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   How Commas Are Used

                Use a comma ...                                                                            Need a dictionary? [Open][Close]


1. to set off an introductory word or phrase.
For 82 days, reporter Jill Carroll was held captive by insurgents in Iraq.
2. to set off an introductory dependent clause.
When her captors planned to use her in a propaganda video, Carroll feared the worst.
3. to add an independent clause with a coordinating conjunction.
Carroll's captors terrorized her, yet sometimes they were civil to her.
4. to introduce a quotation or to mark the end of a quotation.
Preferring a quick death by pistol, Carroll pleaded, "I don't want the knife."
"They all seemed concerned that I think they were good, or at least that they were treating me well," Carrol wrote.
  NotePeriods and commas always go inside quotation marks.
5. to separate three or more items in a series when the list has no other internal commas.
Within hours after her abduction, Carroll was taken to two homes, dressed in new clothes, fed chicken and rice, and invited to watch television with the family of one of her captors.  NoteThe comma before and is optional.
6. to set off transitions:
introductory: Carroll feared the worst. However, her captors said they did not plan to kill her.
mid-sentence: Her captors, however, seemed confused when she mentioned how she wanted to die.
end-of-sentence: Her kidnappers seemed confused, however.
7. to insert extra (nonessential) information:  NoteInformation is extra, or nonessential, if it can be omitted from the sentence without making the sentence meaningless or unintelligible.

    dependent nonrestrictive adjective clauses in the middle or at the end of an independent clause 

Carroll, who was a freelance writer when she was abducted, published her story on the website of the Christian Science Monitor, where she is a staff writer.

     Participial phrases

Her captors took her to two different homes, starting with a tiny, three-bedroom house outside of Baghdad.
This house was a poor place, built of cinder blocks.

     Appositives
Jill's Iraqi interpreter, Alan Enwiya, was killed during the kidnapping.

     Adjective plus noun clause complement
"I played dumb, fearful that they would think I understood too much and kill me."
The sentences in this table are based on the article "Ex-captive tells of Iraq ordeal," published in the San Jose Mercury News, August 14, 2006.

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