comma before the conjunction - is this rule changing


My editor nixes almost every comma I use, including before a conjunction connecting two independent clauses. I understand a preference for omitting the serial comma, but it seems wrong to me to omit the comma between independent clauses. Am I just being old school?

Awareness of the program has increased since 2010, but few have used it.

asked Jun 16 '12 at 16:35 Laurie Harrington New member

2 answers


Sorry I came late to this discussion -- the softball player in my life had another tournament this weekend (106 in the shade!). 


I have copies both Chicago and MLA at my desk. Both are very clear about using commas to separate two independent clauses joined by a conjunction -- it is required. On occasion, I check other style guides when I using the Berkeley campus libraries. I can't remember any of the other major guides being lenient on this basic issue. 


The journalism guides, where comma use is becoming an option, provide a slightly different take. The AP Stylebook (which I also have at my desk) says: use a comma before the conjunction most cases. As a rule-of-thumb use a comma if the subject of each clause is expressly stated. The comma may be dropped if two clauses with expressly stated subjects are short. In general, however, favor use of a comma unless a particular literary effect is desired or if it would distort the sense of a sentence.


We recognize that English is a living language, and different editors will have different viewpoints. My own editor is much less "old-school" than say Tolley when it comes to starting sentences with the conjunctions "and" and "but".  However, it is never considered confrontational for a writer to ask her editor what style guide the editor is following. When the editor and writer are on the same page, the job of both becomes easier.

link answered Jun 17 '12 at 04:18 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow


TolleyJun 18 '12 at 04:04

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The editor encourages run-on sentences?  Interesting.


The Chicago Manual of Style supports what we were taught a long time ago.  Use a comma with a conjunction separating independent clause.  That issue alone would make me reconsider my choice in editors.  Chicago also strongly recommends the serial comma, by the way.

link answered Jun 16 '12 at 20:42 Jody M. Expert

I remember a good example of why one should use the serial comma. When thanking others for their inspiration, the man said, "I'd like to thank my parents, Mother Teresa and the pope."

Patty TJun 16 '12 at 23:37

That's funny! I have yet to see a good reason to omit the serial comma.

Jody M.Jun 17 '12 at 00:12

I'm stealing that one, Patty.

TolleyJun 17 '12 at 02:36

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