comma before and after 'but' [conjunction]: usage, but, in fact...

Wernazuma

Senior Member
Österreich, Deutsch
I am quite firm in issues of comma usage, but, in fact, there's one point I have not come to a satisfactory conclusion yet.

One places a comma before and, but etc. when they connect two independent clauses, like in the first sentence of this post.
Also, one places a comma around appositives and parenthetical elements, like the "in fact" in the above sentence.

So what should I do when an appositive comes directly after the connecting "and/but"?
As it is in the above sentence, the sentence looks like shot to death with a comma-rifle (and there are much worse examples when you have another appositive right before the conjunction).

I've sometimes seen people omitting the middle comma, but in certain cases this goes against my instinctive feel.

How do you handle such problems?
Thanks.
 
  • Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    AE speakers often omit the comma after "but," unless it would create confusion to do so. Here is a thread in which at least some of us thought its omission did create such confusion.
     

    jinti

    Senior Member
    Personally, I'd omit the middle comma.

    The whole point of rules is to facilitate communication. At the point where the punctuation starts drawing attention to itself and away from my message, I start breaking the rules. The commas that can be omitted without causing undue hardship to the reader get thrown out... and nobody really misses them. ;)

    Readability trumps punctuation rules every time. :)
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    One places a comma before and, but etc. when they connect two independent clauses, like in the first sentence of this post.
    I disagree.
    There is no necessity.

    I am quite firm in issues of comma usage, but, in fact, there's one point I have not come to a satisfactory conclusion yet about.

    The 'in fact' is redundant and is causing confusion.

    I am quite firm in issues of comma usage but there's one point I have not come to a satisfactory conclusion about.

    I am quite firm in issues of comma usage there's one point I have yet to come to a satisfactory conclusion about.

    I am quite firm in issues of comma usage there's one point I am yet to understand.

    I am of the opinion that commas are often inserted into sentences to try to rectify a composition error. This was understandable in the days of vellum and very expensive writing mediums with no facility for correction but wordprocessors allow us to recompose the sentence for clarity and a minimum of punctuation.

    .,,
     

    Wernazuma

    Senior Member
    Österreich, Deutsch
    I disagree.
    There is no necessity.

    I am quite firm in issues of comma usage, but, in fact, there's one point I have not come to a satisfactory conclusion yet about.

    The 'in fact' is redundant and is causing confusion.

    I am quite firm in issues of comma usage but there's one point I have not come to a satisfactory conclusion about.

    I am quite firm in issues of comma usage there's one point I have yet to come to a satisfactory conclusion about.

    I am quite firm in issues of comma usage there's one point I am yet to understand.

    I am of the opinion that commas are often inserted into sentences to try to rectify a composition error. This was understandable in the days of vellum and very expensive writing mediums with no facility for correction but wordprocessors allow us to recompose the sentence for clarity and a minimum of punctuation.

    .,,

    I was constructing an example with the first sentence, so this is why I introduced the "in fact" for the example's sake.

    Maybe another more appropriate example from a text:
    "The record does not indicate whether the project was ultimately successful, but, following a brief call with London, the manager departed New York."
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    "The record does not indicate whether the project was ultimately successful but, following a brief call from/to London, the manager left New York."

    I still see no need for the additional shot of comma.

    .,,
     

    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    "The record does not indicate whether the project was ultimately successful, but, following a brief call from/to London, the manager left New York."

    I still see no need for the additional shot of comma.

    .,,

    I agree one comma near "but" would do it, but I'd put it in a different place in all but the most formal writing. :) (Except in a case where I thought the reader might get confused. In the thread I referenced earlier, it took both commas to make the meaning clear, at least in the opinion of some of the responders.)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I wouldn't automatically put a comma after but, though in most sentences with but in the middle I would expect a comma before but.

    Sorry, I was so amused by that sentence that I forgot what else I meant to post.

    The "rules" about commas and conjunctions should be treated with respect, but considered to be guidelines, not rules.
    So, "One places a comma before and, but, etc. when they connect two independent clauses ..." is a useful guideline.
    But it is the effect of sensible use of commas, not a cause in itself.
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    I agree one comma near "but" would do it, but I'd put it in a different place in all but the most formal writing. :) (Except in a case where I thought the reader might get confused. In the thread I referenced earlier, it took both commas to make the meaning clear, at least in the opinion of some of the responders.)
    This would leave the clauseless sentence to be;
    "The record does not indicate whether the project was ultimately successful the manager left New York."

    This makes no sense.

    .,,
     

    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    This would leave the clauseless sentence to be;
    "The record does not indicate whether the project was ultimately successful the manager left New York."

    This makes no sense.

    .,,

    True enough, which is why I added a comma after "but" in the other thread to make the meaning clear. But when speaking, my experience is that people just rush through the comma after the but without a pause in such circumstances, and no one gets confused. Usually that works for writing too, although obviously not always or I would not have had to reference the other thread.

    I guess I agree with Panj that the comma before the but is almost always there, so if you're going to skip one, I'd skip the one after. If you want to be formally correct, you need both.

    But I also agree that most of the time we should not be slaves to rules about where to put commas. The main thing is to get the meaning across, except in formal writing or on tests.
     
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