While recent­ly edit­ing a research pro­pos­al I was remind­ed of a com­ma error I fre­quent­ly find myself cor­rect­ing: always pre­ced­ing “and” with a com­ma.

Here was the exam­ple sen­tence:

When I fin­ish this research I will report to the post-sec­ondary com­mu­ni­ty, as well as the class mem­bers, and Dr. Smith.

Pre­ced­ing “and” with a com­ma is reserved for 2 occa­sions:

  1. if “and” joins more than 2 items in a series (although there is debate about whether this is even nec­es­sary)
  2. If “and” is a coör­di­nat­ing con­junc­tion join­ing to inde­pen­dent claus­es

To illus­trate:

  1. I bought jalapeños, habaneros, and scotch bon­nets.
  2. I went to the store, and I bought run­ners.

One could rewrite the above exam­ple sen­tence to include a series and make the com­ma legit­i­mate:

When I fin­ish this research I will report to the post-sec­ondary com­mu­ni­ty, the class mem­bers, and Dr. Smith.

Or you could just remove the com­ma.

Here’s an errant com­ma from a master’s the­sis of a dif­fer­ent client and used slight­ly dif­fer­ent­ly:

This work is a valu­able addi­tion to the exist­ing non-schol­ar­ly accounts of the team, and pro­vides a crit­i­cal lens through which the mythol­o­gized cham­pi­onship teams may be viewed.

Because “and” joins one inde­pen­dent clause and one depen­dent clause, there is no need to use the com­ma. Includ­ing the com­ma implies that the sec­ond clause can stand on its own, but it has no sub­ject.

If you want to keep the com­ma, just add a sub­ject to the sec­ond clause to make it inde­pen­dent:

This work is a valu­able addi­tion to the exist­ing non-schol­ar­ly accounts of the team, and it pro­vides a crit­i­cal lens through which the mythol­o­gized cham­pi­onship teams may be viewed.

Or you could just remove the com­ma.

I come across inerrant com­mas pre­ced­ing “and” so often that I won­der whether peo­ple have been taught at some point to always include a com­ma when using “and”. It’s just not true. Just with a list of 3 or more items and when join­ing 2 inde­pen­dent thoughts.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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