Editing Tip: Add a comma before ‘and’ when…

EditingThis is a new rule for me. I don’t recall learning it while in school. An editor pointed it out about three years ago. Incredible isn’t it? I’ve been writing for more than thirty-five years and this rule had eluded me.

What rule am I talking about? Adding a comma before and when it joins two independent clauses.

English Lesson…because I know I’m not the only one who has trouble with English lingo.

Independent Clause: A complete sentence. In other words one that contains at the bare minimum a subject and a verb.

Sally jumped. (Subject: Sally; Verb: jumped)

Fred slapped the wall. (Subject: Fred; Verb: slapped)

The horse ate only carrots. (Subject: horse; Verb: ate)

The goats munched on grass. (Subject: goats; Verb: munched)

Tip: To figure out the subject and verb simply ask yourself who and what. Who jumped? Sally. What did Sally do? Jumped. Who munched on the grass? Goats. What did the goats do? Munch. This is where one word answers are not only great, but also necessary.

These sentences are independent clauses and end with a period. But what if you wanted to join them? Here’s how they’d appear:

Sally jumped, and Fred slapped the wall.4.6TogDoe01

The horse ate only carrots, and the goats munched on grass.

Or to mix things up:

Sally jumped, and the horse ate only carrots.

The goats munched on grass, and Fred slapped the wall.

To decide if you need a comma before and, read the two potential sentences on either side of it to see if they are independent clauses.

The boat hit the wharf and flipped high in the air.

Should there be a comma before and? The boat hit the wharf. Flipped high in the air.

The first one is a complete sentence, but the second one is missing a subject. If you wanted to write these as independent clauses, you’d have to do this:

The boat hit the wharf. The boat flipped high in the air.

Sometimes when I share this rule with others who were like me (never heard of it until now), they wear questionable expressions. If you are one of them, then check out Purdue Online Writing Lab or Get it Write to see I’m not fibbing.

Please Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.