Commas and Coordinating Conjunctions (Full Guide with Examples and Sources)

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Commas and Coordinating Conjunctions (Full Guide with Examples and Sources)

Post by Scott »

Coordinating conjunctions are words that join two equal elements in a sentence, such as two nouns, two verbs, two phrases, two modifiers, two independent clauses. The following are examples of words that can be used as coordinating conjunctions:
  • and
  • or
  • nor
  • so
  • but
  • for
  • yet
For coordinating conjunctions connecting two elements, a comma is used if and only if the conjunction is connecting two independent clauses. An independent clause is a phrase that would be a sentence all on its own.

For example, the following is incorrect because the word "and" is connecting the nouns "John" and "Joe" which are nouns not independent clauses.

INCORRECT: John, and Joe, went to the mall.

Instead, the following is correct:

CORRECT: John and Joe went to the mall.

The word "John" would not be a sentence on its own; it's just a noun, and the word "Joe" is also just a noun. So the conjunction "and" in the two examples above is connecting two nouns, not two independent clauses. Therefore, a comma should not be used.


Here are some more examples:


INCORRECT: The furry, and big cat is named Paul.

CORRECT: The furry and big cat is named Paul.

The coordinating conjunction (the word "and") in the above examples is connecting the word "furry" with the word "big". The word "furry" is an adjective, not an independent clause. The word "big" is an adjective, not an independent clause. Therefore, in the examples above, the conjunction "and" is connecting two adjectives, not two independent clauses. Therefore, a comma should not be used.


INCORRECT: Jennifer wrote, and directed the show.

CORRECT: Jennifer wrote and directed the show.

In the above examples, the conjunction joins the verb "wrote" and and the verb "directed". Since it connects two verbs, not two independent clauses, a comma should not be used.


INCORRECT: Jennifer wrote the play, and directed the show.

CORRECT: Jennifer wrote the play and directed the show.

In the above example, the conjunction joins the phrase "wrote the play" and the phrase "directed the show". The phrase "directed the show" is not an independent clause. Therefore, a comma should not be used.


CORRECT: I went to the kitchen, and I ate pizza.

USUALLY INCORRECT: I went to the kitchen and I ate pizza. (Because this is only usually incorrect, it should NOT be marked as an error in the objective section when editing reviews.)

In the above example, the conjunction joins the independent clause "I went to the kitchen" with the independent clause "I ate pizza". Therefore, generally a comma must be used. However, some style guides allow for the comma to be omitted if the two independent clauses are "very short". Because there is subjectivity in what qualifies as "very short", I recommend never mark the omission of this particular comma (one before a coordinating conjunction connecting two independent clauses) as an objective error, even if the sentences seem long. What is short, medium, or long can be subjective.


In the above examples, I used the conjunction "and". However, the same goes for other conjunctions. Here are more examples:


INCORRECT: The furry, but big cat is named Paul.

CORRECT: The furry but big cat is named Paul.


INCORRECT: Jennifer wrote, or directed the show.

CORRECT: Jennifer wrote or directed the show.


USUALLY INCORRECT: I went to the kitchen but I ate pizza.

CORRECT: I went to the kitchen, but I ate pizza.


Keep in mind, the above rules apply when dealing with a coordinating conjunction that connects two and only two equal parts. If three or more parts are connected, then a list is created and commas do become required. Here are some examples:

INCORRECT: The dog is big furry and mean.

CORRECT: The dog is big, furry, and mean.

ALSO CORRECT: The dog is big, furry and mean.

The optional comma left out in the very last example is called the Oxford Comma. Some style guides require it, but other style guides allow it to be left out. However, that is a different topic. :)


Sources and Additional Reading
https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/CoordConj.html
https://webapps.towson.edu/ows/conjunctions.htm
https://guidetogrammar.org/grammar/conjunctions.htm
http://plato.algonquincollege.com/appli ... age_id=156
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Post by slowpoke123 »

Thanks a bunch, sir. This is really easy to understand.
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Post by Vargash1987 »

Wao! Thanks for this taking notes!
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Post by Alyssa »

This makes a lot of sense. Thank you.
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Post by Ricky 7 »

It really helps sir, Thanks a lot
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Post by gayscott »

I must be behind the times, because I :oops: have never heard of "the oxford comma ". I was always taught to use commas in a series of three or more. Guess I need to do more research. Thanks for the help.
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Post by wendilou49 »

Thanks! I need a good grammar review. It's been a long time since high school!!
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Post by Mounce574 »

Thank you for this guide. I have been struggling with the commas and some sentence clarity.
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Post by brendanwhite »

Thank you! This was so helpful and answered all the questions I had exactly.
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Post by brendanwhite »

I was working on some (at-home) essays--super helpful yet again!
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Post by DBNJ »

Thank you for the clarification .I needed this as I was struggling to understand some of the rules.
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Post by kljrox »

Thank you for these examples of correct comma usage. I've been struggling with this issue.
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Post by Leen282 »

Thank you so much for the very clear information. I am using Grammarly (paid version) to check my reviews, and where second to last review came out with perfect score for grammar, my last review had some comments on the use of commas.

I wanted to start a topic, did a search first and found this thread. Very useful!
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Post by edztan15 »

Comma usage is one of my areas for improvement in writing. Thank you so much for this insightful post.
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Post by Honest-reviewer »

Wow! This was very helpful. Thanks a lot.
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