Questions about use of commas


Hi, I have a couple of questions about the use of commas:


1. I use the Oxford comma in writing, and I thought there should be a comma after "Amy" in the sentence below, but Grammarly suggests I remove it. What do you think?


"I left Orkney with Andrew, Ian, Jack, and Amy and travelled with them as far as Edinburgh."


2. Is this sentence correct without commas?

"I soon discovered that he wasn’t Danish but Norwegian and that his name was Lars."


3. I thought that "my life force" in the sentence below should have commas around it because it is extra information, but Grammarly suggests that I remove them. What do you think?


"They opened up the place where I had shut the most vital part of myself away, the place where the passionate part of my nature, my life force, had been hiding for so long."


Thanking you for your help!


Best wishes,


asked Apr 08 '13 at 14:27 Gabrielle Bergan New member

2 answers


1. No comma is needed after Amy. 'I' is the single subject of both 'left' and 'traveled'. Note: American English uses a single 'l' in 'traveled', and the British would use two 'ls'.


2. I would put a comma around 'but Norwegian' because it is a nonessential clause.


I soon discovered that he wasn’t Danish, but Norwegian, and that his name was Lars.


3. I think the commas around 'my life force' are appropriate. This is an appositive that helps define 'my passionate nature'.

link answered Apr 08 '13 at 14:41 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow


Jeff PribylApr 08 '13 at 19:41

Thanks for your reply, Lewis!! I had commas around 'but Norwegian', but Grammarly advised me to remove them. I think Grammarly is a great tool but it seems to be inconsistent in relation to commas.
In relation to the lls in travelled, I'm an Australian writer, so I also use two lls:) :)

Can I ask you about this too, Lewis? …..

"I became friendly with a group of Americans; Andrew, Ian, Jack, and Jack’s sister, Amy."

Is the comma after 'sister' correct? I ask because Grammarly shows it to be correct with the comma and without the comma. Thanks!

Thanks for your comment too, Jeff:)

Gabrielle BerganApr 08 '13 at 20:39

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The comma after 'sister' is optional, but I believe the preferred way is with no comma. It's a technical appositive, but when you say 'my sister Amy' or 'my father Richard', a comma isn't needed. If you turn it around by using the form 'Richard, my father,...', then you would use commas.

Hope this helps.

link answered Apr 08 '13 at 20:54 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow

Thanks Lewis!!

I'm still confused, though. When I posted my first question here about appositives, I also sent the same question to support because it seemed that Grammarly didn't agree with what I thought was correct. You said in your reply that "My father Edward was the second-youngest of six children brought up in a strict Baptist home" was correct without commas.

But here's the reply that I received from support, saying that it's correct to use commas before and after Edward.

"When you say: “My father, Edward, …" – the commas should be there as the information is additional, not essential to the meaning of the sentence (normally a person has one father). On the contrary, if you say: “My sister Liza… ” – this implies you have several sisters, you need to specify which one you’re talking about, so you don’t put commas – the information is essential (“My sister, Liza, …” implies you have only one sister, and people know who you’re talking about without the specification of the name)."

I want to get the commas right :)

Gabrielle BerganApr 09 '13 at 07:22

The answer you received from Grammarly Support reflects the correct rule for formal, academic Standard English. You can also see this rule described in a similar fashion by the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition, University of Chicago Press, 2010) at 5.21 and 6.22. My friend Lewis provides an answer -- the commas can be omitted at times -- that reflects a greater informality. This writing, often less precise, can often be found in journalism.

Jeff PribylApr 09 '13 at 18:59

Thanks for your reply, Jeff.

I'm writing a book that will be published in the US soon (as soon as I've finished the manuscript:)) I understand that the preferred style is the Chicago Manual of Style, so I think I'll use the commas just to be on the safe side:)

Gabrielle BerganApr 09 '13 at 20:29

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