Commas: rules 1-4

I'm not great at teaching punctuation but some of my students are now writing so well that they need to become more familiar with the use of a comma. So, here are four of the easier rules relating to commas.

Okay, commas can be quite tricky, but they are also quite important, especially in writing IELTS essays and reports. So, let's look at some of the rules relating to commas.

Rule 1: Use commas to separate items in a list

This is probably the easiest rule for commas. If you have a list of things, then you need to put a comma between each of the things.

There were many vehicles on the road, including car, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles.

Remember that the last two things on the list are joined with 'and'.

Note that you do not need to put a comma before the 'and',

Rule 2: Use a comma after an introductory word or phrase

Most of you are familiar with this use, because you use commas after linkers.

Firstly, the number of vehicles on the roads has increased.
In the next stage, the milk is stabilized.
On the west side of the road, the houses have been removed.

Rule 3: Use a comma to separate any non-essential information in a sentence.

This one is a little more tricky. Sometimes, you might want to include extra information within a sentence that isn’t essential to its meaning. You should separate this information using a comma before and a comma after the phrase:

When I was very young I used to climb trees all day.
When I was very young, before I started school, I used to climb trees all day.

In the example, I have added the phrase before I started school to the sentence. This phrase is not essential because the sentence is good and grammatically correct without the phrase. So, I out a comma before, and a comma after the phrase.

Rule 4: Use a comma before 'especially' when adding more information to a sentence

Advancements in technology have meant that people can easily communicate and interact with each other, especially in their work and friendships.

Notice that the sentence is good and grammatically correct without the addition of 'especially in their work and friendships'. This is again, extra information.

If you want some practice with commas, then complete the exercise below by putting commas into the 10 sentences.


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