Home > Grammar > Punctuation > The Comma

The Comma

The function of the comma

The comma looks like this: ,

We are commonly told that commas are meant to offer “breathing spaces” to sentences. But, they’re really meant to structure blocks of thought. They can also be used to create logical groupings. Most people use commas to make their meanings obvious and will skip a comma if their meaning is kept without it, despite grammatical norms. 

When using the comma, there are a few general rules to follow. However, in English, there are several different ways to use the comma to contribute to the meaning of a phrase. It can also be used to highlight an item, point, or concept.

The Oxford comma

The Oxford comma is used before a final word in a list. There is debate as to whether it is necessary, but if your style guidelines say you must use the Oxford comma, here is an example:

I went to Amy’s, we had dinner together, and then I got a taxi home.

Using commas to list

You may have noticed that the previous example detailed a sequence of events. Another common use for commas is to list a series of nouns, adjectives, or verbs.


  • I went to the supermarket and bought eggs, milk, flour, and sugar.
  • My English teacher was kind, patient, and extremely smart.
  • I wrote my copy, ran it through Readable, edited it for readability, then presented it to my client. 

Using commas to add detail

Commas can be used to add detail to a sentence that is not essential to the meaning.


Pancakes, which are my favourite breakfast food, were served at the buffet.

When it’s incorrect to miss a comma

We mentioned that sometimes a comma can be dropped when it doesn’t add meaning to the sentence. However, more often than not, omitting a comma where there should be one is incorrect. 


7 Days Free Readability Scoring

Try Readable for 7 days entirely free, or cancel any time if you don't love it.