Definition: A comma separates elements in a sentence, such as items in a list or series, but it also shows that those elements are connected to each other within the same sentence. A comma is never used as an end mark, and it is read with a shorter pause than an end mark. One use of the comma is to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses in a list or series. Commas go after each item except the last.
In British usage, there is no comma before the conjunction (such as and or or) before the last item in the series.
You need to get out your pencil, paper, and textbook.
I will need tomatoes, spinach, and cheese for this recipe.
Phrases in a Series
Next summer I want to go kayaking in the ocean, hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, and surfing in Florida.
The puppy chased the kitten under the sofa, around the kitchen chairs, and up the stairs.
Clauses in a Series
We went to the mall, and we went to the movies, but we didn't go out to eat.
Misha wasn't sure if you were coming, you and Marcello were coming, or everyone was coming.
If conjunctions are used for emphasis to separate items in a series, commas are not used.
I felt like I had been poked and prodded and persecuted.
Practice What You've Learned
Each of the following sentences contains a series. If necessary, insert a comma (or commas) by clicking the space(s) after the appropriate word(s). If the sentence is punctuated correctly, click "correct as is" at the end of the sentence.
The,desk,drawer,contained,pencils,erasers,paper,clips,and,pens. (correct as is)
His,favorite,classic,cars,are,Fords,Buicks,and,Chevrolets. (correct as is)
Arise,early,each,morning,exercise,your,mind,and,body,and,live,your,life,to,the,fullest. (correct as is)
His,jobs,included,being,a,hod,carrier,postal,worker,army,officer,teacher,and,writer. (correct as is)
Her,favorite,activities,were,to,solve,crossword,puzzles,read,crochet,and,play,board,games. (correct as is)
The,playground,had,swings,a,slide,a,jungle,gym,and,a,rope,walk. (correct as is)
The,dog,had,the,following,repertoire,of,tricks:,sitting,heeling,rolling,over,playing,dead,and,speaking. (correct as is)
The,job,requires,experience,a,college,degree,and,the,ability,to,travel. (correct as is)
These,things,seem,to,go,together:,salt,and,pepper,cream,and,sugar,and,bacon,and,eggs. (correct as is)
The,following,couples,were,on,the,dance,floor:,Jack,and,Jill,Bill,and,Barbara,Marvin,and,Wanda,and,Jimmy,and,Sue. (correct as is)