Posted on August 23, 2019 | Proper Punctuation

 

When to Put a Comma Before Commonly Used Words

 

Comma placement is one of the trickiest parts of English writing to figure out. For many words in the English language, it is unclear — even to native speakers — whether a comma should come before it. The chart below offers advice on when a comma should or should not be used before the words that most commonly give writers trouble.

Note: The comma is versatile, and there are certainly many examples of good writing that go against the suggestions given in the chart. Therefore, I didn’t want to say that using a comma is either “right” or “wrong” in any given instance. As such, I have used the terms “standard” and “non-standard” instead. Also, “it depends” indicates that the use of a comma depends on the situation, whereas “either” indicates that it is the author’s choice.

Also, the table is restricted to phrases that often confuse readers. Therefore, to prevent confusion, I have ignored situations where comma usage is straightforward. For example, I have noted that a comma before “followed by” is standard even though a sentence like “I was being followed by someone” is clearly correct. This is because no one would ever wonder whether this should be “I was being, followed by someone.”

 

Comma Usage Chart

Word Comma Usage Examples
Along with It depends Good: She has an adventurous personality along with strong people skills.
Bad: She has an adventurous personality, along with strong people skills
Good: Her adventurous personality, along with her people skills, makes her a perfect travel partner.
Bad: Her adventurous personality along with her people skills make her a perfect travel partner.
And It depends Good: I am traveling to France and then to Italy.
Bad: I am traveling to France, and then to Italy.
Good: I am traveling to France, and I am then going to Italy.
Bad: I am traveling to France and I am then going to Italy.
Good: I am traveling to France, Italy and Germany.
Good: I am traveling to France, Italy, and Germany.
Although Standard Good: I enjoyed the flight, although the food was terrible.
Bad: I enjoyed the flight although the food was terrible.
As well as It depends Good: She has an adventurous personality as well as strong people skills.
Bad: She has an adventurous personality, as well as strong people skills.
Good: Her adventurous personality, as well as her people skills, makes her a perfect travel partner.
Bad: Her adventurous personality as well as her people skills make her a perfect travel partner.
Because Non-standard Good: Bring your passport with you because you can’t get on the plane without it.
Bad: Bring your passport with you, because you can’t get on the plane without it.
But It depends Good: I am traveling to France but not to Italy.
Bad: I am traveling to France, but not to Italy.
Good: I am traveling to France, but I am not going to Italy.
Bad: I am traveling to France but I am not going to Italy.
Considering Non-standard Good: I’m glad my hotel room has a fridge considering I’ll be here for two weeks.
Bad: I’m glad my hotel room has a fridge, considering I’ll be here for two weeks.
Coupled with It depends Good: She has an adventurous personality coupled with strong people skills.
Bad: She has an adventurous personality, coupled with strong people skills.
Good: Her adventurous personality, coupled with her people skills, makes her a perfect travel partner.
Bad: Her adventurous personality coupled with her people skills make her a perfect travel partner.
Depending on Either Good: I can meet you at either 7:00 or 7:30, depending on how long it takes me to get a taxi.
Good: I can meet you at 7:00 or 7:30 depending on how long it takes me to get a taxi.
Despite It depends Good: I enjoyed my flight despite the terrible food.
Bad: I enjoyed my flight, despite the terrible food.
Good: The flight, despite the terrible food, was enjoyable.
Bad: The flight despite the terrible food was enjoyable.
During Non-standard Good: I thought the movie I watched during the flight was funny.
Bad: I thought the movie I watched, during the flight, was funny.
Especially It depends Good: I love traveling to Europe, especially to France and Italy.
Bad: I love traveling to Europe especially to France and Italy.
Good: I especially love traveling to France and Italy.
Good: I, especially, love traveling to France and Italy.1
Even though Non-standard Good: I enjoyed my flight even though the food was terrible.
Bad: I enjoyed my flight, even though the food was terrible.
Except It depends Good: I love traveling to Europe except when Ted comes along.
Bad: I love traveling to Europe, except when Ted comes along.
Good: I love traveling to Europe, except I hate it when Ted comes along.
Bad: I love traveling to Europe except I hate it when Ted comes along.
Followed by Non-standard Good: Italy is my favorite country to visit, followed by France, Spain, and Germany.
Bad: Italy is my favorite country to visit followed by France, Spain, and Germany.
Generally Non-standard Good: People from Scotland are generally friendly.
Bad: People from Scotland are, generally, friendly.
Bad: People from Scotland, generally, are friendly.
Given Non-standard Good: I’m glad my hotel room has a fridge given that I’ll be here for two weeks.
Bad: I’m glad my hotel room has a fridge, given that I’ll be here for two weeks.
Hence Standard Good: Socks are extremely uncomfortable, hence my hatred of them.
Bad: Socks are extremely uncomfortable hence my hatred of them.
However Standard Good: I, however, don’t like to wear socks while I’m on vacation.
Bad: I however don’t however like to wear socks while I’m on vacation.
Huh Standard Good: That was a pretty good restaurant, huh?
Bad: That was a pretty good restaurant huh?
In addition to It depends Good: She has an adventurous personality in addition to strong people skills.
Bad: She has an adventurous personality, in addition to strong people skills.
Good: Her adventurous personality, in addition to her people skills, makes her a perfect travel partner.
Bad: Her adventurous personality in addition to her people skills make her a perfect travel partner.
Including It depends Good: I love traveling to European countries, including France and Italy.
Bad: I love traveling to European countries including France and Italy.
Good: I always look for any travel packages including cheap flights.
Bad: I always look for any travel packages, including cheap flights.
Indeed Either Good: This was indeed a fabulous trip.
Good: This was, indeed, a fabulous trip.
Instead Non-standard Good: You should take a bus instead of taking a taxi.
Bad: You should take a bus, instead of taking a taxi.
Bad: You shouldn’t take a taxi, instead you should take a bus.
Good: You shouldn’t take a taxi. Instead, you should take a bus.
Known as It depends Good: This restuarant, known for its incredible atmosphere, is my favorite in all of Italy.
Bad: This restuarant known for its incredible atmosphere is my favorite in all of Italy.
Good: Restuarants known as hidden gems tend to have better food than famous restaurants.
Bad: Restuarants, known as hidden gems, tend to have better food than famous restaurants.
Like Either Good: I love traveling to European countries, like France and Italy.
Good: I love traveling to European countries like France and Italy.2
Meanwhile Standard Good: Ted, meanwhile, wanted to watch TV at the hotel all day.
Bad: Ted meanwhile wanted to watch TV at the hotel all day.
Or It depends Good: We can go to France or to Italy.
Bad: We can go to France, or to Italy.
Good: We can go to France, or we can go to Italy.
Bad: We can go to France or we can go to Italy.
Particularly It depends Good: I love traveling to Europe, particularly to France and Italy.
Bad: I love traveling to Europe particularly France and Italy.
Good: I particularly love traveling to France and Italy.
Good: I, particularly, love traveling to France and Italy.3
Perhaps Either Good: This is perhaps the best trip I’ve ever been on.
Good: This is, perhaps, the best trip I’ve ever been on.
Rather Non-standard Good: I would prefer to still be in Europe rather than back at home.
Bad: I would prefer to still be in Europe, rather than back at home.
Bad: You shouldn’t take a taxi, rather you should take a bus.
Good: You shouldn’t take a taxi. Rather, you should take a bus.
Regardless Non-standard Good: I’ll have a good time regardless of whether Ted comes along.
Bad: I’ll have a good time, regardless of whether Ted comes along.
Respectively Standard Good: My flights to Spain, France, and Germany cost $500, $600, and $700, respectively.
Bad: My flights to Spain, France, and Germany cost $500, $600, and $700 respectively.
Such as Either Good: I love traveling to European countries, such as France and Italy.
Good: I love traveling to European countries such as France and Italy.
Therefore Either Good: I, therefore, don’t like to wear socks while I’m on vacation.
Good: I therefore don’t like to wear socks while I’m on vacation.
Though It depends Good: I enjoyed the flight though the food was terrible.
Bad: I enjoyed the flight, though the food was terrible.
Good: I enjoyed the flight. The food was terrible, though.
Bad: I enjoyed the flight. The food was terrible though.
Thus It depends Good: I, thus, don’t like to wear socks while I’m on vacation.
Good: I thus don’t like to wear socks while I’m on vacation.
Bad: I, thus, don’t like to wear socks while I’m on vacation
Good: Socks are very uncomfortable, thus causing my distaste for them.
Bad: Socks are very uncomfortable thus causing my distaste for them.
Unless Non-standard Good: I love traveling to Europe unless Ted comes along.
Bad: I love traveling to Europe, unless Ted comes along.
Until Non-standard Good: I will be in Europe until the end of the month.
Bad: I will be in Europe, until the end of the month.
Using Non-standard Good: I will eat my dinner using only my hands.
Bad: I will eat my dinner, using only my hands.
Good: Eating dinner using only my hands, I made a mess of myself.
Bad: Eating dinner, using only my hands, I made a mess of myself.
Whereas Standard Good: I love traveling to Europe, whereas I hate traveling to Antarctica.
Bad: I love traveling to Europe whereas I hate traveling to Antarctica.
Whether Non-standard Good: I’ll have a good time whether Ted comes along or not.
Bad: I’ll have a good time, whether Ted comes along or not.
Which It depends Good: I love traveling to France and Italy, which are both in Europe.
Bad: I love traveling to France and Italy which are both in Europe.
Good: The dress which you wore last night was lovely.
Good: The dress, which you wore last night, was lovely.4
While It depends Good: I love traveling to Europe, while I hate traveling to Antarctica.
Bad: I love traveling to Europe while I hate traveling to Antarctica.
Good: I’ll text you while I’m in the taxi.
Bad: I’ll text you, while I’m in the taxi.
Who It depends Good: Ted, who everybody hates, mysteriously never returned from our trip.
Bad: Ted who everybody hates mysteriously never returned from our trip.
Good: I am certainly not the one who is responsible for Ted’s disappearance.
Bad: I am certainly not the one, who is responsible for Ted’s disappearance.
Yet Standard Good: I enjoyed the flight, yet the food was terrible.
Bad: I enjoyed the flight yet the food was terrible.

1While this example is gramatically correct, it does not mean the same thing as the example without the commas. “I especially love traveling to France and Italy” means that out of all the countries, I love traveling to France and Italy the most. “I, especially, love traveling to France and Italy” means that out of a group of people who love traveling to France and Italy, I love doing it the most.

2Both of these examples are grammatically correct, but they do not mean the same thing. “I love traveling to European countries, like France and Italy” means that I love traveling to all European countires. France and Italy are two examples. “I love traveling to European countries like France and Italy” means that I like traveling only to those European countries that are similar to France and Italy.

3See Footnote #1 above. Particularly and especially are the same in this respect.

4There is a slight difference between the third and fourth examples, though both are grammatically correct. “The dress which you wore last night was lovely” suggests that the reader would not know which dress is being discussed if the phrase “which you wore last night” was removed from the sentence. Conversely, “The dress, which you wore last night, was lovely” indicates that the reader would know which dress is being discussed even if the phrase “which you wore last night” was removed.