Commas are used within a sentence to separate simple items in a list but not between the last two items when they are separated by “and”.

One, two, three and four times.

Bob, Lesley, Shannon and I went.

First, last and always.

For lists of phrases which have internal commas use semi colons instead of commas to divide each item.

Over the years the team colours have been red, blue and green; white and black; and yellow, purple and black.

Commas are used in a sentence to separate a phrase or clause and can indicate the normal word order of the sentence has been altered.

This, he said, would ensure success.

For the first four years, all that could be done was wait.

At the base, 400 metres below, we waited anxiously.

Commas are used in a sentence to qualify or further describe a subject. If the description within the commas is left out, the sentence should still make sense.

Natasha Stott Despoja, previously the leader of the Australian Democrats, addressed this year’s candidates enthusiastically.

Team manager of the Geebung Gazelles, Jenny Smith, watched carefully as her squad trained for the last time.

More complex phrases or clauses which contain their own internal punctuation should be offset by long dashes rather than commas (these long dashes — em dashes — can be inserted using the Insert >>> Symbols function in some word processing software).

Jenny Smith — the self assured, tough team manager of the raw but eager Geebung Gazelles — watched her squad train.

Commas (,), colons (:), semi colons (;), full stops (.), hyphens (), exclamation marks (!) and question marks (?) should always abut the words or other punctuation marks they follow, that is, there should not be a space between these items and the words or punctuation they follow.

All but the hyphen () should have one space after them before the next word or sentence begins. Hyphens should not have spaces either side of them.

Long dashes ( ) have a single space on either side — thus! This distinguishes them from hyphens ().

An open bracket (round ( or square [) is preceded by one space. There is no space between the open bracket and the next letter or numeral. The close bracket (round ) or square ])runs straight after the previous word, numeral or full stop, with one space following the bracket (unless it is followed by a full stop).

Colons (: and ;) run flush up against the word they follow, but are themselves followed by a space and also a capitalised word.

Ellipses ( ) should be preceded and followed by a space, but there are no spaces between the dots.


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