Commas before conjunctions

A bit of a technical question: do you place commas before conjunctions or not?  

I was always taught at school not to, but - after reading loads of books on the subject - it seems that it is acceptable.  When and where is it acceptable?  

It would be two main clauses joined together to create a compound sentence, but it would be two separate ideas.  Is the sentence I have just typed correct, or should it be without the comma? 

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Comments

  • I don't think it's necessary as the conjunction is the obvious joining point of the two parts of the sentence. However, I do tend to use commas before conjunctions. I think it's just a matter of style. 
  • edited January 17
    Thanks for that, TN.  I have a habit of putting them so I will take them out.  
  • When I was writing my novel (long drawered) I took out all the commas before 'but', then I saw somewhere that you should have them, so I went and put them all back in again. Now I always use a comma before 'but', but rarely before 'and'.
  • It's where you would draw breath if you were speaking the sentence, if you try saying your two clauses out loud you'll find you draw breath at that comma. It makes reading more relaxing as well. Have you ever noticed you feel a bit on edge reading some people's text? It could be that they don't use commas enough. 
  • I love a comma (as well as an Oxford Comma), and use them wherever I can! 
  • I agree that reading aloud is a good way to pinpoint when a comma is needed.
  • Some writers have a tendency to use too many. Yes, the sentence needs them, but reading pages of text, with enforced pauses, becomes extremely tedious. Many a good plot has been killed by a plague of commas. 

     

  • Thanks everyone for your help.  I will continue using them in this way.  I think I was using them correctly, so I will add them back in again.  
  • Quote often attributed to Oscar Wilde (and others):

    I spent all afternoon taking out a comma and all afternoon putting it back.
  • I've done that before now!
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