Commas and Conjunctions joining Independent Clauses


A new user recently posted this answer to a question posted last April. I have reposted it here so current readers may participate.


"In fact, the comma is not always needed when two independent clauses are joined by "and" -- this only applies to "and," not to other conjunctions."


Is this true?


No, my references tell me that the comma is always required (with limited exceptions that most editors abhor) regardless of which conjunction is used.


The Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition, 2010 -- at section 6.28) tells us "when independent clauses are joined by and, but, or, so, yet, or any other conjunction, a comma usually recedes the conjunction. If the clauses are very short and closely connected, the comma may be omitted unless the clauses are part of a series. These recommendations apply equally to imperative sentences, in which the subject (you) is omitted but understood."


The Modern Language Association gives similar advice. In its MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition, 2008 -- at 3.4.2a), we are told "use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for , nor, or, so, or yet) joining independent clauses in a sentence. But the comma may be omitted when the sentence is short and the connection between the clauses is not open to misreading if unpunctuated."


The APA Publication Manual (6th edition, 2010) says "to separate two independent clauses joined by a conjunction" and does not limit this guidance to "and." (see ).


Garner's Modern American Usage (3rd edition, 2009, Oxford University Press -- at page 679) agrees and goes further. Although it allows the omission of the comma  for very short clauses, it cautions against doing so as readers may find something ambiguous that the author thought was clear. The classic (at least in the UK) Fowler's Modern English Usage (also Oxford University Press) provides a similar caution.


Although journalism tends to dislike commas, the AP Style Guide agrees with each of the above.


Purdue Univeristy's Online Writing Lab tells us to "use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of these seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet" (see ).


I hope this clarifies matters.

asked Sep 26 '12 at 00:10 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

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