Sign Up For Our Free Grammar E-Newsletter

Using Commas, Semicolons, and Colons Within Sentences

Punctuation within sentences can be tricky; however, if you know just a few of the following rules, you will be well on your way to becoming a polished writer and proofreader.

Rule: Use a comma between two long independent clauses when conjunctions such as and, or, but, for, nor connect them.
Example: I have painted the entire house, but she is still working on sanding the floors.

Rule: If the clauses are both short, you may omit the comma.
Example: I painted and he sanded.

Rule: If you have only one clause (one subject and verb pair), you won’t usually need a comma in front of the conjunction.
Example: I have painted the house but still need to sand the floors.
This sentence has two verbs but only one subject, so it has only one clause.

Rule: Use the semicolon if you have two independent clauses connected without a conjunction.
Example: I have painted the house; I still need to sand the floors.

Rule: Also use the semicolon when you already have commas within a sentence for smaller separations, and you need the semicolon to show bigger separations.
Example: We had a reunion with family from Salt Lake City, Utah; Los Angeles, California; and Albany, New York.

Rule: A colon is used to introduce a second sentence that clarifies the first sentence.
Example: We have set this restriction: do your homework before watching television.
Notice that the first word of the second sentence is not capitalized. If, however, you have additional sentences following the sentence with the colon and they explain the sentence prior to the colon, capitalize the first word of all the sentences following the colon.

Rule: Use a colon to introduce a list when no introductory words like namely, for instance, i.e., e.g. precede the list.
Example: I need four paint colors: blue, gray, green, and red.

Posted on Sunday, October 1, 2006, at 10:15 pm


132 Comments

132 Responses to “Using Commas, Semicolons, and Colons Within Sentences”

  1. This guy says:

    Is there a “golden rule” for spacing AFTER a period and before the next sentence? I’ve been arguing with someone for quite some time that it is one — NOT 2 — spaces after each period. Please help us settle our quarrel!

    • Cheyanne says:

      It’s only one space, two spaces wouldn’t make sense

      • Jane says:

        Actually, it did make sense at one time. Our recent newsletter Rules Do Change says, “Originally, typewriters had monospaced fonts (whether letters were skinny or fat, they took up the same amount of space), so two spaces after ending punctuation marks such as the period were used to make the text more legible.”

        • Mark says:

          Jane,
          In this example you are talking about making the text you typed “look” good. Correcting for a limitation of the typewriter used. Not whether a double space is grammatically correct. My understanding is that It is not in this case, nor is it ever.

          • Jane says:

            We were referring to the past in our reply of May 14, 2013. Today most publishers, as well as the Chicago Manual of Style, advise leaving a single character space, not two spaces, between sentences.

    • graesha fisher says:

      Yes it is only one space after each period.

      • Val says:

        There is always two spaces after a period. Whoever told you it is only one has ABSOLUTELY no clue what they’re talking about.

        • It’s apparent that someone has no clue what he or she is talking about. We follow the guidance of the leading reference books on American English grammar and punctuation. The Chicago Manual of Style states, “A period marks the end of a declarative or an imperative sentence. Between sentences, it is followed by a single space.” The Associated Press Stylebook says, “Use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.”

  2. William C. Davidson says:

    I have ordered your book. Thank goodness for you! You make the arcane clear, and have lifted the fog that impeded my way in Grammarland. Thank you

  3. Jane says:

    I suggest using one space after a period. While this is not yet a rule, I think it’s a trend that will eventually win out over using two spaces.

    • CG says:

      Using two spaces after a period or colon improves readability. I am stoutly resisting the move towards one space although I fear I will lose against this inexorable tide.

      • Jane says:

        You didn’t resist when you wrote your note.

        • CG says:

          I did use two spaces. Unfortunately, forms such as yours remove the second space unless   is added to the code. I can’t add this code in your form.

          • CG says:

            Having posted that comment, I can see that my use of code for the non-breaking space in the sentence actually resulted in a space.  So now I can use two spaces after the end of a sentence in your form.  How delightful!

  4. ravi bedi says:

    Will it be wrong if we used a semicolon after the word win in the third example?

  5. Jane says:

    It’s better to use the colon, Ravi.

  6. Helen says:

    I notice people using just once space between sentences now, but we were taught that it is correct to use two. Has the rule changed?

  7. Jane says:

    Yes, the rule has changed or at least is changing so rapidly that I would suggest using only one space after the ending punctuation mark.

  8. ravi bedi says:

    In your last but one rule you have:

    Not used the coma after Also?
    Not used the coma before “and”?

    May I be enlightened on this since you recommend using coma before and!

    I find the coma most troublesome despite its tiny size!

  9. Jane says:

    You’re right, Ravi. While both those commas were optional, they are preferred. I have changed the blog to reflect your comments.

  10. Feeling stupid at 62 years old says:

    Can you explain to me the orgin of e.g. and how to properly use? Thanks, FS@62

  11. Jane says:

    e.g. is an abbreviation from the Latin “exempli gratia,” which translates to “for example”
    Example: You will need some baking ingredients; e.g., butter and sugar.

  12. johno says:

    Snip :
    Rule: Use a comma between two complete, long clauses (two subject and verb pairs) when conjunctions such as and, or, but, for, nor connect them.

    When I studied grammar (punctuation was part of grammar) in the early fifties in Australia, conjunctions (also referred to in Australia as joining words) and which also include “also” and “too” but not “for” had two rules :
    1) They could never start a sentence; and
    2) They could never have a comma in front of them (whether clauses were long or not).
    If one was using a comma to denote a breathing space it always came after the conjunction.

    I don’t know whether this is a difference between countries but Australia has traditionally used English as distinct from American English and up until about fifteen or so years ago there was no confusion but I notice this is changing rapidly here now as Australia becomes more and more Americanised. (Yes, “ised” not “ized”). I guess we’ll have to wait and see what develops. I don’t know what is currently being taught in schools.

    As for spaces after a full stop (American = period), the printing industry has always used two as a standard. I suspect this is rapidly changing as the use of HTML for web pages only allows a standard one space. A non-breaking space has to be used to insert a second one and I suspect for most coders this is not worth the effort even if they are aware of the printers’ standard.

    I only found this site by accident but it is real interesting. Keep up the good work. Viva la difference!

  13. Jane says:

    Johno, if in Australia you cannot start a sentence with a conjunction and do not use commas in front of them ever, the rules there are different from American grammar and punctuation rules. “Viva la difference” is a good attitude to have!

  14. Jessica says:

    Could you clear up whether or not to put a comma in this example after ‘are’?

    Research shows that teens are, “more likely to drop out if they do drugs.”

  15. Marie says:

    In Australia I wouldn’t put a comma here. It’s not direct speech and flows naturally, without the comma, as a quote.

  16. Jane says:

    Jessica, I agree with Marie.

  17. Karin says:

    do I have the commas in the correct space? I have two clients, Ed and Pat, whom I have worked with for several years…

  18. Jane says:

    Yes. Good job.

  19. Ella says:

    I was wondering whether it’s strictly wrong to have a conjunction after a coma in British English. I find that sometimes when sentences are very long it feels natural to have a coma before the word “and”. I am Swedish- can it be that Swedish punctuation rules differ from English ones? As far as I can remember there are occasions when it is correct to use a coma before conjunctions.

  20. Jane says:

    In the U.S., it is preferred to use a comma before “and” in a series of three or more. However, in order to save precious space, newspapers do not use this comma. I believe that the preferred method in British English is to leave out the comma but I don’t believe it is considered wrong to put the comma in.

  21. Emily says:

    Hello,
    I had a question regarding the issue of one or two spaces following a colon that is followed by an independent clause. When you say that if the colon is followed by merely one complete sentence, that second clause should not be capitalized, but if it is followed by two or more, that same clause should be capitalized, do you mean “two or more” sentences in the same paragraph? Or two or more sentences that are closely related to the idea followed by the colon? Because I imagine most sentences are followed by another sentence, so I wasn’t quite sure what you meant there. It seems to be a sticky issue and most people don’t offer up a rule at all, so I’d really like to know what you think!
    Cheers,
    Emily

  22. Jane says:

    Hi, Emily.
    I think you have two questions here:
    1. Use only one space following a colon no matter what.
    2. You’re right that I should have written, “If the sentence ending with a colon is followed by two or more closely-related sentences, the first word of the sentence following the colon should be capitalized.”
    Is that better?

  23. Emily says:

    Yes, that’s great!
    Thanks so much–
    Cheers,
    Emily

  24. Marilyne says:

    Hello

    Could you tell me if you would put a comma before and in the following sentence.

    Mary made a grocery list to buy the following ingredients: milk, butter, sugar and bread.

    Thnks

  25. Megan says:

    Hello! I am afraid that I am overusing commas. I feel like I am using them too much in the beginning of sentences. Here are the sentences I have questions with:

    1. As a graduate of Wilkes University, I obtained my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and Elementary Education in May 2004. (do I need that comma in the beginning?)

    2.. Prior to this employment, I completed two long-term teaching positions in the Dallas School District, both in a Kindergarten and Fifth grade classroom. (Do I need the comma after employment and after District?)

    3. As a secondary learning support teacher, I have strengthened my skills in classroom management, particularly discipline procedures, and developed a strong understanding of the appropriate strategies needed to teach students of various skill levels. (Do I need the comma after teacher?)

    4.As a co-teacher, I am responsible for learning the material in various content areas, without prior knowledge of the curriculum. (Do I need the comma after co-teacher?)

    5. During my junior and senior year of college I spent time caring for a six year old boy with Down’s Syndrome. (Do I need a comma after college?)

    6. In order to engage all students, I incorporate accommodations into lessons and activities, maintain effective communication with special and regular education staff, and ensure that IEP goals are properly met. (need the comma after students?)

    7.With my qualifications and experiences in both special and regular education settings, I have developed into a more resourceful and confident educator. (need the comma after settings?)

    8. It is with great anticipation that I am applying for a teaching position, on the elementary level, in your district. (do I need all of these commas here?)

    Thanks so much for any feedback you may have. I have been over analyzing this for days!

  26. Jane says:

    #1 yes
    #2 yes; also “fifth-grade classroom”
    #3 yes
    #4 The comma after “areas” is optional
    #5 Place a comma after “college”; also, “six-year-old boy”
    #6 yes
    #7 yes
    #8 Leave out the comma after “level.”

  27. Bill says:

    I have a question that has been eating at me forever. Is this considered to be a comma splice or is it an acceptable use of punctuation.

    Hello, my name is Bill.

    Every fibre of my being is saying that it should be.

    Hello. My name is Bill.

    Which is correct and are you able to tell me why.

    • Jane says:

      Your being’s fibres/fibers are speaking truth to you. Essentially, “hello” is a complete expression and should be followed by a period in your example.

  28. Buddy says:

    Which of the following sentences is punctuated correctly?
    A. Elias said, “…but it is going to rain…”
    B. Elias said, “but it is going to rain.”
    C. Elias said, “…but it is going to rain….”

    (Note: the (Should “the” be capitalized? I think it should not be.) original quote reads, “It is sunny today but it is going to rain tomorrow.”)

    Which of the following sentences is punctuated correctly?
    A. I do not care if Cornelius is “angrier than an old wet hen”!
    B. I do not care if Cornelius is, “angrier than an old wet hen!”
    C. I do not care if Cornelius is, “angrier than an old wet hen”!
    D. I do not care if Cornelius is “angrier than an old wet hen!”

    (Note: the original quote reads, “I am angrier than an old wet hen!”)

    • Jane says:

      #1: I would pick A as the correct answer. If “but” is the first word of the sentence, it should be capitalized.
      I don’t understand your question about capitalizing “the” because I don’t see it in the sentence.
      #2: I would pick D. Because this is not a direct quote, no comma is needed after “is.” Also, the exclamation point goes inside the quotation mark.

  29. Buddy says:

    The “the” I inquired about follows each of the colons in the following statements:

    (Note: the original quote reads, “It is sunny today but it is going to rain tomorrow.”)

    (Note: the original quote reads, “I am angrier than an old wet hen!”)

    Should it be written, “Note: The…” or written, “Note: the…”? The successive statement is following “Note,” which is an incomplete sentence. Basically, I wonder if a warning following, say, “Caution,” should begin with an uppercase or a lowercase letter.

    P.S. Sorry for the confusion. I was just making the most of my post.

    • Jane says:

      With just one complete sentence (excluding the quote) following a colon, do not capitalize the first word of the new sentence following the colon.
      Note: the original quote reads, “It is sunny today…”
      I hope I understood your question this time and answered it clearly.

  30. Buddy says:

    You understood correctly!

    If you do not mind, please clarify something that has confused me for the longest:

    If I wanted to rewrite, “I did not attend the party, for I was not invited,” in a different way, which of the following would be the correct/best way to do so:
    A. I did not attend the party. I was not invited.
    B. I did not attend the party; I was not invited.
    C. I did not attend the party: I was not invited.

    • Jane says:

      A and B are both equally correct choices. C is also correct since you mean “for.” When the second sentence explains something about the first sentence, you may separate the two sentences with a colon.

  31. Buddy says:

    I have a simple question: how many semicolons and/or colons can you have in a single sentence?

    • Jane says:

      There is no limit to the number of semicolons and/or colons you can have in a single sentence. However, I would recommend using only one of each and then starting a new sentence.
      Note that my last sentence could have been written as follows: There is no limit to the number of semicolons and/or colons you can have in a single sentence; however, I would recommend using only one of each and then starting a new sentence.

  32. Laird says:

    A friend is creating a website and I’m helping edit it.

    In the following heading, I say use commas and he believes semi-colons are correct.

    What do you say?

    Message from the Mayor; Community Groups; City Library and
    City Railroad Heritage Society:

    • Jane says:

      Is this one heading? Why? Is it possible to make separate headings and not use any punctuation, which would be cleaner? In any case, you can’t leave “City Library” without punctuation.

  33. Laird says:

    Thanks for your response.

    Here is the heading and the lead paragraph. I have replaced the city name for the sake of privacy.

    Message from the Mayor;
    Community Groups;
    MacTier Library and
    MacTier Railroad Heritage Society:

    It is with great pride that we welcome all who come to visit our town and its website. Please relax and enjoy the site while you are here. We look forward to seeing you whenever you visit us in 2010/2011 and beyond.

    • Jane says:

      It is still unclear to me whether there are separate messages from the mayor, community groups, etc. If so, I would write it this way:

      Messages from:
      The Mayor
      Community Groups
      MacTier Library
      MacTier Railroad Heritage Society

      The semicolons after each one are optional. See below.

      Messages from:
      The Mayor;
      Community Groups;
      MacTier Library;
      MacTier Railroad Heritage Society.

  34. Laird says:

    It’s one message. The assumption is it’s from all of the people mentioned in the heading.

  35. Buddy says:

    Please clarify if the following examples are written and punctuated correctly:
    1. I have to take an early flight to Tokyo, for rough weather is forecasted for tomorrow,” she cried, while packing her suitcase hurriedly.
    2. You should bring canned goods, such as vegetables, soup, and pasta.
    3. We cannot make it to the start of the movie, even if we take the shorter route.
    4. Can you help me move this couch, please?

  36. Buddy says:

    Would you say that any of those commas are optional? I ask because I have trouble with the no-comma-before-the-weak-clause rule.

  37. Buddy says:

    For example, is the comma before “such” necessary (You should bring canned goods, such as vegetables, soup, and pasta.)?

    Likewise, is the comma before “please” necessary (Can you help me move this couch, please?)?

    I presume each of these commas are used to show a break in the flow of each sentence, but I am asking you for reassurance.

  38. Buddy says:

    I am confused by something found on your website. Specifically, I am confused by Semicolon’s Rule 1 and Colon’s Rule 4. For reference, I copied and pasted the rulings below:

    Rule 1.
    Use a semicolon in place of a period to separate two sentences where the conjunction has been left out.

    Examples: Call me tomorrow; I will give you my answer then.

    Rule 4.
    Use a colon instead of a semicolon between two sentences when the second sentence explains or illustrates the first sentence and no coordinating conjunction is being used to connect the sentences. If only one sentence follows the colon, do not capitalize the first word of the new sentence. If two or more sentences follow the colon, capitalize the first word of each sentence following.

    Now, should not the example under Rule 1 be written as, “Call me tomorrow: I will give you my answer then”? To me, it looks as if the second half of the sentence is explaining/illustrating the first part.

    • Jane says:

      Good question! In my opinion, the second sentence does not explain or illustrate the first sentence. “Call me tomorrow; I will give you my answer then.” In the following sentence, a colon would be appropriate because the second sentence does explain/refer to the first one: “Call me tomorrow: I will have had time to think about your question by then.” There is some room for the writer’s opinion here, of course.

  39. Buddy says:

    In the following statement, should a comma or semicolon be placed after “pasta”?

    You should bring canned goods, such as vegetables, soup, and pasta; and you need to bring your goods before the deadline, which is this Friday.

    (I ask because of this ruling found on your website:

    Rule 5.
    Use the semicolon between two sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction when one or more commas appear in the first sentence.)

  40. Buddy says:

    I do not believe I saw a rule in your online guide explaining that a comma can be used to omit word/words. Here is an example to show you what I mean: Randall is going to his social studies class; Kevin, science; and Adam, math.

    This is a legitimate function of the comma, correct?

  41. Where does one put a question mark when one is asking about information contained in a quote, the quote being introduced by a colon? Example:
    ——————————————
    Bob, what’s your opinion of how Churchill began this speech:

    I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.
    ———————————————–

    The question mark has to go somewhere, but where?

    • Jane says:

      I would try to reword the sentence to eliminate the question mark.

      Bob, I would like your opinion of the beginning of Churchill’s speech:

  42. Kevin says:

    Jane, I’m having an argument with somebody right now about short independent clauses and commas. You state that it is not required to place a comma between two short independent clauses. The example I used was this sentence, “I like to eat oranges and midgets like to eat donuts.”

    Is it, in fact, a “rule” that you don’t have to have a comma there, before and? Where can I find a reference to that rule?

    • Jane says:

      The rule you are referring to is Rule 12 in the Commas section: “Use a comma to separate two strong clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction–and, or, but, for, nor. You can omit the comma if the clauses are both short.”

      Likewise, the Chicago Manual of Style says, “When independent clauses are joined by and, but, or, so, yet, or any other conjunction, a comma usually precedes the conjunction. If the clauses are very short and closely connected, the comma may be omitted unless the clauses are part of a series.” (6.28)

  43. Just a question says:

    Hi,
    A- I’m sleeping in bed right now. I’m not working.
    B- I’m sleeping in bed right now, I’m not working.
    C- I’m sleeping in bed right now; I’m not working. (Here, I think that the second sentence does not illustrate the first one, it just confirm it.) Is it correct?
    Which is correct here? And is the meaning of the sentence is right: to say I’m sleeping!

    • Jane says:

      Both A and C are grammatically correct. I say grammatically correct because if you were really sleeping you wouldn’t be able to be writing at the same time! According to Rule 1 for semicolons, use a semicolon to separate two sentences where the conjunction has been left out. Rule 4 for colons says that if the second sentence explains or illustrates the first sentence, then a colon is used. Quite often it is the writer’s opinion that will determine which of the two is used.

  44. Kristi says:

    Is it correct or incorrect to punctuate with a comma after the date in the following sentence: I asked her what dental trauma she believes occurred in the June 14, 2010, motor vehicle accident. In this sentence would the date be descriptive of the motor vehicle accident? Would motor and vehicle be adjectives to accident?

    • Jane says:

      According to Rule 5a, “Use a comma to separate the day of the month from the year and after the year.” The word motor is an adjective that describes the word vehicle and together they are both adjectives that modify the word accident.

  45. emily1 says:

    Please Jane, help me
    I’m not sure if this sentence is correct
    ”In a television advertisement for the popular Slovak beer Zlaty Bazant, a grinning man with a paunch stands on a sunny beach, nodding his head as the narrator says, “To want to borrow from everyone, that is Greek.”

    Are the commas on their place?
    Thank you

  46. Claire says:

    Hi, is this sentence ok? I really struggle with grammar. I think this sentence is all over the place. Also im not sure if it is correct to use a colon and a semi-colon in the same sentence. please help.

    Thank you.

    However there are four ethical principles: autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, and justice; these principles enable nurses to analyse care by circumstance, and aid the rationale of their actions.

    • Jane says:

      It is acceptable to use a colon and a semi-colon in the same sentence. Grammatically, your sentence is fine. Simply add a comma after However and, unless you are British, spell analyse as analyze.

  47. Jennifer says: says:

    Thank you for your help! As a grandmother, I now know more than I want to know about punctuation! Anything to help the kids :-) Do you have a section how to write an essay? I, we, truly appreciate your help. Jennifer

    • Jane says:

      We do not have a section on writing essays specifically, however, we do have one titled “Effective Writing.” You may find the information there to be helpful.

  48. Kim says:

    Do you need a comma before “if necessary” at the end of a sentence?

    • Jane says:

      There is no specific rule about this. The author can use judgement as to how much of a pause occurs before “if necessary.” For example, I was able to find these two sentences in The Chicago Manual of Style:

      “Convert files for use in the editing software required by the publisher, if necessary.”

      “Some editors make daily backups and weekly sequential backups—so that an earlier stage of the editing can be consulted if necessary.”

  49. Hkpsport says:

    Is this an appropriate use of a colon?

    Ex. Always loving: always loved.

    • Jane says:

      With the exception of business salutations, all of our colon rules apply to complete sentences where what follows the colon explains or illustrates what preceded the colon. Since this is not a complete sentence, it is hard to suggest proper punctuation; however, a comma or semicolon would probably work fine.

  50. Chris Reid says:

    What is the correct punctuation when using “including,” followed by a series? Specifically, should there be a colon after the word “including” in the following sentence?

    Additional reports are maintained for tracking borrower receivables, including: financial statements (for both borrower and guarantor), rent rolls, budgets, and letter of credit expirations.

    • Jane says:

      A colon before a series takes on a similar function to the word including; therefore, using a colon would be redundant.

      Additional reports are maintained for tracking borrower receivables, including financial statements (for both borrower and guarantor), rent rolls, budgets, and letter of credit expirations.

  51. Cari says:

    Is this a correct use of a semicolon?

    He came from a long line of hard times(;) from childhood extending into his young adult life.

    Thank you for Your Help!!!

    • Jane says:

      There is no reason to use a semicolon. A comma should be used to set off words that clarify or are used as a parenthetical element.

      He came from a long line of hard times, from childhood extending into his young adult life.

  52. Lauren says:

    Hi,
    It is my understanding that although using a semi-colon and colon in the same sentence may be grammatically correct, it may not be the best option. Could you please help me with the sentences below? I would appreciate any suggestions you may have on how to improve them.

    There are many important issues in the field of Education. One among them is teacher accountability. To me this issue does not stand alone; it is inextricably tied to three other issues: teacher education, teacher evaluation and professional development.

    • Jane says:

      There is no rule against using a semicolon and colon in the same sentence. The word education in the first sentence does not need to be capitalized. Also, our Rule 1 of Commas states, “To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.”

      There are many important issues in the field of education. One among them is teacher accountability. To me this issue does not stand alone; it is inextricably tied to three other issues: teacher education, teacher evaluation, and professional development.

  53. Viet says:

    Hello Jane,

    Is it correct to put the comma between the main clause and the subordinate conjunction as in the sentence below from White Fang of Jack London?

    “The pale light of the short sunless day was beginning to fade, when a faint far cry arose on the still air.”

    Could the above sentence be rewritten as: “The pale light of the short sunless day was beginning to fade, a faint far cry arose on the still air.”

    Thank you in advance

    • Jane says:

      A comma before the subordinate clause is not really necessary (but if Jack London wants a comma there, we’re not going to question him). Regarding your rewritten sentence, our rule 1 of Semicolons says, “Use a semicolon in place of a period to separate two sentences where the conjunction has been left out.” It could also be written as two separate sentences.

      “The pale light of the short sunless day was beginning to fade; a faint far cry arose on the still air.” OR

      “The pale light of the short sunless day was beginning to fade. A faint far cry arose on the still air.”

  54. Jessica says:

    Hi Jane,

    Thank you for your wonderful blog!

    I have not been able to find an example showing comma usage between two independent clauses when the second clause begins with a weak clause or dependent clause.

    In these examples is A or B correct (or neither)?

    1A. I began learning how to code, and by the end of the summer, I had created my first website.
    1B. I began learning how to code, and, by the end of the summer, I had created my first website.

    (The following sentence probably just needs a rewrite, but I’m still interested in the correct use of commas here.)
    2A. After creating an account, I began browsing the website, and unimpressed with the variety of the available templates, I decided to build my own theme.
    2B. After creating an account, I began browsing the website, and, unimpressed with the variety of the available templates, I decided to build my own theme.

    Thank you!

    • Jane says:

      In 1A and B, you could think of the structure of independent clause followed by the dependent clause/independent clause combination as a type of sentence with two independent clauses. In that case you have a choice of separating them with a comma and a conjunction, a semicolon, or separating them into two sentences:
      1A. I began learning how to code, and by the end of the summer, I had created my first website. OR
      I began learning how to code; by the end of the summer, I had created my first website. OR
      I began learning how to code. By the end of the summer, I had created my first website. OR rewrite it as an independent clause followed by an independent clause/dependent clause combination:
      I began learning how to code, and I created my first website by the end of the summer. OR
      I began learning how to code; I created my first website by the end of the summer.
      I began learning how to code. I created my first website by the end of the summer.

      Regarding 2A and 2B, our Rule 5 of Semicolons states, “Use the semicolon between two sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction when one or more commas appear in the first sentence.” Therefore, your second example could be written “After creating an account, I began browsing the website; and unimpressed with the variety of the available templates, I decided to build my own theme.” You could also rewrite it as two sentences.
      “After creating an account, I began browsing the website. Unimpressed with the variety of the available templates, I decided to build my own theme.”

  55. Chris McReynolds says:

    I have question. In writing a strategy statement, I had to combine many words in one sentence. I am struggling with what to do before the word “allowing.” Should I use a comma, semi-colon or nothing.

    The IVM project aligns with the 2013 DSV mission to expand the proven product model allowing the international sales teams to expand Cameron DSV in aggressively growing regions, with a wide range of ball valve products, reduced lead times and more competitively priced products.

    • Jane says:

      I am going to do my best to interpret the intent of your sentence. There should be a comma before the word allowing. Also, many writers, including us, would put a comma after the word times, although some authorities feel it is not mandatory.

      The IVM project aligns with the 2013 DSV mission to expand the proven product model, allowing the international sales teams to expand Cameron DSV in aggressively growing regions, with a wide range of ball valve products, reduced lead times, and more competitively priced products.

  56. Lisa says:

    In the following sentence, should there be commas after the words fathers and bosses, or just after the word bosses…or none at all? Thanks!

    The work adults do as mothers and fathers and as low-level workers and high-level bosses shapes women’s and men’s life experiences, and these experiences produce different feelings, consciousness, relationships, skills – ways of being that we call feminine or masculine.

    • Jane says:

      There should be commas after the words fathers and bosses. Also, our Rule 5 of Semicolons says, “Use the semicolon between two sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction when one or more commas appear in the first sentence.” In addition, the word consciousness is not used correctly in your sentence. You would not say “these experiences produce different conscioiusness.” Perhaps you could reword to levels of consciousness. Our Dashes rule says, “Use an em dash sparingly in formal writing.” You could use parentheses instead.

      The work adults do as mothers and fathers, and as low-level workers and high-level bosses, shapes women’s and men’s life experiences; and these experiences produce different feelings, levels of consciousness, relationships, skills (ways of being that we call feminine or masculine).

  57. Suyn says:

    For poetry, could one perhaps use a colon to explain a concept, then use a comma to continue on with the ‘sentence’ (if written in prose, it would not be separated by lines) much in the same way dashes are used?

    • Jane says:

      The punctuation rules that apply to prose do not necessarily apply to poetry. Poets are allowed to use punctuation creatively in their own style. For example, Emily Dickinson used dashes frequently. Some authors do not use any punctuation. It is up to you, the author of the poem, to choose your own punctuation. There are many interesting articles about this topic on the Internet if you search “punctuation in poetry.”

  58. Sarah Johnson says:

    I have a question about using commas in sentences.

    Sometimes they need to get other medicine or they may just need to wait and let the medicines work.

    • Jane says:

      In sentences where two independent clauses are joined by connectors such as and, or, but, etc., put a comma at the end of the first clause.

      Sometimes they need to get other medicine, or they may just need to wait and let the medicines work.

  59. michelle says:

    hi, if i use this sentence:

    “Only in this way, can the reader truly start to understand what being a soldier really means: sorrowful sacrifice instead of ardent zest.”

    my colon usage is correct right?

    • Jane says:

      The colon is correct but the comma after the word way is unnecessary.

      “Only in this way can the reader truly start to understand what being a soldier really means: sorrowful sacrifice instead of ardent zest.”

  60. becky says:

    Is it correct you don’t type out a number, you write it out?

    Mary is six years old today.
    Not, Mary is 6 years old today.

    Thanks.
    B

    • Jane says:

      Spelling out numbers vs. using figures is often a matter of writer’s preference. The editing style for a book may differ from the style for a newspaper or magazine. The key is to be consistent.

  61. Allen W. says:

    In my opinion, punctuation is properly thought of as part of the SENTENCE,NOT as part of the neighboring or last word in a sentence. Punctuation marks should therefore enjoy the SAME status as a word — That is, they should be separated from the previous word or mark by a space, as follows:

    Now: “Xxx:”. Proposed : ” XXX : ” .

    This makes for much cleaner , clearer and readable copy !

    • Jane says:

      Thank you for your innovative thoughts on punctuation. I’ve posted your opinion to our blog “Using Commas, Semicolons, and Colons within Sentences” (we don’t have a blog on punctuation in general) to see if any of our readers wish to comment on it.

  62. Michelle says:

    Would you please help me? This is driving me crazy. Which is correct?

    “It’s beautiful,” Michael said, as he watched the sunset.
    “It’s beautiful,” Michael said as he watched the sunset.

    Thank you!

  63. shyam says:

    should I use comma after ‘and’ in the following sentences. …..
    I had apple, orange, banana, and grapes.
    The American flag has white, blue, and red.

    • Jane says:

      In the current edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation and on the website, we have stated a preference for use of the serial, or Oxford, comma.
      Rule 1 -To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.
      However, we will be issuing an eleventh edition of The Blue Book in February, where we will loosen up a bit, and allow for omission of the serial comma before and as long as you’re consistent in your writing. We do recommend the addition of the article an before the word apple in your first sentence.

      I had an apple, orange, banana, and grapes.

  64. Donna says:

    Thanks for all of your tips. Do you use a comma when you are speaking to someone directly, and end the comment with their name? For example, “I love you, John”. Or can you omit the comma, i.e. “Thank you Mom”

  65. Katelyn says:

    I have this in my paper: “Being oneself; being an individual, is important even in rough circumstances.”. Is this sentence okay??

    • Jane says:

      We recommend a comma rather than a semicolon after the word oneself.
      Being oneself, being an individual, is important even in rough circumstances.

  66. farid says:

    Donna,you still did not follow the comma rule in your comment above;you didn’t need a comma before “and”.

    • Jane says:

      We generally do not correct the errors in the comments our readers submit, especially if the errors are not directly related to the question being asked. If we did, we would need to point out all the errors in your comment.

  67. Susan says:

    In our law firm, we often request lists of items from opposing counsel. Specifically, we make these requests in the form of a letter, listing the items needed. My question is if we number the requests and follow each with a semicolon, do I include a comma after “and” before the last request?

    Example: 4. blah blah blah; and,
    5. ya ya ya.

    I appreciate your time and attention to my query.

    • If each point in a list is a complete sentence, we recommend capitalizing the first word and ending the sentence with appropriate ending punctuation. Capitalization and ending punctuation are optional when listing items as single words or phrases. Otherwise, there are no hard and fast rules, except be consistent. Having said that, placing semicolons at the end of each item seems like an unnecessary complication. Also, when listing items in a sentence, the comma normally comes before the word “and,” not after it. Here are some examples:

      We have listed your responsibilities:

      3. Vacuum the rug. (period, no semicolon, no “and”)
      4. Feed the cat.
      5. Walk the dog.

      3. vacuuming the rug
      4. feeding the cat
      5. walking the dog

      3. vacuuming the rug,
      4. feeding the cat,
      5. walking the dog.

      3. vacuuming the rug,
      4. feeding the cat,
      5. and walking the dog.

      3. vacuuming the rug,
      4. feeding the cat, and
      5. walking the dog.

      Even if there are commas within one or more of the numbered points, it is not necessary to place a semicolon at the end of the point (but you may if you wish).

      3. vacuuming the rug, taking out the trash
      4. feeding the cat
      5. walking the dog

      3. vacuuming the rug, taking out the trash;
      4. feeding the cat;
      5. and walking the dog.

  68. Eso says:

    My sense tells me that the following should have a semicolon or period, but colloquial usage gives me the impression that perhaps a comma is now correct. Anyway, is this correct:
    “That’s funny, he’s carried those exact same analogies through his other debates.”
    So, I’m wondering about the period after “funny”.

    • Since “that’s funny” is a complete sentence, it could end with a period. You could also use a semicolon in place of the period since there is no conjunction. But some writers would retain the comma since the two clauses are so closely related. “That’s funny” acts almost as a dependent clause or phrasal adverb in this sentence.

  69. Curious says:

    Lincoln had four sons, Tad, Willie, Edward, and Robert.

    Lincoln had four sons: Tad, Willie, Edward, and Robert.

    Which is correct?

  70. Alaria Bliss says:

    The following is the most complex sentence in my first book. Naturally, I want it to look good, however, I am uncertain how to punctuate it, especially before the last clause “I honor all the mothers.”–with a semi colon or a coma??? Thank you for your help. And, Happy Mother’s Day!

    “Grandmother Gaia, the first mother of us all; Rhea, our own mother; Leto, the Hyperborean mother of Artemis and Apollo; Maia, the Pleiadian, mother of Hermes; Semele, who perished at the sight of my true form but gave us Dionysos; and Metis, mother of Athena; I honor all the mothers.”

    • The punctuation is correct as written. You could also write the sentence as follows:

      I honor all the mothers: Grandmother Gaia, the first mother of us all; Rhea, our own mother; Leto, the Hyperborean mother of Artemis and Apollo; Maia, the Pleiadian, mother of Hermes; Semele, who perished at the sight of my true form but gave us Dionysos; and Metis, mother of Athena.

  71. buqui says:

    please is this of colon, semi-colon and commas in the right order?
    objectives: To
    1. ensure equity and equality of opportunities in university education to all;

    2. provide flexible but qualitative eductaion, and;

    3. entrench a global learning culture in students.

    especially no 2 please. i anticipate your prompt response please.

    • Since your list does not include a complete sentence, we recommend not using any punctuation within the list. You may also want to avoid the awkward placement of the word to alone introducing the list, replace the word to with the word for in the first item, and omit the unnecessary word and at the end of the second item. Also in the second item, we wonder whether you meant “qualitative” or “quality” education, and note the correction of the spelling of the word education.

      Our objectives are to:
      1. ensure equity and equality of opportunities in university education for all
      2. provide flexible but qualitative education
      3. entrench a global learning culture in students

      • Julia says:

        In this instance, the bullet points complete the sentence that begins, “Our objectives are to:” I would, therefore, put a comma at the end of 1., a comma followed by the word and at the of 2., and a period at the end of 3. Yet, you used no punctuation at the end of each bullet. Why?

        • The rule states “If each point is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word and end the sentence with appropriate ending punctuation.” Although they complete the sentence that begins “Our objectives are to,” none of the points are complete sentences by themselves.

  72. Marck says:

    Have I used the colon and commas correctly? Or should the commas be semi colons?

    Those projects included: Development and implementation of Flight Attendant Involvement Teams, analyzed and created guidelines for Inflight Crewmember dependability (attendance). Spearheaded the 2004 FAA Flight Attendant Certification Program, participated in the development of a training program for new Inflight Supervisors.

    • The colon is unnecessary. However, your sentence needs a few modifications. The projects started out as nouns (development and implementation) and then changed to verbs (analyzed, created, spearheaded, participated). We recommend using parallel structure.

      If you use the colon, the first word after the colon should not be capitalized. Also, there should be a comma instead of a period after “(attendance).” The word spearheading should not be capitalized. The terms “flight attendant involvement teams,” “inflight crewmember dependability,” and “inflight supervisors” do not need capitalization.

Leave a Reply