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University of Newcastle Library guides

Common feedback comments and what they mean: Using a comma

This guide lists some common feedback comments and explains what they mean.

Using a comma

Use a comma:
•    To separate items in a list
                 o Please bring a pen, pencil, eraser and calculator to the exam.

•    To separate adjectives in a sentence
                o    It was a hot, humid day.

•    When you have used a conjunction to join two ideas together in one sentence.
                o    The policy was failing, and the company had to address the situation quickly.

•    To interrupt the main idea
                o    The results, long overdue and much anticipated, were finally released on Friday.
•    To begin a sentence with a transition word e.g. However,
                o    Finally, restructuring has affected public sector employment and services.

•    When one character speaks directly to another

                o  “Please call Tom about the party," Wendy suggested.

•    To separate the elements of a location
                o    The missing woman was found on a property near Narrabri, New South Wales.

•    To separate an appositive. An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it.     
                o    The insect, a large, black cockroach, was scurrying across the table.

The Oxford comma:

The Oxford comma is the final comma in a list of things. It is used to avoid confusion in a sentence.

 For example, the sentence, “I had eggs, toast and orange juice for breakfast” suggests that the orange juice is on the toast. Using a comma after the word ‘toast’ makes the sentence clearer: “I had eggs, toast, and orange juice for breakfast.

Dashes and brackets:

Avoid using dashes (-) and brackets ( ) [ ] in academic writing. Use commas when you want to interrupt the sentence.

Avoid using brackets: Example: The Yorkshire terrier (a small dog with a long silky coat) is a popular companion dog.

Avoid using dashes: Example: The Yorkshire terrier - a small dog with a long silky coat- is a popular companion dog.


Use commas instead: Example: The Yorkshire terrier, a small dog with a long silky coat, is a popular companion dog.