Comma's before 'but'?

Some grammar rules (and embarrassing mistakes!) transcend the uniqueness of different regions and style guides. This new International Grammar section by OnlineBookClub.org ultimately identifies those rules thus providing a simple, flexible rule-set, respecting the differences between regions and style guides. You can feel free to ask general questions about spelling and grammar. You can also provide example sentences for other members to proofread and inform you of any grammar mistakes.
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Re: Comma's before 'but'?

Post by _Delly_01 » 20 Feb 2019, 00:00

ELC wrote: ↑
26 Dec 2018, 13:56
SO I just got my first review score and all my errors are - there should be a comma before 'but'.
Do American's use a comma before 'but' all the time, because that probably means i'm going to fail the grammar section every time. It's not something I would ever do having been taught that it's incorrect my entire life...Also does that not cause problems when reviewing work from authors in Ireland or the U.K?
That's funny you were told that, because I was just told the complete opposite and had twenty points deducted. American grammar doesn't have a comma before co-ordinating conjunctions, but Australian and British grammar does. There should be a set decision on grammar on this site, because it's a wild stab in the dark if 'you're' right or 'wrong' depending on the editor. It's not fair at all.

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Post by CatInTheHat » 20 Feb 2019, 07:14

_Delly_01 wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 00:00


That's funny you were told that, because I was just told the complete opposite and had twenty points deducted. American grammar doesn't have a comma before co-ordinating conjunctions, but Australian and British grammar does. There should be a set decision on grammar on this site, because it's a wild stab in the dark if 'you're' right or 'wrong' depending on the editor. It's not fair at all.
American grammar DOES have commas before coordinating conjunctions when there are two independent clauses being connected. However, a comma is not used if one of the clauses is a dependent clause.
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Post by _Delly_01 » 20 Feb 2019, 09:11

Okay. Can you please give me examples? I know the grammatical rules for Australia and America work differently, but I'm not too familiar with how your works.

I've seen a few published American books where 'because' doesn't have a single preceding comma. The 'and' and 'but' is a little more confusing. It occasionally dabbles in some mutually common rule, and then doesn't.

In Australia, we always put a comma before 'because', 'but', 'since', 'nor', 'either', 'so'... Unless it is the beginning word of a sentence. 'And' always has a comma when it's joining a dependent clause and two independent clauses. That's what we were taught. Based on what you're saying, the rules between America and Australia clearly have some middle ground. I just don't know where that it is.

It is same thing with spelling as it is with grammar. Check/cheque, realize/realise, favor/favour. All the same pronunciation, mean the same thing, different rules. Then it gets even more confusing when a person takes grammatical liberties based on personal style and voice in their writing.

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Post by Eva Darrington » 20 Feb 2019, 13:26

_Delly_01 wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 09:11
Okay. Can you please give me examples? I know the grammatical rules for Australia and America work differently, but I'm not too familiar with how your works.

I've seen a few published American books where 'because' doesn't have a single preceding comma. The 'and' and 'but' is a little more confusing. It occasionally dabbles in some mutually common rule, and then doesn't.

In Australia, we always put a comma before 'because', 'but', 'since', 'nor', 'either', 'so'... Unless it is the beginning word of a sentence. 'And' always has a comma when it's joining a dependent clause and two independent clauses. That's what we were taught. Based on what you're saying, the rules between America and Australia clearly have some middle ground. I just don't know where that it is.

It is same thing with spelling as it is with grammar. Check/cheque, realize/realise, favor/favour. All the same pronunciation, mean the same thing, different rules. Then it gets even more confusing when a person takes grammatical liberties based on personal style and voice in their writing.
As mentioned earlier, FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) is a useful tool for remembering coordinating conjunctions. There are more, but these are the most common. In American style guides (as CatInTheHat said), a comma is used before coordinating conjunctions that connect two independent clauses (complete sentences.)

CORRECT: I went to the grocery store, but I really didn't need many groceries.

A comma is not needed when the conjunction connects an independent clause with a dependent clause.

CORRECT: I went to the grocery store but didn't need many groceries.

This sentence is missing the subject "I" in the second example, making it a dependent clause. There are changes occurring in terms of stringent adherence to these rules for style guides in various parts of the world. To be safe, in reviews, I use the above rules for commas with coordinating conjunctions. Consistency is important.

Regarding because: Here is a thread that addresses some of the special circumstances with because.
https://english.stackexchange.com/quest ... ry-because

As to the spelling differences you mention, as long as you are consistent to one region's style guide, you should be fine with alternative spellings. Just avoid mixing a British style spelling (colour) with an American style (favor) in the same review.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. -Scott Adams

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Post by Zora C Penter » 20 Feb 2019, 14:22

Eva Darrington wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 13:26
_Delly_01 wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 09:11
Okay. Can you please give me examples? I know the grammatical rules for Australia and America work differently, but I'm not too familiar with how your works.

I've seen a few published American books where 'because' doesn't have a single preceding comma. The 'and' and 'but' is a little more confusing. It occasionally dabbles in some mutually common rule, and then doesn't.

In Australia, we always put a comma before 'because', 'but', 'since', 'nor', 'either', 'so'... Unless it is the beginning word of a sentence. 'And' always has a comma when it's joining a dependent clause and two independent clauses. That's what we were taught. Based on what you're saying, the rules between America and Australia clearly have some middle ground. I just don't know where that it is.

It is same thing with spelling as it is with grammar. Check/cheque, realize/realise, favor/favour. All the same pronunciation, mean the same thing, different rules. Then it gets even more confusing when a person takes grammatical liberties based on personal style and voice in their writing.
As mentioned earlier, FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) is a useful tool for remembering coordinating conjunctions. There are more, but these are the most common. In American style guides (as CatInTheHat said), a comma is used before coordinating conjunctions that connect two independent clauses (complete sentences.)
Great advice! However, fanboys are the only coordinating conjunctions in American grammar. You might be thinking of conjunctive adverbs (then, meanwhile, therefore, next, etc.) or subordinating conjunctions (because, until, whether, before, after, etc.). The reason I make a distinction is that punctuation is different for these three types. I don't mention correlative conjunctions here because they operate almost exactly the same as coordinating conjunctions.

Since you bring up "because," here is how it would look in a sentence by American standards (same rules as the "since" in this sentence as well):
Because I did not sleep well last night, I am tired today.
I am tired today because I did not sleep well last night.

Starting a clause with a subordinating conjunction makes it dependent and not independent. Thus, you don't put a comma in front for American standards.

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Post by Eva Darrington » 20 Feb 2019, 18:44

Zora C Penter wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 14:22
Great advice! However, fanboys are the only coordinating conjunctions in American grammar. You might be thinking of conjunctive adverbs (then, meanwhile, therefore, next, etc.) or subordinating conjunctions (because, until, whether, before, after, etc.). The reason I make a distinction is that punctuation is different for these three types. I don't mention correlative conjunctions here because they operate almost exactly the same as coordinating conjunctions.
Thanks for this clarification. I didn't realize fanboys was an exhaustive list of coordinating conjunctions. What I am referring to here are situations where other words are used just like coordinating conjunctions, such as:

She was late to school, as the bus did not pick her up on time.
He did not order the lobster, though he did have his heart set on it.

It seems to me that "as" and "though" are acting like coordinating conjunctions: connecting two equal independent clauses. Am I wrong about this? Thanks!
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Post by Zora C Penter » 20 Feb 2019, 19:34

Eva Darrington wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 18:44
Thanks for this clarification. I didn't realize fanboys was an exhaustive list of coordinating conjunctions. What I am referring to here are situations where other words are used just like coordinating conjunctions, such as:

She was late to school, as the bus did not pick her up on time.
He did not order the lobster, though he did have his heart set on it.

It seems to me that "as" and "though" are acting like coordinating conjunctions: connecting two equal independent clauses. Am I wrong about this? Thanks!
"As" and "though" are both subordinating conjunctions. That means you technically should not be using commas for the two sentences above according to American standards. If you need help, here are some other conjunctions like that:

after, although, as, as if, as long as, as much as, as soon as, as though, because, before, by the time, even if, even though, if, in order that, in case, in the event that, lest , now that, once, only, only if, provided that, since, so, supposing, that, than, though, till, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, whether or not, while

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Post by Eva Darrington » 20 Feb 2019, 20:11

Zora C Penter wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 19:34
Eva Darrington wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 18:44
Thanks for this clarification. I didn't realize fanboys was an exhaustive list of coordinating conjunctions. What I am referring to here are situations where other words are used just like coordinating conjunctions, such as:

She was late to school, as the bus did not pick her up on time.
He did not order the lobster, though he did have his heart set on it.

It seems to me that "as" and "though" are acting like coordinating conjunctions: connecting two equal independent clauses. Am I wrong about this? Thanks!
"As" and "though" are both subordinating conjunctions. That means you technically should not be using commas for the two sentences above according to American standards. If you need help, here are some other conjunctions like that:

after, although, as, as if, as long as, as much as, as soon as, as though, because, before, by the time, even if, even though, if, in order that, in case, in the event that, lest , now that, once, only, only if, provided that, since, so, supposing, that, than, though, till, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, whether or not, while
I have always wanted clarification about this issue. I hope you can indulge one more round of this.
I do know the subordinating conjunctions and understand one would not generally use commas with subordinating conjunctions. However, there are common cases when it seems like certain subordinating conjunctions are serving exactly as coordinating conjunctions. For example, "for" and "as" seem interchangeable at times even though they are different types of conjunctions. So, using the example above: "She was late to school, as the bus did not pick her up on time." How would that be different from using "for" (a coordinating conjunction)? Isn't the meaning exactly the same?

She was late to school, for the bus did not pick her up on time.
She was late to school, as the bus did not pick her up on time.

I would be inclined to use a comma in both instances though I understand only one is a coordinating conjunction. They both connect the same independent clauses. Your thoughts?
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Post by Zora C Penter » 20 Feb 2019, 21:03

Eva Darrington wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 20:11
I have always wanted clarification about this issue. I hope you can indulge one more round of this.
I do know the subordinating conjunctions and understand one would not generally use commas with subordinating conjunctions. However, there are common cases when it seems like certain subordinating conjunctions are serving exactly as coordinating conjunctions. For example, "for" and "as" seem interchangeable at times even though they are different types of conjunctions. So, using the example above: "She was late to school, as the bus did not pick her up on time." How would that be different from using "for" (a coordinating conjunction)? Isn't the meaning exactly the same?

She was late to school, for the bus did not pick her up on time.
She was late to school, as the bus did not pick her up on time.

I would be inclined to use a comma in both instances though I understand only one is a coordinating conjunction. They both connect the same independent clauses. Your thoughts?
Which one sounds like a complete thought with the conjunction placed at the front?
For the bus did not pick her up on time.
As the bus did not pick her up on time.

Try with another:
And she lived happily ever after.
Because she lived happily ever after.

Subordinating conjunctions make the following information dependent on another full thought.

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Post by Eva Darrington » 20 Feb 2019, 21:33

Zora C Penter wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 21:03
Which one sounds like a complete thought with the conjunction placed at the front?
For the bus did not pick her up on time.
As the bus did not pick her up on time.
Yes, that's my point. These examples sound exactly the same to me.

Anyway, thank you for the dialogue.
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Post by _Delly_01 » 20 Feb 2019, 21:42

Eva Darrington wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 13:26
_Delly_01 wrote: ↑
20 Feb 2019, 09:11
Okay. Can you please give me examples? I know the grammatical rules for Australia and America work differently, but I'm not too familiar with how your works.

I've seen a few published American books where 'because' doesn't have a single preceding comma. The 'and' and 'but' is a little more confusing. It occasionally dabbles in some mutually common rule, and then doesn't.

In Australia, we always put a comma before 'because', 'but', 'since', 'nor', 'either', 'so'... Unless it is the beginning word of a sentence. 'And' always has a comma when it's joining a dependent clause and two independent clauses. That's what we were taught. Based on what you're saying, the rules between America and Australia clearly have some middle ground. I just don't know where that it is.

It is same thing with spelling as it is with grammar. Check/cheque, realize/realise, favor/favour. All the same pronunciation, mean the same thing, different rules. Then it gets even more confusing when a person takes grammatical liberties based on personal style and voice in their writing.
As mentioned earlier, FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) is a useful tool for remembering coordinating conjunctions. There are more, but these are the most common. In American style guides (as CatInTheHat said), a comma is used before coordinating conjunctions that connect two independent clauses (complete sentences.)

CORRECT: I went to the grocery store, but I really didn't need many groceries.

A comma is not needed when the conjunction connects an independent clause with a dependent clause.

CORRECT: I went to the grocery store but didn't need many groceries.

This sentence is missing the subject "I" in the second example, making it a dependent clause. There are changes occurring in terms of stringent adherence to these rules for style guides in various parts of the world. To be safe, in reviews, I use the above rules for commas with coordinating conjunctions. Consistency is important.

Regarding because: Here is a thread that addresses some of the special circumstances with because.
https://english.stackexchange.com/quest ... ry-because

As to the spelling differences you mention, as long as you are consistent to one region's style guide, you should be fine with alternative spellings. Just avoid mixing a British style spelling (colour) with an American style (favor) in the same review.
There is a strong crossover between grammatical rules, but they don't like up one-hundred percent. Australia and America have some differing quirks in grammar. If I'm better off familiarising myself with American grammar to do the reviews, I'll do it.

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Post by Renu G » 13 Mar 2019, 00:36

I have often heard experts state that a grammatical style preferred by a writer should not be considered erroneous, if it is consistently applied throughout the work.

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Post by CatInTheHat » 13 Mar 2019, 08:32

Renu G wrote: ↑
13 Mar 2019, 00:36
I have often heard experts state that a grammatical style preferred by a writer should not be considered erroneous, if it is consistently applied throughout the work.
Just to clarify... Do you mean that a writer can do whatever they want & it's fine as long as it's consistent? If that's what you mean, I'd say, "No way." I've never heard anything like that before.
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Post by Renu G » 13 Mar 2019, 14:29

What I mean is, if an author uses American or British or Indian grammar, he/she needs to use it consistently, throughout the written work.

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Post by CatInTheHat » 13 Mar 2019, 18:30

Renu G wrote: ↑
13 Mar 2019, 14:29
What I mean is, if an author uses American or British or Indian grammar, he/she needs to use it consistently, throughout the written work.
Correct, and editors do look for that, with American and British English.
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