RULE 1:        Use a comma with coordinating conjunctions (and, or, but, yet, so, for, nor) linking independent clauses.  DO NOT place a comma after a coordinating conjunction that joins independent clauses.  DO NOT place a comma between two independent clauses without a coordinating conjunction (comma splice).

                        EXAMPLE:  The moving van led the way, and we followed in the car. 

EXAMPLE:  Ill join you in Florida as soon as I can, but I have a weeks worth of work to do first. 

RULE 2:        Use a comma after introductory words, phrases, and clauses.  If the introductory element is short and cannot cause confusion, you may omit the comma.

                        EXAMPLE:  As soon as Ive finished my paper, Ill join you for dinner.

                        EXAMPLE:  If you have any questions, please let me know.   

RULE 3:         Use a comma to separate items in a series (three or more elements).

                         EXAMPLE:  Guests will need, pillows, linens, and towels. 

                        However, if the items themselves contain commas, use semi-colons.

Example:  If its a bakery, they have to sell cake; if its a photography shop, they have to develop film; and if its a dry-goods store, they have to sell warm underwear.    

RULE 4:         Use a comma with coordinate adjectives.   

TEST # 1:  If the order of the adjectives could be reversed without changing the meaning, use a comma between them. 

TEST # 2:  If and could be inserted between the adjectives without changing the meaning, use a comma.  

EXAMPLE:  On a cold, dark, gray day, the rescue workers began their search for the missing child. 

  RULE 5:      Use a comma with nonrestrictive (nonessential) elements. 

                        EXAMPLE:  Her father, who ran a grocery store for thirty years, retired this week. 

                        EXAMPLE: Joes remark, which was not meant to be unkind, offended Jan. 

RULE 6:        Use a comma to set off transitional and parenthetical expressions, contrasts, words of direct address, and tag sentences. 

                        Transitional expressions see pages 84 and 162 in S&S

            EXAMPLE:  I disagree strongly.  I plan, moreover, to speak against your proposal   in the meeting.  However, I wanted to tell you of my objection personally. 

            Contrast states what is not the case

            EXAMPLE:  Many students are interested only in a degree, not in an education.  

            Direct address names the person or persons being spoken to

            EXAMPLE:  Beth, you must realize that you are partially responsible. 

            Interrupting constructions

                        EXAMPLE:  Spring, I believe, has finally come to stay.

RULE 7:         Use a comma to separate quoted material from explanatory words.  This is NOT necessary if you have integrated the quoted material into the sentences grammatical structure.

                        EXAMPLE:  After a pause, he said, Ill join you shortly.

                        EXAMPLE:  Not that complaint again, she protested.