Unnecessary Commas

If your teacher marks "CX," identify which rule is applicable.

 

1. Between compound elements. 7. Between preposition and object.
2. After short introductory word groups. 8. After a conjunction.
3. Between subject and verb. 9. Before subordinate clauses and restrictive elements.
4. Between verb and object or complement. 10. Before or after a series.
5. Between a modifier and the word it modifies, or after a possessive noun or pronoun. 11. Before indirect statements or quotations.
6. Between cumulative adjectives. 12. Before certain quotations.


1. Between compound elements. Use no comma before the coordinating conjunctions and, or, nor, but or yet when they join words and phrases:

WRONG: a cat, and a dog lives, or dies sunny, but breezy

If the conjunction joins clauses (word groups with subject and verb), a comma is needed unless the clauses are short and there is no danger of confusion:

RIGHT: The weather in the tropics is sunny and humid, but the breezes keep you cool.

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2. After short introductory word groups. See C2 for more information.

NO COMMA: By now her plane must have arrived. In a democracy all votes are equal.

COMMA NEEDED: By the time the plane arrived, most of the babies had stopped crying.

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3. Between subject and verb. A short interrupting phrase does not change the rule.

WRONG: The house on the hill, is haunted.

RIGHT: The house on the hill is haunted.

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4. Between verb and object or complement:

WRONG (OBJECT): All of us ran, the race. RIGHT: All of us ran the race.
WRONG (COMPLEMENT): The waves were, perfect. RIGHT: The waves were perfect.
WRONG (COMPLEMENT): It made me, sick. RIGHT: It made me sick.

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5. Between a modifier and the word it modifies, or after a possessive noun or pronoun:

WRONG (MODIFIER): a deep, pit

WRONG (POSSESSIVE): Homer's, Odyssey

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6. Between cumulative adjectives. See section C4 for more information.

WRONG: three, blind mice.

RIGHT: three blind mice.

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7. Between preposition and object:

WRONG: Stephen falls into, a deep pit. RIGHT: Stephen falls into a deep pit.
WRONG: I dance like, a baby giraffe. RIGHT: I dance like a baby giraffe.

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8. After a conjunction:

WRONG: Spot barks at the mailman but, he does not bother prowlers.

RIGHT: Spot barks at the mailman, but he does not bother prowlers.

WRONG: Although, the weatherman predicted rain, we played the game.

RIGHT: Although the weatherman predicted rain, we played the game.

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9. Before subordinate clauses and restrictive elements. Use no comma before a subordinate clause (often beginning because, if or when) at the end of a sentence if it is essential to the meaning of the sentence:

If the clause starts the sentence, use a comma. Use no comma if it is at the end.

Nonessential clauses (often beginning although, even though, or whereas) take commas:

Everyone seemed to enjoy the class trip, although we had to cancel some events due to rain.

Use no comma before restrictive elements (see C5), especially clauses beginning with that, which, who and whom. The sentences below imply "the only one who did it" and "only lions with manes":

WRONG: I am the one, who did it. RIGHT: I am the one who did it.
WRONG: Lions, with manes, are male. RIGHT: Lions with manes are male.

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10. Before or after a series:

WRONG: The ingredients include, beets, spinach, liver and cottage cheese.

RIGHT: The ingredients include beets, spinach, liver and cottage cheese.

WRONG: Rounding third and heading for home was a brown-eyed, handsome, man.

RIGHT: Rounding third and heading for home was a brown-eyed, handsome man.

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11. Before indirect statements or quotations:

WRONG: He said that, I may leave.

RIGHT: He said that I may leave.

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12. Before certain quotations. If a quoted passage is not introduced by a word like says or replied, it usually needs no comma, especially if it is introduced with that. Compare the rules under Colons in Part Four.

WRONG: The only rule is, "Do your best." RIGHT: The only rule is "Do your best."
WRONG: He believes that, "Less is more." RIGHT: He believes that "Less is more."

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