from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Punctuation marks
Comma, comma ,
Semicolon, semicolon ;
Colon, colon :
Point .
Ellipsis ...
Focus ·
bullet point
Question mark ?
Exclamation, exclamation, call signs !
Apostrophe, apostrophe '
- - Hyphen ; Hyphen ;
Supplementary line
Indent ; Up line -
quotation marks"" »«  /  «»
‚'› ‹  /  ‹ › 
Slashes / \
Brackets () []

The comma (from ancient Greek κόμμα kómma , German 'cut, section, member of a sentence ' ; Pl. Commas or commas ) is used as a punctuation mark and separator . As a punctuation mark, it is also called a comma , especially in Austria and South Tyrol . As a separator, the comma is used in many countries as a decimal separator for numbers or when separating data and values . The comma causes a weaker separation than the semicolon and the point .

Concept history

Comma is derived from the ancient Greek κóµµα (kómma) = cut, section, hence the plural commas. The current form of the comma can be traced back to the printer and typographer Aldus Manutius (died 1515), who developed it with the introduction of further punctuation marks from the Virgel .

Philipp von Zesen (d. 1689), the term Germanized point with comma one. The word was or will u. a. by Bertolt Brecht , used in older Duden editions and even in more recent works; however, “Beistrich” is rarely used in Germany and Switzerland, while the word is still in use in Austria .

As a punctuation mark

When writing, the comma is used to structure the sentence and separates certain elements from one another: In German, commas are placed between main clauses and subordinate clauses , but also between individual elements of a list. Likewise, additional clauses ( appositions ) and additions are separated from the rest of the clause by commas.

The comma contributes to the comprehensibility and better legibility of texts, since in contrast to spoken speech, the speech melody is lost on paper. The following sentence without commas is confusing when reading it for the first time because it creates a strong wrong-way effect : "Manfred read the book a bedtime story on his daughter's knees." Only when the commas are placed does the sentence become understandable with regard to the question Whose knees the book is now: "Manfred read the book on his knees, the daughter a bedtime story." A more catchy example of the different possible meanings controlled by the commas is: "Manfred read that Book finished on his knees. ”And“ Manfred read the book on his knees, finished. ”In the first sentence, Manfred reads the book to the very end while he kneels himself. In the second sentence, Manfred reads a section, but not necessarily the entire book, to the end while the book is on Manfred's knees.

Another example of a double meaning is a fictional short story. A criminal is about to be hanged, but the king learns from a messenger at the last second that the doomed man is innocent. Now he sends a message to the executioner, the message is: "Don't wait, hang!" The executioner receives the message and hangs the innocent to the king's indignation. He had made a comma mistake, he actually wanted to write: "Wait, don't hang!"

Comma rules, which are described in the grammar of a language , apply to the correct and standardized use of commas . The comma rules for German were fundamentally changed in the course of the spelling reform of 1996 with the aim of simplification; in many cases, the use of commas was left optional. With the revision of the reform regulations in 2006, the setting of commas was modified again; Above all, many exemptions were withdrawn with the aim of making them easier to read.

The use of commas in artistic works is subject to greater freedom: In lyrical texts, punctuation (punctuation) can disappear completely, can be used for special emphasis or structure, or it can be part of a language game itself. Also epic texts often have a very original commas on - an example is to Kleist referred to, does not rules, but put the commas to do as he pleases.

The Greeks already introduced terms such as colon and comma in rhetoric to generally name a sentence or parts of a sentence. But it was in the 15th century the Venetian printer and publisher Aldus Manutius (the elder) who began to use a comma as a punctuation mark in his printed matter. His editions of the works of Petrarch and Bembos were groundbreaking for the handcrafted design of punctuation, among other things through the design of the comma for marking parts within a sentence. The term comma was then applied to the punctuation mark at the beginning of modern times , which now made it possible to separate the sections of meaning within a sentence. Manutius' grandson Aldus Manutius the Younger also presented a system of punctuation marks in 1566, consistently applied in the Antiqua , the typesetting for Latin texts. Both had a basic understanding of punctuation marks as syntactic structural symbols and also used the comma systematically and uniformly for the first time. Your punctuation was exemplary. Today their ideas have essentially been adopted.

The first complete translation of the Bible by Martin Luther in 1534 using the Virgel .

Martin Luther used the Bible into German in his writings, as then, in the in the translation Frakturschrift common for general separations instead of a comma within sentences, the Virgel , so a slash , the use of the fracture set only in 1700 finally disappeared.

The technical revolution of book printing, through which printed products could be easily reproduced, the increasing literacy of the population and the trend in an increasingly complex society to record more and more in writing, led to a standardization and homogenization of characters, which also led to a solidification of the graphic form of the comma when used in printed matter.

As a decimal separator

In most European countries, the comma is used in mathematics in a decimal number as a decimal separator . If the comma also appears as a separator symbol in lists of decimal numbers, in order to avoid confusion with decimal numbers, either the semicolon is used or a clearly visible space is placed after the comma.

In English-speaking countries, the comma is used to separate thousands in numbers; the English-language use of point and comma in numbers is therefore the opposite of Germany and Austria.

National characteristics

Austria and South Tyrol

In Austria and South Tyrol the term “comma” is only used for numbers; the term “comma” has established itself as a term for the punctuation mark.


In Switzerland, the use of a period or comma as a decimal separator is inconsistent; both are usually always read as a “comma”. A non-uniform practice is also followed in schools: the schools in the cantons of St. Gallen and Zurich teach the decimal point, for example. It happens that in the lower level / primary school the comma (as it is spoken) is taught, from the intermediate level on the point is taught.

In accordance with the instructions of the Federal Chancellery , the comma is generally used in official federal documents , but a point is placed between the currency unit and the sub-unit for amounts of money. The Federal Office for Topography also uses the point for the Swiss national coordinates .

In many word processing programs, the point is defined as a decimal separator in the Swiss-specific language setting, and the point is also used on the numeric keypad of Swiss keyboards.

Neither point nor comma are used as a thousand separator. Unless a space is used as the thousand separator, the (even) apostrophe is used.


Web links

Wiktionary: Comma  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: comma  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. ^ Wilhelm Pape , Max Sengebusch (arrangement): Concise dictionary of the Greek language . 3rd edition, 6th impression. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig 1914 ( [accessed on March 5, 2019]).
  2. Bertolt Brecht: Life of Edward the Second of England. Gustav Kiepenheuer, Potsdam 1924, pp. 110 and 117.
  3. The great Duden. Volume 1. Dudenverlag of the Bibliographical Institute, Mannheim 1956, p. 17 f.
  4. ^ Konrad Duden, Paul Grebe: Spelling of the German language and foreign words. Bibliographisches Institut, Mannheim 1962, p. 17 etc.
  5. Wolfgang Mentrup: On punctuation in German - the rules and their reform . Gunter Narr, Tübingen 1983, pp. 13, 15, 17 etc .; Georg Nolte: Intervention upon invitation. Springer, 1999, pp. 372, 421 etc.
  6. Anna-Julia Lingg: Criteria for differentiating between Austrianzisms, Helvetisms and Teutonisms. In: Christa Dürscheid , Martin Businger (Ed.): Swiss Standard German. Contributions to variety linguistics. Gunter Narr, Tübingen 2006, pp. 23–48, here pp. 30–35.
  7. ^ Martin Lowry: Aldus Manutius and Benedetto Bordon. In search of a link. In: Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester. Tape. 66, No. 1, 1983.
  8. ↑ A journey through the present. Retrieved September 2, 2016 .
  9. ( Page no longer available , search in web archives: curriculum for the mathematics department ) (PDF file; 252 kB) on , accessed on September 27, 2013.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  10. Federal Chancellery (ed.): Writing instructions . 1st edition. 2008, 514: decimal comma and decimal point, p. 80 . ( Memento from January 22, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  11. Federal Office of Topography swisstopo (ed.): New coordinates for Switzerland - The frame of reference LV95 . 1st edition. 2006, p. 8–11 ( New coordinates for Switzerland - The frame of reference LV95 ( Memento of November 4, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) [PDF; accessed on October 27, 2010]). New coordinates for Switzerland - The LV95 frame of reference ( Memento of the original from November 4, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  12. E.g. for Apple keyboards see Identifying the local keyboard on