Posted by: Jack Henry | December 13, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Comma with a Conjunction

Many of you have confided that you are “not good with commas.” I’m not surprised. There are quite a few rules, and some of them are a little confusing.

Today, I’m going to explain just one comma rule: commas with coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet). According to this rule, you should use a comma before any coordinating conjunction that links two independent clauses.

I want to emphasize the phrase “that links two independent clauses” because that’s the part that people often get wrong. But before I go any further, let me clarify what an independent clause is.

An independent clause is a group of words that can stand on their own as a sentence. It has (at least) a subject and a verb. For example, both “I work for JHA” and “I have been here over eight years” are independent clauses.

When you have two independent clauses that are of equal importance, like the two I just mentioned, you can join them with a comma and a coordinating conjunction (like and): “I work for JHA, and I have been her over eight years.”

The mistake people often make is to use a comma when joining one independent clause with a dependent clause that starts with a conjunction. Confused? Here’s an example that shows a comma used incorrectly: “I work for JHA, and have been here for over eight years.”

Why is that comma used incorrectly? It’s because the phrase “and have been her for over eight years” is not an independent clause. It does not have a subject.

There are two ways you can revise the sentence to correct it.

  • You can add a subject: “I work for JHA, and I have been here for eight years.”
  • You can remove the comma: “I work for JHA and have been here for over eight years.”

Do you want to read a little more about this subject? Here’s a helpful link (see rule #1).

Enjoy your day!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

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  1. […] wrote recently about the comma rule for conjunctions. No one sent me hate mail. In fact, a few of you thanked me for the refresher. So, I’m taking […]

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