Using Commas Between Independent Clauses
What is a Coordinating Conjunction?
It is important to understand the function of independent clauses, commas, and coordinating conjunctions in order to use this comma rule correctly. A conjunction is a word that connects two other words or groups of words together. A coordinating conjunction connects two words or groups of words that are of equal importance. There are only seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. The easiest way to remember these conjunctions is by remembering the acronym “FANBOYS.”
What is an Independent Clause?
The technical definition of an independent clause is a group of words, containing a subject and verb, that express a complete thought. The easiest way to identify an independent clause? Try reading it aloud, and see if it can stand by itself as a sentence. For example, these would NOT be independent clauses:
- before Matt and Amy got to school that day
- because they found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk
- although the soldiers were weary from the long day of fighting
None of those clauses could stand by itself as a sentence. Here are some independent clauses – or clauses that can stand by themselves as a sentence:
- Matt and Amy got to school that day
- they found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk
- the soldiers were weary from the long day of fighting
When Should I Use a Comma?
When two independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, always put a comma before the conjunction. The comma shows that the two clauses are different ideas connected by the conjunction, rather than two parts of the same clause. For example:
- Matt and Amy got to school that day, so they didn’t hear about what happened until they came home.
- They found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk, but they decided to try to find its owner before they spent it.
- The soldiers were weary from the long day of fighting, yet they still found the strength to write letters home to their loved ones.
In short, always use a comma before a conjunction that connects two independent clauses. Commas show that the two clauses can stand independently of each other.