San Jose City College

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   Commas are used to (1) set off introductory words or phrases; (2) set off introductory dependent clauses; (3) join two independent clauses with a coordinator; (4) set off transitions; (5) separate items in a list; (6) set off extra (nonessential) information; (7) set off quotations.

Directions: Read the sentences and determine if the comma use is correct or incorrect. Ask yourself why and then click the book to see if you correctly guessed which comma-use rule applies to the sentence. These sentences were written by ESL students.

1. Tuition and fees bring in money that colleges need to expand their facilities, carry out science projects, and keep their laboratories up to date. (5) The commas correctly separate items in a list of three or more items. The comma before and is optional.
2. Not everyone has the opportunity to go to college for many students can't afford the tuition and fees. (3) A comma is needed before the coordinating conjunction for.
3. Obviously charging tuition and fees is necessary for maintaining programs that benefit students. (1) A comma is needed after the introductory word obviously.
4. Some people argue that many students won't be able to afford a college education because of tuition and fees; however they should keep in mind that these students can apply for financial aid. (4) A comma is needed after the transition however.
5. Despite the fact that community colleges charged no tuition 50 years ago they cannot afford that today. (2) A comma is needed after the introductory dependent clause ending with the word ago.
6. The Internet provides global access to world news, educational articles, literary works, movies, music, sports, and much more. (5) Commas are correctly used to separate items in a list.
7. Ramon's problem started when his neighbor, Amanda who was a policeman's wife asked him to help her fix her washing machine. (6) Amanda is an appositive and needs a comma following it; the adjective clause gives nonessential (extra) information and should also be set off with commas.
...his neighbor, Amanda, who was a policeman's wife, asked him...
8. While Ramon was inside the house helping Amanda, the policeman came home and got furious at Ramon because he was alone in the house with his wife. (2) The comma correctly follows the introductory dependent clause.
9. Without asking why he was in his house the policeman beat up Ramon and accused him of sexually harassing his wife. (1) A comma is needed to set off the introductory phrase with a noun clause object: Without asking why he was in his house,...
10. Ramon ended up in jail for two years, another victim of the corrupt Mexican police. (6) The comma correctly separates extra (nonessential) information from the sentence. A dash would also be effective here.
11. When I was in seventh grade, my school once dismissed students early in order to allow them to watch the execution of a nineteen-year-old boy who had murdered a newly married girl. (2) The comma correctly sets off an introductory dependent clause.
12. The murder occurred when he went to steal her jewelry which was valued at one-tenth of an ounce of gold. (6) A comma is needed after jewelry as the adjective clause gives extra information.
13. Today many countries use the death penalty to bring the criminal to justice to deter violent crimes, and to show strong social condemnation for heinous crimes. (1) and (4) A comma is needed after the introductory today and between the first and second items in the list...to bring the criminal to justice, to deter...
14. According to the news article "After 24 years on death row, clemency is killer's final appeal," Adam Liptak shows that states that have the highest execution rates have higher violent crime rates. (7) A comma is needed before quotation marks. (1) The comma would also set off the introductory phrase, "[a]ccording to the news article."
15. The parents and siblings of Kim Groves, who was murdered by Paul Hardy and Len Davis in Louisiana, sent a letter to prosecutors asking them to forgo seeking the death penalty for the two defendants. (6) The commas are correctly used with the nonrestrictive adjective clause, which gives extra (nonessential) information.
16. The letter stated "Executing these two men will not bring Kim Groves back to life. It will not ease the deep sorrow and loss that her family has and will continue to experience as a result of her death." (7) A comma is needed after the reporting verb stated, which introduces the quotation.
17. Moreover instead of executing these murderers they could be rehabilitated and do good things for society. (4) A comma is needed after the transition, moreover, and (1) after the introductory phrase, instead of executing these murderers.
18. For example, Stanley Tookie Williams who murdered four people in 1979 became an anti-gang activist and wrote books encouraging youths to stay away from gangs. (6) The adjective clause in the middle of this sentence is nonrestrictive, giving extra information, and must be set off with commas.
...,who was convicted of murdering four people in 1979,...
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