Comma use varies in the publishing world. Basic rules for academic papers are:
• Use a comma after a transitional word, phrase, or dependent clause that introduces or modifies a sentence, e.g.
- Finally, the measure was passed in the Senate.
- As shown in figure 3., readership began to drop off sharply in 2004.
- Because the profits were higher, no one expressed alarm.
- Although all of us read the same words on the page, we respond differently.
- When possible, the birds were observed three times per day.
- Although, the vote was too close to call beforehand.
- Fat molecules, do pass through cell membranes easily.
- Being centrally located, is the key to the company’s success.
•Use a comma after a word or phrase that precedes and describes the subject of the sentence (the subject is underlined), e.g.
- Panicked, the townspeople fled into the night.
- Reading by lamplight, he devoured the classics at an early age.
- Famous as a place of learning, Oxford University has had its share of tragedy.
• Use a comma before a comment or qualification tagged on the end of a sentence, e.g.
- The data suggest that we should continue the treatment, not end it.
- Bulgaria attacked its neighbor, despite international outcry.
- Depression is a serious illness, often drawing its victims toward suicide.
• Use a comma between each item in a series, e.g.
- In this paper I discuss the short stories, essays, and novels of Hemingway.
- All students should read the chapter, take notes, and answer the study questions.
• Optionally use a comma before but, or, and, nor, yet, so, and for when they connect two independent clauses, e.g.
- By now word has gotten around, so no one wants to hear what he has to say.
- The report surprised them, but ultimately the committee accepted it.
• Use a comma before and after a word or phrase that interrupts the flow of the
- The bond market will, therefore, react quickly to such news.
- American diplomats, led by Secretary Powell, faced new challenges.
- Smithson spoke, against the advice of her attorneys, to the press.