comma before 'and' [conjunction]: we're meeting in his office and I'm


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English - UK
The use of a comma before 'and'

I've been looking at some punctuation rules with my students and taught them that we put a comma before and when we join two independent clauses. The example was:

He is the Managing Director of the company, and reports directly to the CEO.

All good so far. But then the same book gives the following sentence as correct with no comma:

We're meeting in his Brussels office and I'm a bit nervous about it because I don't speak French very well.

Following the same rule, shouldn't there also be a comma after 'and' here?

Thanks for your help!
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  • Hi senroeash

    The use of a comma before "and" is a matter of style/convention rather than grammar; it's often called the "Oxford comma" or the "Harvard comma".

    I'm sure there are previous threads on this - I'll come back if/when I find them. Googling "Oxford comma"/"Harvard comma" might be useful too:).
    There's a problem with your first example, "He is the Managing Director of the company, and reports directly to the CEO."

    "Reports directly to the CEO" is not an independent clause, and there shouldn't be a comma before that "and." That takes care of one problem.

    But as for your second example (and all other examples of two independent clauses joined by "and"), the general rule is that a comma is placed before the conjunction when it's linking two independent clauses. However, there's some room for discretion there, and good writers do bend or break the rule from time to time. You probably wouldn't do so in really formal writing, but when you're trying to mimic speech, you might. So for example, while I would generally put a comma after "office" in your example, if I was quoting somebody who spoke rapidly and seldom paused for a breath, I might leave it off. For another example, in sentences in which there are, for whatever reason, a lot of other commas, I might leave off the one before "and" just because there can be such a thing as too many commas.

    So to summarize, the rule isn't quite as definite as those of us who like rules would like to think it is.
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    @Loob Thanks for your reply but a quick check on google reveals that the Oxford or Harvard comma is the same thing as the serial comma (see and my query is not about that usage.
    @JustKate Thanks for your reply. Yes, I agree that the coordinating conjunction comma rules are not always hard and fast but I think that as a general guideline they work pretty fine. Looking again, and with a nice big Acer monitor as opposed to an iPhone, it's clear to me (see that the book I was using (Email English, see in fact in error. I guess I will have a very confused student next week when I try to explain all that :)
    I agree that as a general rule, they do work pretty well. Certainly a comma should at least be considered in a sentence like your 2nd example. I would go so far as to say that in such circumstances (that is, two independent clauses linked by "and"), using a comma should be the default position...but maybe that's just me.
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    There is no rule. Use common sense. If you need a brief pause, insert a comma; if not, not. It usually depends on the length of the completed sentence, and also on the relatedness of the two clauses.