Words like yes, no and maybe are important parts of the English language despite how small they are.
While you’re not likely to use these words in a written context very often, there are some situations where they can save you a lot of time and significantly aid in clarity.
To use them properly, however, you need to know whether or not they require a comma.
Do you need a comma after “yes”?
The word “yes” can be an adverb, an interjection or several other parts of speech. The comma rules for the word will vary depending on its part of speech, but in most cases the word “yes” will follow the rules for introductory clauses when placed at the beginning of a sentence. That is, you will usually need a comma after “yes” when the word starts a sentence.
Alternately, and if you really want to emphasize the word, you may follow it with a period instead.
Another guideline to keep in mind is whether the clause that follows the word “yes” directly follows from it or is the start of another topic.
If the following clause is not a direct continuation of the same though, it’s best to separate it more firmly by using a period instead of a comma.
The bottom line, however, is that you need something after the word “yes” if it appears at the beginning of a sentence, and that something is usually a comma.
Examining the word “yes”
The word “yes” can be several parts of speech.
First, “yes” can be an adverb, a type of word that modifies an adjective, verb or other adverb.
Used as an adverb, “yes” simply shows agreement or assent to a question or, if the question was negative, disagreement with it.
“Yes” can also be an interjection.
Interjections are typically spoken, rather than written, and are abrupt remarks that serve to introduce a digression or interruption. Interjections can also be used to express emotion or a spontaneous reaction to something.
When used as an interjection, “yes” simply shows some kind of surprise or excitement.
“Yes” can also be a noun or a verb, but these are uncommon uses and this article will not discuss them.
Comma rules for “yes”
As always, the rules for using commas with a specific word often depend on the part of speech and the word’s place in a given sentence.
Typically, however, no matter what part of speech “yes” occupies in a sentence, it will be at the beginning of a sentence or inserted between two clauses.
Because of this, and because the meaning of a sentence should be clear enough without “yes” in most, if not all, cases, it should be followed by a comma at the beginning of a sentence and surrounded by two commas in the middle of a sentence.
If you wish to draw attention to the word and make a stronger statement, you can also follow it with a period or exclamation mark when it begins a sentence.
Yes as an adverb
Because it’s used to answer a question, “yes” doesn’t quite fit the typical mold of adverbs like “quickly.”
All the same, this is the most common part of speech for the word.
When used to answer a question, the word “yes” almost always appears at the beginning of a sentence.
This makes the comma rules to follow easy.
At the start of a sentence, “yes” serves the same purpose as any introductory phrase, meaning you need to set off the rest of the sentence with a comma after “yes.”
If you’re feeling fancy, you can also put “yes” halfway through your sentence to answer a question. In this case, place a comma both before and after “yes.”
Some experts also note that when starting a sentence with “yes,” it’s sometimes more appropriate to place a period after it instead of a comma if what you are going to say next does not directly answer the question you’ve been asked and are responding to.
In other words, if what you say after “yes” is restating the question, use a comma. If what you’re saying next provides additional context or irrelevant information, use a period.
This famous line from an 1897 newspaper editorial was used to answer a young girl’s question on whether or not Santa Claus exists.
Here, the comma after “yes” does double duty, both setting off the introductory phrase and setting off “Virginia” as a nonessential phrase.
In this hypothetical alternative answer to the same question, a period is used instead of a comma. That’s because “I saw him last night” is not a restatement of the question.
You could sometimes use a comma here, however, if you wanted to.
Again, this is a restatement of the famous line.
Here, “yes” has been shifted to the center of the sentence. Because it falls in the middle of a clause and is nonessential information, it is placed between two commas.
Yes as an interjection
If used as an interjection, “yes” is usually spoken or written by itself and is most likely to be followed by an exclamation mark.
However, there are some cases where a comma might also be used. Typically, these are cases when “yes” is just part of a larger interjection.
If you are writing down something someone said word-for-word, a comma might also be appropriate there.
Although this might be taken for an adverb, it isn’t really answering a question.
Instead, the speaker is just excited that they have finally done something. Note that “Yes! Finally!” would also be acceptable here.
A note on formality: saying no to yes
Although “yes” is a perfectly normal word, it’s not typically used in formal settings.
There are exceptions to the rule, but especially if you are composing some kind of formal writing you should avoid the word “yes” and simply state your answer to the question most of the time.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.