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*Asterisk = examples of errors or poor constructions*.

Student Learning: Grammar

Using commas - Lesson two

  1. 2.1 List-like items:

    Commas are also used to separate slightly more complex 'list-like' items in a sentence.

Tom decided to take his backpack, enough clothes for 10 days, a copy of his passport, and a map.

The government immediately declared a civil emergency, limited civilian access to the area, and ensured the immediate safety of the inhabitants.

Note that in complex lists it is sometimes necessary to place a comma before an 'and' separating the last items if you want them to be treated as a separate idea or event. (This would seem to contradict what was said in Commas Lesson 1, but, sometimes the last two items need to be grouped together (no comma) and sometimes they need to be kept deliberately apart (so insert a comma). See our example and explanation below.

Tom decided to take his backpack, enough clothes for 10 days, a copy of his passport, and a map.

  1. 2.2 Controlling information with commas:

    You do not always have to separate items in a list with a comma. Sometimes you purposely do not do so in order to keep blocks of text together when it makes up one idea. Notice how the comma placement changes each of the meanings below slightly:

Communication can also be non-verbal, with dancing, action, songs, and poetry.

Communication can also be non-verbal, with dancing action, songs, and poetry.

Communication can also be non-verbal, with dancing action songs, and poetry.

Communication can also be non-verbal, with dancing action songs and poetry.