Grammar Basics – The Comma in a Compound Sentence

Welcome back to my crash course in basic Grammar. Today’s blog is centered around the comma in a compound sentence.

First, let’s define what a compound sentence is.

According the Chicago Manual of Style, (the end-all authority,) a compound sentence joins clauses by using a coordinating conjunction. (Coordinating conjunctions include words such as and, but, or, so, and yet.)

The rule is:

IF you have two independent clauses joined with the coordinating conjunction, there IS a comma.

The easiest way I know how to explain an independent clause is that it can stand alone – it expresses a complete thought. (It is really a stand-alone sentence, but it is joined with another complete thought in one sentence.)

For instance: The Uber didn’t get there, so we took a taxi.

‘The Uber didn’t get there,’ is a complete sentence, and so is, ‘We took a taxi.’ They are joined by the coordinating conjunction, so.

Because the two joined clauses are both independent, you use a comma before the conjunction. Think of it as though neither of these clauses needs the other. Therefore, the comma separates them.

Conversely, IF you have an independent clause joined with a dependent clause, there is NOT a comma.

A dependent clause does NOT express a complete thought on its own. It needs the other part of the sentence – the independent clause to make it a complete sentence.

Because the two joined clauses NEED one another to express the thought, there is NOT a comma. (I think of it as a form of codependency.)

For instance: We will sign the proposal if you accept all of our demands.

‘We will sign the proposal,’ is an independent clause – it expresses a complete thought.

‘You accept all of our demands, is NOT a complete thought, therefore it DEPENDS on the first part of the sentence. They are joined by the coordinating junction, OR, and no comma is appropriate in this instance.

I use this rule on a daily basis. You do too. Some of us learned this a long time ago in high school English, while some of us still struggle with it. In my editing process, I read each sentence one at a time. I evaluate any sentences where there is a coordinating conjunctionand, but, or, so, and yet, and I look at both of the clauses.

Are they both independent? (Could they both stand alone?)

IF yes, then there IS a comma before the ‘and,’ ‘but,’ etc.

Is one of the clauses dependent? (Does it need the other part of the sentence to make sense?)

IF yes, then there IS NOT a comma before the coordinating conjunction.

Tomorrow, we will talk about a few other kinds of compound sentences – but I wanted to illustrate this one first. I think it is in this instance where folks have the most errors.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Published by Mustang Patty

I am finally a full-time author, who writes legal thrillers, how-to- books, short stories, flash fiction, a tiny bit of poetry, and Blog posts. My published works include 'Guilty until Proven Innocent,' and 'Innocent for the Moment.' Both of these books are part of a trilogy called the Jill Adair Series. The third book will be available in late summer of 2020. I'm currently coordinating a Collection of works created by Artists during the Pandemic. The title of the book is '2020 Artists on LockDown Collection,' and it will be available for sale on Amazon.com in early September 2020. I'm also coordinating an Anthology of Short Stories called, '2020 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology.' This book will be available on Amazon.com on Black Friday, 2020 - just in time for holiday giving. I am married to my wonderful hubby of over 36 years, and I have two grown children, named Heather and Gregory. I've been blessed with two beautiful grandbabies, Heather Rose and Logan Ernest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: