JS Tip 168: From the Writing Workshops: Reviewing the Lowly Comma, Part II

We’re reviewing commas. Last week, we suggested you use the “Harvard Comma” (the one before the “and” in a series).

Second Principle: Place a comma before the connecting word between two complete thoughts:

We’ll arrive on Monday, and the conference will start on Tuesday.

Connecting words are and, or, for, nor, but, yet, and so. They’re called coordinating conjunctions.

Some Additional Thoughts. You can express related ideas three ways:

One: Write them as separate sentences. We could just as easily have said—

We’ll arrive on Monday. The conference will start on Tuesday.

Two: Combine them with a comma and a connecting word. What we did in the example:

We’ll arrive on Monday, and the conference will start on Tuesday.

The comma must have an accompanying connecting word. The comma alone isn’t strong enough. (In fact, it’s called a “comma splice.” Minus five points.)

Three: Combine them with a semicolon. The semicolon is strong enough to link the two ideas:

We’ll arrive on Monday; the conference will start on Tuesday.

Separate sentences provide distance between the ideas. The comma and a connecting word provide a middle ground. The semicolon provides a direct, in-your-face, bam-bam link between the two ideas. You, as the writer, decide which relationship you want to express.

If you have questions, suggestions, or arguments, let us know. Hey. We love this stuff.