Uses of Comma in
Business Letters

Uses of Comma in Business Letters :

Uses of Comma in Business Letters :

Series of Words or Phrases

Rule 1 — Words or phrases used in a series in the same construction should be separated from one another by commas.

Example : Honor, affluence, and pleasure are his. To cleanse our opinions from falsehood, our hearts from malignity, and our actions from vice is our chief concern.

Note — When two words or phrases used in the same construction are connected by a conjunction, no comma is required….as….Education expands and elevates the mind.

Note — In such expressions as "A beautiful red rose," no comma is used to separate the adjectives, for the reason that they are not in the same grammatical construction. Red modifies rose. Beautiful modifies the expression red rose.

Transposed Phrases and Clauses

Rule 2 — Transposed phrases and clauses are set off by commas.

Example : When one has not a good reason for doing a thing, he has a good reason for letting it alone. Surrounded by familiar faces, he breathed freely again.

Note — When a transposed element is short and closely connected the comma may be omitted….as, "At noon we started on our way home."

In the natural order, the subordinate clause follows the principal clause and a phrase follows the word it modifies; hence, when a phrase or a subordinate clause precedes the word it modifies, it is a transposed element.

When a sentence begins with a preposition, a participle, or a subordinate conjunction, it contains a transposed element. Subordinate clauses are usually introduced by if, when, while, as, since, where, though, until, etc.

Parenthetical Words and Phrases

Rule 3 — Parenthetical words and phrases should be set off by commas.

Example : The clouds seemed to float, as it were, lazily on the summer breeze.

The following are among the words and phrases commonly used parenthetically…..However, therefore, indeed, perhaps, too, of course, to be sure, in the first place, generally speaking, on the other hand, beyond question.

Remark — Some of these words are used as modifiers and when so used, they are not set off by commas. Thus, in the sentence, "However hard he studies, he improves but slightly," however is an adverb modifying hard.

Note — Words and phrases standing at the beginning of the sentence and referring to the sentence as a whole rather than to any particular word, though not strictly parenthetical, are set off by commas….as, "Well, how do you like it?" "To be sure, it is of little importance." Some of the words thus used are now, well, why, again, further, first and secondly.

Intermediate Expressions

Rule 4 — Intermediate expressions should be separated from the rest of the sentences by commas.

Example : The soldier, from force of habit, obeys. No state shall, without the consent of congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports. His story is, in several ways, improbable.

Intermediate expressions are expressions that come between closely related parts of a sentence….as, for instance, between the subject and the predicate, between the parts of a verb phrase or between the verb and its complement.

If, however, the intermediate expression is restrictive, no comma should be used. Thus, in the sentence, "The tree by the garden wall was struck by lightning," the phrase by the garden wall is restrictive, since it restricts or limits the meaning of the word tree to one particular object of its kind.

Nouns in Apposition

Rule 5 — Nouns in apposition, together with their accompanying modifiers, should be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Example : We, the people of the United States, do ordain and establish this constitution.

Note 1 — A title following the name of a person should be separated from the name by a comma….as, "W. W. Wheeler, Secretary." "The address was delivered by Rev. E. M. Mitchell, D. D., LL. D."

Note 2 — When the noun in apposition stands alone or has only an article before it, no comma is required…as Paul the Apostle and The poet Milton.

Note 3 — When a pronoun is used in apposition with a noun for emphasis or in direct address, no comma is required….as, "He himself could not have done better." "Ye men of Athens."

Nouns of Address

Rule 6 — Nouns of address, together with their accompanying modifiers, should be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Example : Young man, you must not forget that talent is only long patience. You must not forget, young man, that talent is only long patience. Yes, sir, it was I.

Compound Sentences

Rule 7 — The members of a compound sentence, when short and closely connected, are separated by commas.

Example : Science tunnels mountains, it spans continents, it bridges seas, and it weighs the stars. Every man desires to live long, but no man would be old.

Note — When, however, the members have commas within themselves, the members should be separated by semicolons….as, "If we work upon marble, it will perish. If we work upon brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples, they will crumble into dust."

Adverbial and Relative Clauses

Rule 8 — Adverbial and relative clauses, when restrictive, are not set off by commas, but when they present additional thoughts, they should be set off.

Example : You have done the work well, which is all I ask. He will be here in a few days, when we will take the matter up with him.

Relative and adverbial clauses are of two kinds : restrictive and non-restrictive.

A restrictive clause is one that restricts or limits its antecedent….as, "Bring me the book that lies on my desk." The clause that lies on my desk is restrictive, because it restricts or limits the antecedent book by excluding all books that do not lie on the table.

A nonrestrictive clause is one that introduces an additional thought…, "Bring me Success Magazine, which you will find on my desk." The clause, which you will find on my desk, is nonrestrictive, because it adds an additional fact, the sentence being equivalent to the two thoughts, "Bring me Success Magazine," and "You will find it on my desk."

Omission of the Verb

Rule 9 — When the verb is expressed in one member of a compound sentence and omitted in the others, a comma takes its place.

Example : Our first object is to obtain knowledge….our second, to make a proper application of it.

Complex Subject

Rule 10 — When the complex subject of a sentence ends with a verb or is of considerable length, it should be separated from the predicate by a comma.

Example : All that you do do with your might. That a man thoroughly educated in youth and who has ever since been in the habit of composing could make so gross a mistake through ignorance, is almost incredible.


Rule 11 — A quotation or anything resembling a quotation should be preceded by a comma.

Example : Patrick Henry began his great speech by saying, "It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope.' The question now is…..How shall we know which book to select?


Rule 12 — A comma is sometimes necessary to prevent ambiguity.

Example : To remain in one spot always, prevents the mind from taking comprehensive views of things.

Words or Phrases in Pairs

Rule 13 — When words or phrases are used in pairs, a comma should be placed after each pair.

Example : Honesty and sincerity, truth and candor, are enviable traits of character. The sunny morning and the gloomy night, the bleak winter and the balmy spring, alike speak to us of the Creator's power.

Contrasted Words or Phrases

Rule 14 — Words or phrases contrasted with each other should be separated by commas.

Example : We live in deeds, not years. There are few voices in the world, but many echoes.

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