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kutelilkat's avatar

Punctuation problems. comma and semicolon rules. help please. when to use with 'and'?

Asked by kutelilkat (279points) August 31st, 2009

I can’t seem to remember all the rules for using commas and semicolons. When should a comma be used with the word “and”??? Is there an easy way to learn all the rules? My teacher doesn’t allow more than 3 punctuation mistakes!

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30 Answers

mangeons's avatar

Comma to break a sentence, semicolon when the sentence could either end there (period) or go on, requiring a break (comma); hence the using of both in one punctuation mark. I usually do commas before my “and“s, but I’m not sure if there is a specific rule for this. Good luck learning all of the rules!

DominicX's avatar


In a list of items, you usually put a comma after the word “and” at the end of the list like:

I like zucchini, pumpkins, and cucumbers.

However, the comma before “and” in a list is technically optional and you can instead say:

I like zucchini, pumpkins and cucumbers.

Personally I always thought that was weird and I always use a comma before the “and” at the end of a list, but you don’t have to. It is optional. Commas have a million other uses; you can check Wikipedia for those other ones.


A semicolon I find most people don’t know how to use; however, I am an exception. A semicolon is used between closely related independent clauses. Basically, it’s stronger than a comma, but weaker than a period. (I use semicolons a lot because I like ‘em). :)

I like zucchini and pumpkins; I don’t like other types of squash.

You could make that two sentences, but you can also use a semicolon. A semicolon is also used after an independent clause and before another conjunction like:

I like zucchini and pumpkins; however, I don’t like to grow them.

A semicolon is also used in lists where the items in the list contain commas:

I have three groups of squash: yellow cucumbers, zucchini, and green cucumbers; gourds and turban squash; and pumpkins, white squash, and buttercup squash.

I find that last usage to be a bit wordy and I don’t see it used very often. You’ll probably never use it that way unless talking about cities like “Houston, Texas; San Francisco, California; and Las Vegas, Nevada”. In that case, just think of the semicolon as a big comma.

asmonet's avatar

Jesus, you don’t remember any of the rules. Never mind the commas and semicolons.

Jeruba's avatar

Good summation, @DominicX. Use the semicolon between closely related independent clauses.

The rules are usually taught gradually over a period of time just so you don’t have to learn them all at once. But there are clear patterns such as the ones cited by mangeons and DominicX. The OWL (Online Writing Site) at Purdue University is a very good source.

(@mangeons, that’s called a series comma or serial comma, and different publishers follow different practices. The inclusion of the comma is more standard. )

charliecompany34's avatar

these days you don’t need a comma with “and.” the word “and” already separates. semicolons set up a pause, but the thought in the sentence continues.

there are two kinds of people in the world: one gets punctuation; the other never seems to ever grasp it.

if you know the old rule “I before E except after C,” you know at least something about grammar, phonics, spelling and punctuation.

kutelilkat's avatar

I remember some of the rules. I just want try to avoid all the little errors I can.

Thanks you guys ! very helpful. ;)

Jeruba's avatar

“Thanks[comma] you guys.”

Comma for direct address:
“Hand me that scalpel, Sylvia.”
“Fred, how are you?”
“Tell me, Oliver, what do you think of this example?”

Also, no space before punctuation.

(And if your teacher counts more than three instances of incorrect punctuation, just say, “That wasn’t a mistake. I did it on purpose.”)

kutelilkat's avatar

loI What you said isn’t helpful.

I just saw you delete a comma after “never mind”; maybe you need to practice too…

Jeruba's avatar

Wow, look at ‘er go with the semicolons there!

kutelilkat's avatar

@Jeruba ;) thanks for the tip

lol I might be getting the hang of this now ;)

kutelilkat's avatar

I’m writing an essay; am I punctuating these sentences correctly?:

I remember my granddaughter, Sarah, is already setting things up for the opening of the show, and slowly pull myself out of the warm bed. (should it be “and I slowly”)

My body’s holding in there though, and not too bad, if i say so myself.

Buttonstc's avatar

They should add a new corollary: exceptions to all the rules governing everything except periods can be granted for iPhone users since it is such a huge pain in the *ss to have to change keyboard screens just to insert a measly little comma.


Supacase's avatar

@kutelilkat You don’t need the comma after “show.” Everything else is good. :)

kutelilkat's avatar

should it be “badly” or “bad” ?... hmm, I’m not sure I worded that sentence well.

Jeruba's avatar

I would suggest adding “that” after “remember” to avoid a misreading. It’s not that you remember Sarah. You remember that Sarah is doing something.

As for repeating the “I,” either way is okay. You can say “and I slowly,” and then you do want the comma because you have two independent clauses. If you leave out the “I,” you also omit the comma because then the one “I” is the subject of both verbs (“remember” and “pull”), and you don’t allow a comma to separate a subject and verb. If you have too many things in between the subject and the second verb, it can be a good idea to repeat the subject.

I’d take another crack at the second sentence. Did you mean “hanging in there”? It isn’t clear what isn’t too bad (or badly). The -ly ending or lack of it depends on what it’s modifying, which isn’t apparent in this construction.

You’re a grandmother? I thought you were a high school student.

kutelilkat's avatar

Ok, I’ve got it now. That really did help.

Buttonstc's avatar

Badly vs. bad

Badly is an adverb which describes an action. Example: I play chess but badly.

In your example you are presumably describing body, which is a noun. Therefore you would use bad.

Buttonstc's avatar

Many people throw in adverbs ending in “ly” regardless of the actual sentence structure because they THINK it sounds better educated. They would be wrong.

Another in a similar vein is tossing in “whom” regardless of whether it is subject or object just cuz whom is perceived as sounding more intelligent. Also wrong.

DominicX's avatar


It seems more like she was describing “holding”, in which case you would use “badly”.

Buttonstc's avatar


I see your point, but I think it could go either way dependent upon the writers intent.

ie: is the writer saying that ” my body is not so bad, all things considered” or is the emphasis more upon the holding. Ambiguous until the original writer weighs in is what I would say.

Jeruba's avatar

@Buttonstc and @DominicX, that difference is exactly why I suggested rewriting for clarity so we could tell which it was supposed to modify, or, in other words, whether it needs to be an adjective or an adverb.

Buttonstc's avatar

And you are absolutely right.

We await word from the scribe.


Response moderated
Rozee's avatar

Interesting discussion without even the mention of the style manual to follow; it makes a difference for the mechanics of writing. The best way to meet your teacher’s expectations is to read things written by your teacher and then to follow the rules your teacher follows. If the teacher uses a comma before and in a list, you should too.

My guess is that you are interested in a good grade and in that case, even if the teacher is wrong, you want to do what the teacher thinks is right. And, yes, I know that ain’t right but it is how to “do school” successfully. Unfortunately, writing is a complicated business and everyone is a critic (some more critical than others).

If you know you are following APA, you need the comma before and in a list; however, never a comma before & and never an and before etc.

kutelilkat's avatar

@Jeruba I’m not a grandma; I had to write an essay pretending I was.

I was trying to say that my body is not falling apart yet; It’s still holding together well. How could I have made the sentence better?

kutelilkat's avatar

@Rozee That’s a great tip. I have noticed sometimes my teacher adds commas that sometimes seem out of place. I try to follower her rules though.

Jeruba's avatar

@kutelilkat, ok, I’ll take the gray granny wig off my mental picture of you and put the cami & jeans back on.

Fitting your context and intent, I would suggest “My body’s holding up, though, and not too badly, if i say so myself.”

Zen's avatar

All this drama
Over a fucking little comma.

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