Commas and Conjunctions

Updated on September 18, 2017

Commas can be a real pain in the…grammar behind for many writers. It starts in elementary school and continues on through life with only the Grammar Nazis ever fully grasping their meaning, purpose, and how to use them. Well, the truth is that commas are not near as hard as the teachers have made them out to be nor what our minds tell us. But all those years of being told how hard it was to use commas has done its damage, especially when it comes to conjunctions.

Maybe we can shed a little light on the subject matter.

What is a Conjunction?

Let’s start off with knowing what a conjunction actually is. A conjunction is a word that connects two complete sentences together. The typical conjunctions most people are familiar with are ‘and’, ‘but’, and ‘or’. These are the ones you’ll see most often connecting two sentences. It will connect sentences like:


He ran across the yard.

John pulled on the door.


These are two independent sentences that can stand on their own. Yet, they can be part of the same scenario. When that is the case, you can use a conjunction to pull them together and paint them happening at the same time in your brain.


He ran across the yard, and John pulled on the door.


The one person ran across the yard while John pulled the door open. You can see the action taking place in a fluid motion. Also, if you put the sentences side by side in a paragraph, they almost sound too juvenile. Combining them with a conjunction helps them mature a little bit. This is a great way to create a more dynamic piece of writing.


Now the comma part of all this…

And the Comma...

As these are two separate sentences that can stand alone, you need a comma to tell you that. What is the purpose of a comma? It is a reading directional. As you are reading, it tells you where to pause and where deviations occur. Here, it is telling you this is not a single sentence by itself. It is two separate sentences combined for better reading. It is a slight way to show you how the sentence is really being acted out.

The conjunctions used depend on what you are trying to say with the combined sentence. ‘And’ means in addition to. He ran while John was pulling. Both are happening which means ‘and’ is the better fit. What if I used ‘but’? That would convey something entirely different.


He ran across the yard, but John pulled on the door.


This conveys a hint that they could have done the same thing. Maybe something is after them, and one guy decides to make a run for it while the other one attempts to get inside a house. Instead of working together, they appear to make different decisions which is important to the story. That one little word can change the entire meaning of the sentence.

The comma is placed before the conjunction to let you know that you need to pause. When you do, you take notice of the conjunction. You notice whether it is an ‘and’ or a ‘but’. Your mind then processes that and interprets the scene based on that and the context it is found it. The picture in your mind adapts to the comma and conjunction.

When Not to Use Comma

Now that we have seen how to use the comma with a conjunction, let's look at not using it. Sounds odd, but you'll understand in a minute.


John bought a truck and called Susie up on the way home.

The conjunction here should not have a comma. Look at "called Susie up on the way home." This is a sentence fragment when you put it by itself. It cannot stand on its own. Therefore, it does not need anything more than a conjunction as it has to have the first part of the sentence to be a solid sentence. Don't put a comma in front of the conjunction in this case.

Many Resources

If you ever have a question about a conjunction and if a period is needed, there are many resources online to help you. You can do a search on how to use commas. You'll find resources such as Purdue Owl, which a final authority for many learning institutions, and Grammar Girl.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        S Maree 

        12 months ago

        Love it! I truly wish we had instruction like this when I learned grammar. "School House Rock" came when I was a teen and WAY too cool to watch Saturday morning TV. Even though I earned a BA in English, I hated grammar!

        Thank you for the resources. I'm getting rusty in the art of punctuation and need refreshers. Had a professor who was enamored of James Joyce, and insisted we learn to make entire (long!) paragraphs using but one sentence. Crikey! Should have paid better attention because now I'm embarrassed how much I need to edit even short responses as this.

        Please feel free to send more such missives! Thank you and have a lovely day!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)