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.