To determine whether a comma is needed between modifiers in a series, insert the conjunction "and" between them. In the first example above, the phrase "tall and slender one" makes sense; therefore, a comma is used in place of the conjunction. In the second example, the phrase "bright and yellow" isn't as idiomatic. The word bright is acting as an adverb to describe the intensity of the color yellow. Therefore, no comma is needed.
Another choice to avoid unclarity might be to make the phrase bright yellow a hyphenated compound adjective:
Bright-yellow tuxedo greenish-blue background whippet-thin frame
Dates and Addresses
He lived at 251 Fifth Street, Canyon City, Colo., before he
Transitional expressionsUse commas around words and phrases that interrupt the flow of the main clause. Some of these interrupters are however, moreover, finally, of course, I think, by the way, on the other hand, and therefore.
No one has suggested, by the way, that we should outlaw the
use of non-member coaches.
AppositivesUse commas to enclose a word or group of words that renames the word that comes before it.
I don't think that Mike, our new director,
would mind our complimenting him on his first
Direct AddressUse commas to enclose the name or title of individuals directly addressed.
Mr. President, I move that the chapter purchase new risers.
Yes, we sang the best we could.
Marty Johnson, who used to sing with the Flat Foot Four,
recently was promoted to assistant director of our
In the first example, the clause "who used to sing with the Flat Foot Four" is not essential to the main idea of the sentence. Therefore, it should be enclosed in commas. In the second example, the phrase "written by Paul Dresser" could be left out without changing the meaning of the sentence. It, too, should use enclosing commas. In the third example, the clause "that we selected for our finale" is essential to the main idea of the sentence. Without it, the sentence would read "The song has been changed." However, readers have no idea which song.
Miscellaneous uses of commas
Contrasting expressionsUse a comma to set off contrasting or opposing expressions within sentences.
He sang baritone, not lead.
QuotationsUse commas to introduce a direct quotation, to terminate a direct quotation, or to enclose split quotations.
Mike said, "I can sing tenor."
Note that if the quotation is not being presented as actual dialogue, commas are not used.
He said he wanted to leave immediately to go home; however, he stayed for over an hour to sing tags.
Interrogative clausesUse commas to separate a declarative sentence and an interrogative clause which immediately follows.
That's a great arrangement, isn't it?
OmissionsUse commas to indicate the omission of a word or words, especially in sentence forms that show an immediate dual structure.
Some quartets prefer ballads; others, up tunes.
TitlesUse commas to separate proper names from a following corporation, academic, honorary, governmental, or military title.
Val J. Hicks, Ph.D.
LettersUse commas following the salutation in informal correspondence and the complementary closing in formal or informal letters.