One of the common mistakes in IELTS writing is the wrong use of punctuations, especially the comma (,). In writing, commas help the writer to make the information clear, but using commas incorrectly may confuse readers. Therefore, learning how to use commas correctly in the IELTS is important for you to get a good score in the writing section. Let’s take a look at several basic rules for using comma properly.
Commas are used to separate words and phrases when there are three or more of them.
I will have a sandwich, an apple, an egg, and a bottle of milk for lunch.
The growing number of cars causes air pollution, noise pollution, and traffic problems.
They are a major cause of structural damage to building timbers, a cause of disease in animals and humans, and one of the greatest causes of agricultural losses.
Note: The last comma can be omitted.
Before coordinating conjunctions
Use commas before coordinating conjunctions such as and, but, or, and so in compound sentences.
She did her best, but she failed the exam.
Many young adults can not afford the living expenses by their own, so they live with their parents to save money.
Note: Do not use a comma to combine two complete sentences. The correct way is to use a period to separate them or use a coordinating conjunction to join them.
Incorrect example: She did her best, she failed the exam.
Correct example: She did her best, but she failed the exam.
Separate multiple adjectives modifying the same noun
We use commas to separate a series of adjectives which modify the same noun.
Example: The tall, elegant lady is my boss.
After introductory adverbs, phrases, or clauses
Use commas after the following types of introductory adverbs or phrases.
- After introductory adverbs
Example: Surprisingly, most people believe that he is wrong.
- After transitional words
Example: Therefore, government should encourage those businesses to move to rural areas.
- After prepositional phrases
Example: In the past, it took much more time for people to travel outside the country.
- After participial phrases
Example: Walking on the beach, she found a beautiful seashell.
- After infinitive phrases
Example: To get a better job, you need to learn a specific skill.
- After dependent clauses (if they come before the independent clauses)
Example: If it rains tomorrow, I will stay at home.
- After words, such as “say” and before a quotation
Example: The famous scientist said, ” It is strange that only extraordinary men make the discoveries, which later appear so easy and simple.”
Around parenthetical phrases or clauses
We use commas before or after parenthetical phrases and clauses. A parenthetical phrase or clause inserts within a sentence. Usually, it can be removed without changing the basic meaning of the original sentence.
Example: The canopy, the upper level of the trees in the rain forest, holds a plethora of climbing mammals of moderately large size, which may include monkeys, cats, civets, and porcupines.