Commas In Lists – Different Rules With Examples

30.09.23 Commas Time to read: 4min

How do you like this article?

0 Reviews


Commas-in-lists-01

A frequent topic of discussion among students pertains to the correct placement of commas in academic writing. How and where to place commas in lists can become especially tricky. This confusion arises because the rules and their exceptions to commas aren’t clear. We will help clarify these with this article. Here, we provide explanations with examples concerning commas in lists.

When to place commas in lists

In general, you put a comma if the list contains three or more than three items. If there are only two items listed, so a pair, you don’t put a comma between them.

Comma

Three or more items

Series of adjectives

Series of phrases

No comma

In pairs

 

 

Comma guidelines can change based on style guides, and intricate sentences might come with exemptions. Reflect on the readability when excluding commas.

Commas in lists

When you name exactly three or more than three items in your list, you put commas in lists. Without a comma, the words would all join and confuse the reader.

Three or more items

The general rule of thumb for putting commas in lists is if you name three or more items. You can put a serial comma, also called Oxford comma, before the last listed item, but you can also omit it. Below, we show four example sentences to illustrate this.

Examples: Oxford comma

  • I need to buy apples, oranges, spinach, and bananas.
  • This year, we plan to visit London, Rome, or Barcelona.

Examples: No Oxford comma

  • The recipe calls for flour, sugar, butter and chocolate chips.
  • My favorite novels are either “1984”, “Pride and Prejudice” or “The Great Gatsby”.

Series of adjectives

When you use multiple adjectives to describe a noun, use commas in lists to separate them.

Examples

  • His colorful, vibrant artwork was popular in the gallery.
  • She wore a blue, elegant dress.
  • The old, abandoned house on the hill seems mysterious.

Series of phrases

If you have a list of phrases or clauses within a sentence separate them with commas in lists.

Examples

  • My daily routine involves going jogging, having breakfast, and going to work.
  • He loves swimming in the lake, traveling the world, and hiking in the mountains.
  • To prepare for the exam, she studied, reviewed her notes, and practiced questions.

No commas in lists

When you’re simply listing two items, it’s a pair. In this case, there is no need for commas in lists.

In pairs

No commas in lists are placed if there are only two items. You typically don’t need a comma between them.

Examples

  • My mom and dad are both teachers.
  • The menu options for the party include curry and sandwiches.
  • Her favorite colors are purple and black.

Test yourself!

Practice sheet

To assess your comprehension of the utilization of commas in lists, it is recommended to accurately place them in a total of 10 sentences. Check your answers in the second tab.

  1. I need to buy cheese as well as new pants.
  2. She wore a red, beautiful dress to the party.
  3. The team consists of John Mary and Alex.
  4. My favorite fruits are apples oranges and bananas.
  5. He enjoys playing soccer, going swimming, and playing chess.
  6. The book includes chapters on history and science.
  7. She packed her suitcase with clothes shoes and toiletries.
  8. They visited France and Spain on their vacation.
  9. The grocery list includes milk and bread.
  10. The menu offers a variety of options including pasta pizza and salads.
  1. I need to buy cheese as well as new pants. (No comma)
  2. She wore a red, beautiful dress to the party. (Comma)
  3. The team consists of John, Mary, and Alex. (Comma)
  4. My favorite fruits are apples, oranges, and bananas. (Comma)
  5. He enjoys playing soccer, going swimming, and playing chess. (Comma)
  6. The book includes chapters on history and science. (No comma)
  7. She packed her suitcase with clothes, shoes, and toiletries. (Comma)
  8. They visited France and Spain on their vacation. (No comma)
  9. The grocery list includes milk and bread. (No comma)
  10. The menu offers a variety of options, including pasta, pizza, and salads. (Comma)
Ready to print your thesis?
Students in Australia can now also benefit from our printing services at BachelorPrint! Get top-notch quality for printing and binding your thesis at affordable prices from just AU$ 11.90. Add our FREE express delivery and you're good to go.

FAQs

When it comes to using commas or semicolons in lists, the general rule is to use commas to separate items in a list. However, there are cases where semicolons are used instead of commas. Semicolons are typically used when the items in the list contain commas themselves or when the list is complex.

Yes, commas are typically used in lists of three or more items. The use of commas in lists helps to separate and clarify the individual items.

When listing names, commas are typically used to separate each individual name.

Example

  • John, Mary, and Alex

The use of commas in this context helps to clarify and separate the individual names in the list.

The commas help to separate and clarify each individual adjective in the list.

Example

She wore a beautiful, elegant, and stylish dress.

The commas help to separate and clarify each individual adjective in the list.

Here are a few examples of commas used in a series:

  • I bought apples, oranges, and bananas.
  • She wore a beautiful, elegant, and stylish dress.
  • The book includes chapters on history, geography, and science.