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Comma with a coordinating conjunction (1 Viewer)

Ajoy

Senior Member
So I have a question about the way I was taught and the way I was trained to teach (basic grammar to grade school kids). My understanding was that when you connect two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction such as 'but' or 'and', you use a comma...like the below example.

My kitten jumps into bed with me every night, but all she wants to do is attack my feet.

But lately, every grammar tool that I've used would have me write it without the comma. Did I miss a change in accepted grammar or did I just misunderstand a basic grammar rule for multiple decades?
 

Lee Messer

Senior Member
Yes. Same issue. Editor had me pull over a thousand commas before he'd start his work. It looks like you still can in some instances. I'm just guessing. I think commas may be used to help fluidity by way of pausing. This can help with reading.

I use it always on words like "or" or "but". I seldom do it using "and". To me, I think the logic statement needs a pause if it isn't congruent. In the same reference, if the two statements are even slightly conflicting or complex I use a comma to help the reader, but again that's just me.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
Apparently, the rule is you use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it separates two independent clauses, but not when it separates an independent clause from a dependent clause. There are arguments currently to eliminate the comma even between independent clauses if the thoughts are closely connected.

I have my own rule. It solely relies on style, and includes more than the discussion of coordinating conjunctions.

If I feel the sentence is more effective with a pause in the spot, it gets a comma. If I want the reader to rush through it, then no.

I pointed out to PiP in our collaboration an instance with "a sentence which has conjunctions for a list of things". Normally that's a comma between each list item, and you get to decide on the Oxford comma, or not, at the next to last item. This particular sentence got no commas at all. Why? The character was in an emotional, frantic state. I felt that was better transferred to the reader by having them rush through the sentence without a pause.

I had to leave right away. I grabbed my coat, my hat, my purse, and my cellphone, and rushed out the door.

Or

I had to leave right away. I grabbed my coat and my hat and my purse and my cellphone and rushed out the door.

I think the second one projects urgency, while the first one sounds like an orderly exit. There may be other circumstances where you want to the reader to rush through a sentence.

Commas serve two purposes. They maintain clarity, and they control pace. As long as you are doing those two things correctly, you don't need grammar rules. Having said that, the grammar rules DO EXIST to help you maintain clarity, so know them, but break them when it "serves pace without disturbing clarity".
 

Lee Messer

Senior Member
Apparently, the rule is you use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it separates two independent clauses, but not when it separates an independent clause from a dependent clause. There are arguments currently to eliminate the comma even between independent clauses if the thoughts are closely connected.

I have my own rule. It solely relies on style, and includes more than the discussion of coordinating conjunctions.

If I feel the sentence is more effective with a pause in the spot, it gets a comma. If I want the reader to rush through it, then no.

I pointed out to PiP in our collaboration an instance with "a sentence which has conjunctions for a list of things". Normally that's a comma between each list item, and you get to decide on the Oxford comma, or not, at the next to last item. This particular sentence got no commas at all. Why? The character was in an emotional, frantic state. I felt that was better transferred to the reader by having them rush through the sentence without a pause.

I had to leave right away. I grabbed my coat, my hat, my purse, and my cellphone, and rushed out the door.

Or

I had to leave right away. I grabbed my coat and my hat and my purse and my cellphone and rushed out the door.

I think the second one projects urgency, while the first one sounds like an orderly exit. There may be other circumstances where you want to the reader to rush through a sentence.

Commas serve two purposes. They maintain clarity, and they control pace. As long as you are doing those two things correctly, you don't need grammar rules. Having said that, the grammar rules DO EXIST to help you maintain clarity, so know them, but break them when it "serves pace without disturbing clarity".
I generally agree. I've got a feel for being in the reader's shoes as I edit. When I write, I ignore many rules and just fly through the story. If I don't just go with it, I will find myself missing key points or writing half as much. I can write 10,000 words per day. I never get writer's block.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I generally agree. I've got a feel for being in the reader's shoes as I edit. When I write, I ignore many rules and just fly through the story. If I don't just go with it, I will find myself missing key points or writing half as much. I can write 10,000 words per day. I never get writer's block.
I don't have every comma fine-tuned in a first draft, either (among other things). I try, but there are always things to fine tune the next time through.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
Apparently, the rule is you use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it separates two independent clauses, but not when it separates an independent clause from a dependent clause. There are arguments currently to eliminate the comma even between independent clauses if the thoughts are closely connected.

I have my own rule. It solely relies on style, and includes more than the discussion of coordinating conjunctions.

If I feel the sentence is more effective with a pause in the spot, it gets a comma. If I want the reader to rush through it, then no.

I pointed out to PiP in our collaboration an instance with "a sentence which has conjunctions for a list of things". Normally that's a comma between each list item, and you get to decide on the Oxford comma, or not, at the next to last item. This particular sentence got no commas at all. Why? The character was in an emotional, frantic state. I felt that was better transferred to the reader by having them rush through the sentence without a pause.

I had to leave right away. I grabbed my coat, my hat, my purse, and my cellphone, and rushed out the door.

Or

I had to leave right away. I grabbed my coat and my hat and my purse and my cellphone and rushed out the door.

I think the second one projects urgency, while the first one sounds like an orderly exit. There may be other circumstances where you want to the reader to rush through a sentence.

Commas serve two purposes. They maintain clarity, and they control pace. As long as you are doing those two things correctly, you don't need grammar rules. Having said that, the grammar rules DO EXIST to help you maintain clarity, so know them, but break them when it "serves pace without disturbing clarity".
Although not grammatical, would this work?
"I had to leave. Coat - check. Hat - check. Purse - check. Phone - check. I yanked the door shut in my wake."

Even if the "check"s don't work, I feel there is merit in shortening cellphone to phone. It makes the items all one syllable, and context tells it's a mobile rather than landline phone.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
Although not grammatical, would this work?
"I had to leave. Coat - check. Hat - check. Purse - check. Phone - check. I yanked the door shut in my wake."

Even if the "check"s don't work, I feel there is merit in shortening cellphone to phone. It makes the items all one syllable, and context tells it's a mobile rather than landline phone.
I'm sure there are several ways to get at the effect, and I wasn't presenting that as a lesson, just an example of why I might leave commas out as a matter of style over grammar. Of course, the style has to belong to the individual author, plus taking into account the character involved.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
I have the issue where sometimes my Grammar tool will want me to add a comma when using 'but' 'and'
then when I do have them, it tells me to remove them. 🤷‍♂️
I'm not the strongest at grammar and spelling so idk✨
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
There are arguments currently to eliminate the comma even between independent clauses if the thoughts are closely connected.
Maybe this is where some of the ambiguity I'm feeling is coming from.

Commas serve two purposes. They maintain clarity, and they control pace. As long as you are doing those two things correctly, you don't need grammar rules. Having said that, the grammar rules DO EXIST to help you maintain clarity, so know them, but break them when it "serves pace without disturbing clarity".
I definitely agree with this. I follow grammar rules for the largest portion of my writing. That way, when I break them, it stands out in a way that makes the writing more effective (at least that's what I aim to do!).
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
Had this suggested at me by online grammar checkers. What I realized wasn't that I overused commas (which I often did, sure, but not on those cases), but that I overused conjunctions. 😁 I put too many ands in my sentences.
Maybe, and maybe not. LOL In the romance and cozy mystery research I've been doing the last few months, I'm seeing a LOT more "ands" than I expected to see. As a result, I apologized to a member here who I'd told had too many "ands" in a manuscript I beta'd.

It's possible I was right from a purely technical analysis, but I'm seeing books that sold very well, and they're in there. I may have been speaking from one set of standards while the publishing world is working from a lighter set.
 
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