Comma usage and compound sentences.

To recap The Scribe’s recent tips regarding comma usage, the tip from October 31 concerned complex sentences, and the tip from November 14 concerned compound predicates.  Today we discuss comma usage and compound sentences.  *Applause*

A compound sentence consists of two or more independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (or sometimes by a semicolon or colon).  A clause consists of a subject and a predicate.  The most common coordinating conjunctions are “and,” “but,” “or,” and “nor.”

Independent Clause:

Evie will go to the library.

[Coord. Conj.] Independent Clause:

[and] Jamie will go with her.

[Coord. Conj.] Independent Clause:

[or] Jamie will have to go later.

Not a Clause:

and research legislative history.  (This is a second predicate.)

The coordinating conjunctions in compound sentences should be preceded by a comma, e.g.:

  • Beth prepared a concise and well-researched brief, and the court dismissed her client from the lawsuit.
  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.  (George Orwell)

EXCEPTION:  When the clauses are short and there is no danger of misreading, the comma may be omitted, e.g.:

  • Stephen did the research and Laura wrote the brief. 

Finally, compound sentences are sometimes separated by a semicolon (with or without a coordinating conjunction) or a colon, e.g.:

  • Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise, they won’t go to yours.  (Yogi Berra)
  • It was dawn outside, a glowing gray, and birds had plenty to say out in the bare trees; and at the big window was a face and a windmill of arms.  (David Foster Wallace)
  • Arguments are to be avoided:  they are always vulgar and often convincing.  (Oscar Wilde)

That is all for now …

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