What is missing from these sentences?
I will not revise the draft at this point so the final should look the same.
If not, we will send the final report by itself and you could send the original to accounting.
We would like to purchase the product but we do not have the budget right now.
Right! You guessed it! They are missing the comma before the coordinating conjunction. (Wasn’t that just on the tip of your tongue?)
We are not going into the whole rigmarole about coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. We will focus here on one kind of conjunction and its pal, the comma.
In the Worktalk business writing training, we explain that commas serve three functions. They introduce, separate, and enclose.
|Introduce:||As you know, we are closed on Sunday.|
|Once again, they won the award.|
|Separate:||If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.|
|The plumbing is new, which is an added benefit.|
|First I saw her walking her dog, and then I saw her duck.|
|Enclose:||Angela, who has known me all my life, is coming with us.|
As you can see, commas separate many things. One of their main roles is to separate independent clauses that are connected by a coordinating conjunction.
In plain English, an independent clause is a group of words that has a noun and a verb (subject and predicate), and that can stand alone. It represents a distinct thought.
A coordinating conjunction is a word that connects parts of a sentence that are of the same order or rank. These conjunctions often connect independent clauses. Coordinating conjunctions spell out the acronym FANBOYS. Place a comma before these conjunctions.The comma represents a pause between the thoughts. The FANBOYS conjunctions are:
- I am going to sleep, for I am tired.
- We went to the restaurant, and then we went to the theater.
- We are not going to the party, nor are we going to the show.
- He would like to apply for the job, but he lacks the qualifications.
- He is a quiet person, yet he has a lot to say when you get to know him.
- I am hungry, so I am going to eat lunch.
Writers often omit these commas. This lack of punctuation leads the reader to plunge headlong through the sentence without seeing where she can look up, take a breath, or parse the sentence into its component thoughts.
Commas are our friends: They tell the reader’s eye which words belong together. In future Writamins, we will explore more facets of the magical world of commas. For now, just remember to put a comma before your FANBOYS.
For a more comprehensive description of comma usages, see Purdue OWL’s web site athttps://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/607/02/
Or take a look at Jane Strauss’s Grammarbook.com
(c) 2016 Elizabeth Danziger all rights reserved.
Read Writamins on these topics:
Choosing the Right Word
Thoughts on Writing
Writing Within Organizations