with additional clauses

“The comma is a valuable, useful punctuation device because it separates the structural elements of sentences into manageable segments.”

~the OWL at Purdue

When it comes to connecting independent clauses, commas cooperate with conjunctions. It’s a buddy system. Unlike a period or a semicolon that would leave us guessing, the comma + conjunction companionship helps us see the connection.

Professional Examples

  • You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.

~from Stephen King’s On Writing

  • In college the whole world opened up, and the books and poets being taught in my English and philosophy classes gave me the feeling for the first time in my life that there was hope, hope that I might find my place in a community.

~from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

  • Estha convulsed, but nothing came.

~from Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things

  • She wasn’t heavy enough, so the chair folded her into itself like sandwich stuffing, and she watched from between her knees.

~from Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things

  • All this time she had imagined him coming back and everything being okay, but instead Almondine was gone and here was Edgar and he was obviously not okay.

~from David Wroblewsky’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

  • Christianity stretches back through the ages, but in essence it exists only at one time: right now.

~from Yann Martel’s Life of Pi

  • Clearly he didn’t expect the truth from her, but why didn’t he at least bother to pretend otherwise?

~from Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things

How Commas with Additional Clauses Work

Independent clause, conjunction independent clause.

Independent clauses can be joined with a comma followed by a conjunction (think “fan boys”):

  • for
  • and
  • nor
  • but
  • or
  • yet
  • so

The comma separates the clauses and emphasizes the conjunction, which emphasizes the link. It might be that the two clauses complement each other (and) or oppose each other (but) or build on each other (so), and the coordinating conjunctions let us know why you’ve placed them together.

Rule-breaking Side Note: Sometimes writers will choose to omit the comma between independent clauses. Astute observers might have noticed it above in the David Wroblewski example where there are actually four clauses but only one comma—

All this time she had imagined him coming back and everything being okay, but instead Almondine was gone and here was Edgar and he was obviously not okay.

This is similar to a rushed effect in the third comma type, with a series. Writers sometimes want to remove as much separation as possible between clauses to connect them more closely. Notice how in this case the singular comma divides the sentence in half and suggests that the writer wants everything after the comma to be taken as one whole concept.

Self Check

When you cover up the conjunction, each side should be able to stand alone. The comma + conjunction should be inserted between the two stand-alone clauses.

 

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