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Commas separate clauses and phrases in a sentence.

Unlike colons and semi-colons, commas do not always separate grammatically complete clauses. Commas are often described as representing natural pauses in speech and help define meaning by distinguishing between clauses. However, take care with this rule of thumb - commas are frequently used where they are not necessary.

Commas are used to create different kinds of list:

Note that there is no comma before the 'and' which introduces the final item in these lists. Whether a comma should be used before 'and' in a list is debated, but there are some situations where a comma is needed to avoid ambiguity. For example:

Without the comma before 'and', this sentence could be interpreted as meaning the secretary and the finance manager are the company’s owners, rather than additional people the police want to question. Commas are also used to avoid ambiguity or clarify meaning in a number of other situations. Consider how the following would read without a comma:

A comma is always needed before and when it is being used as a conjunction, i.e. to join two clauses or phrases which could standalone. This is also true of words like but, while, yet and although:

Missing out the conjoining words in such examples is not acceptable in formal written English, even when the sense is obvious from just using a comma. Also avoid the trap of using this construction with words such as however and nevertheless; these start distinct sentences or clauses, and must always follow a full-stop, colon or semicolon.

Commas are used to separate subordinate and relative clauses in sentences:

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