Comma’s AFTER conjunctions
25 Monday Aug 2014
Written by J. Abram Barneck in Editing
No tags :(
If you see a comma after a conjunction, it is pretty close to always wrong. There is a normal use or two, but not usually.
Conjunctions can be used as a coordinating conjunction or as a list or to join a noun. (This applies to all conjunctions, not just
and.) In none of the sentences with such uses should there be a comma after the word
He went to the store and bought milk. (Without the pronoun) He went to the store, and he bought milk. (With the pronoun)
He has a pencil, a notebook, and a math book. (Chicago style) He has a pencil, a notebook and a math book. (AP Style)
Jack and Jill stopped by. The sides were peas and brussel sprouts.
Interrupter or Parenthetical element
Now, what if you add an interrupter or parenthetical element immediately after the word
Don’t forgot the rule that the interrupter or parenthetical element doesn’t need a comma at the start if it begins a sentences or follows a conjunction.
He went to the store, and with little thought, bought milk. (Without the pronoun) He went to the store, and with little thought, he bought milk. (With the pronoun)
Because these are coordinating conjunctions, the
and is already a separator and no additional separator, such as a comma, is needed for the parenthetical element. As you see, because
and is already a separator and already can have a preceding comma, you don’t need a comma for an interrupter or parenthetical element. However, an interrupter or parenthetical element strengthens the need for a comma before the conjunction. So a comma is allowed, but it is allowed before the conjunction, not after.
In the first sentence, even though a comma is not required because the second sentence cannot stand on its own, the comma is used before the coordinating conjunction because a parenthetical element follows it and strengthens the need for the comma, but unless it creates ambiguity in the sentence, this comma is optional.
He has a pencil, a notebook, and just sticking out of his backpack, a math book. (Chicago style) He has a pencil, a notebook, and just sticking out of his backpack, a math book. (AP Style)
Now, AP style will have the comma in this situation, and so both AP and Chicago are the same.
What about this: “A sentence must still be grammatically correct when removing the interrupter or parenthetical element?”
While that statement is correct, that doesn’t mean the comma should be after the conjunction. The logical flaw that might lead one to believe this is assuming that when removing the interrupter or parenthetical element that you also remove the conjunction. You don’t. The conjunction is not removed with the interrupter or parenthetical element just because a comma precedes the conjunction. Now, removing the interrupter or parenthetical element may weaken the need for a comma and you may end up removing the comma, too, but that doesn’t mean the comma or the conjunction were part of the interrupter or parenthetical element.
Join two nouns
Jack and, to my joy, Jill stopped by. The sides were peas and, to my distaste, brussel sprouts.
Here the conjunction is not coordinating, and not already separated by a serial comma. So, yeah, you found a use case where the comma can be used after the conjunction.
Comma After Conjunction Conclusion
So, when should the word
and be following by a comma?
- When the
andis not a coordinating conjunction or not in a serial making the serial comma available.
- When you are talking about the words themselves and not using the word. For example, if you want to list all the conjuctions: and, but, or, yet, for, nor, so. That is the only time a comma should follow a conjunction.
Don’t think that just because you see a comma after a conjunction in your favorite author’s novel that it is correct. This is a very obscure rule and many, many writers get it wrong.