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Commas help us read correctly. They are a slight break, not quite as long as a period, gently separating the different parts of a sentence. When you read aloud, you should almost be able to hear the commas. In fact, one good way to learn about commas is to listen to an audiobook while you follow along with the printed text. You'll notice that a good reader lets the commas guide the rhythm of the sentence.

These are the most common ways that commas are used:
  • Separating the items in a list: I went to the store and bought milk, eggs, and butter.
  • Separating an introductory clause: At first, Charlie was afraid of snakes.
  • Separating independent clauses (complete sentences on their own), joined by and, but, or so: Ben walked to school, but he forgot his backpack. (Note: a comma does not have to be used in front of these words, only when it separates complete sentences.)
  • Identifying a person who is addressed directly: Jose, your breakfast is ready.
  • Indicating a slight pause in the sentence: My mother, who never learned to swim, is now sailing around the world.
  • Separating the parts of dates and addresses: October 22, 1947 or 44 Magnolia Lane, Albany, GA 44582
  • Beginning letters: Dear Julia,
The best way to learn about commas is to practice using them. Here are ten introductory questions to get you started: good luck!